Going Deeper 10-4-19

The Gospel reading for Pentecost 17…

Luke 17:5-10   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.  Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'?  Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'?  Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!' "


There are a couple of difficult metaphors in this short reading.  The first has to do with “faith the size of a mustard seed” being sufficient to uproot and replant a tree in the ocean.  In order to understand that Jesus is not talking about a magic-producing faith, we must (again!) consider the context.  Immediately prior to where our reading picks up, Jesus taught His followers about extending forgiveness to someone even if they would sin against them seven times in one day.  The disciples response to a call to such extraordinary grace?  “Increase our faith!”


Therefore, Jesus is not talking about a faith that can do magic tricks, but a faith which, although small, can produce great results… such as creating within the followers of Jesus an extraordinary ability to forgive and to love.  (NOTE: As we find out in the rest of the story, the disciples would need to first experience that grace before they were able to extend it.)


The second problematic metaphor is made less so with a simple re-translation of one word.  The Greek word achreios, translated as “worthless” in our last verse, can also be rendered as “unworthy.”  In the larger context of the Gospels, this seems to be more consistent with what Jesus teaches.  God never sees His children as worthless, but we can clearly see that we are unworthy of the incredible love, mercy and grace we received from our Abba Father.  Thus our actions done as servants are motivated by an appreciation of the unconditional and infinite love of God.  In the end, we will simply say “we have done only what we ought to have done!”


With You in His Grace,


Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington, Colorado


“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”