Habakkuk 1, 2-3, 2, 2-4 + Psalm 95 + 1 Timothy 1, 6-8, 13-14 + Luke 17, 5-10
October 2, 2016 Aboard the MS Veendam
Faith is not a thing that we pack up and carry around with us. It is not something that we can measure out in a glass or weigh on a scale. Faith is a relationship with God, and I believe that this is what the disciples are asking for as this episode of Luke’s Gospel unfolds. They have been on the way to Jerusalem with Jesus for some time. They have seen what he does and listened to what he says. What they are beginning to discover is that this man has an extra ordinary relationship with his father, and they want one too. Because it is a relationship, it is not a matter of how much, but of how deep, how lasting, how real, and how personal it is. In other words, it is about quality, not about quantity.
In response to the disciples then, Jesus uses a relationship as an example: the relationship between a servant and a master. It was a relationship that they would have easily understood, because there were plenty of masters and servants around. Now the cultural age in which this Gospel is formed was dominated by the notion of “merit”. Everything was earned, and when you did something you had a right to expect something in return. That was how it worked between masters and servants. Servants did their work and masters protected them. The servants had a right to expect that. This was all based upon an idea at the time that suggested that if you kept the Law (God’s commandments) then God owed you salvation. Jesus comes along and rejects this whole idea. God does not owe us anything. In doing so, Jesus emphasizes the sheer goodness of God, and in the light of that, there is nothing left to do except acknowledge that after all is said and done, we are only servants.
In his relationship with the Father, Jesus realized his total dependence upon the love God had for him. His response to that love was his unfailing obedience to the will of his father. It came out of love, not from some idea that if he did what God wanted, he would have some claim on God’s love. That love was already there. It was not the result of what Jesus did. It was the result of who he was and who God was. This is the faith for which we must pray; the kind of faith that springs out of mutual love.
To God’s graciousness we owe everything beginning with the first breath we take. We recognize ourselves as “useless servants,” deserving nothing by our own account. Faith is always a choice we make choosing to be grateful servants who never forget how blessed we have been to see ourselves and others as brother and sister “servants” at the table of the Father. The only adequate response we can make to God’s unfathomable and immeasurable goodness is to live lives of joyful gratitude and humble service. Let that be the spirit with which we live and celebrate this week aboard this ship together.