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Practicing Love Sermon 5: Practicing Love Series 10/02/2016

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Sermon, Practicing Love through Faith                                      Jeffrey B. MacKnight
2 October 2016  Creation Season                                               St. Dunstan’s, Bethesda


The Faith of a Mustard Seed

One day, a snail was mugged by a couple of tortoises. When the police arrived on the scene they asked, "Can you tell us what you remember about the suspects?" The snail replied, "Oh, I don't know, it all happened so fast!" 

I’ve never been accused of being a patient man.  When I am in action mode, I like to get things done, preferably now.  “There’s no time like the present,” is one of my inner proverbs.  But not everything moves quickly in life.  That’s where faith becomes absolutely necessary.  I struggle with that.  When I don’t see change and movement, I get discouraged.  I need faith more than I need anything. 

To persevere in hope, we must be able to envision a future, work, pray, and stay the course until it can come about.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen,” says the Bible.  All of my complaining to God over the years about the slowness of life has not changed anything.  But God has been changing me – ever so slowly.  Like it or not, I realize I am now the tortoise…if not the snail! 

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5

When have you longed for something to come to pass, and persevered until your vision was rewarded?  Was it getting a college degree, buying a house, changing a neighborhood, recovering from an illness, fighting an injustice?  It takes faith to do these things.  Even the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains, over time. 

Last week I sponsored an event in Alexandria for Five Talents – the Anglican organization I’m involved in that works in eight of the poorest countries to help people, mainly, women, learn to save, start a business, and support themselves and their children.  As an international development NGO, we are small, but mighty.  We struggle to raise our small budget of under a million dollars.  But still, we have changed the lives of over 360,000 people with our programs since 1999.  Families earn money, eat more than one meal a day, and can pay the fees to send children to school.  Lives change, with the faith of a mustard seed.  It’s exciting to see.  The other night at our event, we heard from Peter and Harun who work in South Sudan – a new country, very unstable.  As you’ve heard and read, there is violence in certain parts of South Sudan.  But Peter and Harun are joyful, energetic, hopeful people – excited about their work, and grateful for the support of us Americans who contribute.  South Sudan has been at war a long time – a generation has gone uneducated.    So we start with literacy training, and numeracy training (numbers) – the 3 R’s – and then move to business training, savings groups, and small loans for starting businesses.  The local churches are among the few intact, respected institutions.  We work through them. Over 21,000 persons are participants in Five Talents programs there right now, transforming lives. The faith of a mustard seed.


St. Dunstan’s grants to Five Talents the last few years have supported the program in Indonesia.  It’s tricky to work there, because it is a Muslim country, and not very open to other religions. But the church is there, so Five Talents has a base. A front page story on Five Talents website features Nuriah:

Nuriah is a mom who cares for her two biological children and four adopted orphans. Her catering business serves low-wage factory workers in an industrial area of Jakarta. 

Previously, her business relied on funding from loan sharks who charged exorbitant interest for quick cash. Her profits disappeared each month in repayment and she struggled to provide food and clothing for her children. Now, with access to secure savings and loans through Five Talents and GERHATI, Nuriah has been able to expand her business without incurring debt.


"Economically, we are getting better and I make better relationships with the people around me. I can buy the children the clothes they like and now I can give them pocket money. . . It is not difficult anymore for me to care for my family. It is easier now. I have savings for the days to come."


The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5

Our own Bp. Budde wrote this week about faith:

I was among the millions who watched the first presidential debate on Monday evening…. As bishop, I don’t take public positions in support of any political party or candidate. But I share the view that this is a pivotal election, and that as Christians living in a democratic society, we have a responsibility to participate in civic life for the good of all.

How Christians are called by God to exercise our citizenship is not always clear and we are not of one mind.  How can we use our faith to help us navigate and grow during these stormy and chaotic times?

[Here is Bp. Budde’s answer]:  

Faith is for times like these, precisely to help us navigate through storms and trials. This is our time to live by whatever faith we have, those bits of goodness, grace and love given to us, knowing all the while that not everything is up to us.  We may never feel as if we have enough, or that we can do enough. It doesn’t matter. We’re here now and we all have an offering to make. Jesus himself assured us that we don’t need very much to move mountains, that a little bit of faith, a little bit of love, a little bit of righteous anger goes a long way.  

The decisions we make, as a nation, on November 8, are very important. And on the morning of November 9, some of us will wake up tremendously relieved and others deeply disappointed. But no matter the outcome, we will rise that day, as every day, as followers of Jesus and citizens of this land. We are here for a time such as this.

As I said, I like things to move, to make progress, to get on with it.  But the Kingdom of God works on different time than we do – it may seem like a tortoise…it often does, to me!  The pace of my own progress in life may seem on the order of a snail.  Still, God is at work in us, in creation, in the rings of a treetrunk, in the growth of a child, in the rising of the sun, in the slow, excruciatingly slow arc of history, as it bends…bends toward justice. 

All it takes is the faith of a mustard seed. 



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