Luke 17:5-10; 20th Sunday after Pentecost C, October 6, 2013
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Jesus said, "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.” Doesn’t this sound a bit odd coming from Jesus? I realize he is using hyperbole here, but why would we want to uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea? I have heard that mulberry trees are an invasive species, so I get why someone may want one uprooted. But why should it be put in the sea? What good does that do? I’ll be honest: I don’t have an answer to that one.
And yet, when I read this lesson, I can’t help but think of the Once Upon a Time season opener from last Sunday. This fairytale based fantasy show takes the audience to Neverland, the place where Peter Pan is forever young. “Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust” is all that Pan needs to fly. In this episode, Henry and a new friend are at the edge of a cliff, desperate to escape their attackers. His friend shows him some pixie dust but fears that it won’t work.
Henry said, “Everyone knows pixie dust is for flying.” His companion said, “Don’t you remember, the dust doesn’t work!” Henry replied, “That’s because you have to believe.” His companion responded, “I definitely do not believe.”
“That’s ok, because I do.” Henry said as he jumped off the cliff with his companion in tow. They fly off, safe from their enemies.
Sometimes, I think we expect faith in God to be like this. The disciples say, “Increase our faith,” as if what they really want is some pixie dust. They don’t necessarily want to fly, but they do want some physical evidence of their faith. They want something that they can use to make their faith stronger, better, more reliable. Like in the tv show, they want to have a little tube full of dust hanging from their necks. Then all they would need is more dust to show the world how great their faith is.
But, as often happens, the disciples don’t really understand the dynamics of faith. They want faith to be like magic, but it isn’t. The magic of Once Upon a Time is quantifiable. In the show, they perform magic with spells, potions, and pixie dust. They can increase their magic, and pixie dust can be measured. But magic is fake, only existing in our imaginations.
Faith, though, is real. Faith uses the Bible, water, bread, and wine to develop our relationship with our one Lord. These elements of baptism and communion do not increase our faith, but develop it. We can count how many times we have received communion during our lives, but that does not amount to how much faith we have. For faith is not quantifiable. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move a tree into the ocean, but faith as large as the tree can’t move a seed.
I am sure that many of the characters in Once Upon a Time have the ability to move trees. When they came to Neverland, that wasn’t what they came to do; they came to save Henry. They are Emma Swan, who is Henry’s mother, Captain Hook, Snow White, Prince Charming, and the evil witch – quite an odd combination. When they arrived on the coast of Neverland, Emma gave them a pep talk before they ventured into the island.
She said, “This land is run on belief. All of us have been too busy at each others’ throats to be believers. I was as wrong as anyone else, but it is time for all of us to believe. Not in magic – but in each other.”
The witch replied, “You want us to be friends? After everything that has happened between us?”
“I don’t want or expect that,” Emma commented, “I know there is a lot of history here, a lot of hate…We don’t need to be friends. What we need to know is the only way to get Henry back is to cooperate.”
Charming interjected in disdain, “With her? With him? We need to do this the right way.”
Emma responded, “No, we don’t. We just need to succeed. And the way we do that is by just being who we are: a hero, a villain, a pirate. It doesn’t matter which because we are going to need all those skills whether we can stomach them or not.”
The witch sarcastically responded, “And what’s your skill, savior?”
Emma concluded, “I’m a mother, and now I’m your leader. So either help me get my son back, or get out of the way.” Then, one by one, they drew their swords and followed Emma into the forest of Neverland.
To Emma, pixie dust was just a fairy tale. Magic would get her nowhere, just as magic can do nothing for us. Yet, Emma knew that faith and trust were what mattered most. Not faith and trust in magic, but faith and trust in each other. They needed to trust each others’ strengths and overcome each others’ weaknesses to reach their united goal – to save Henry.
Emma knew that faith is a behavior, not a possession. She has no need to own pixie dust to save her son. What she needs is to believe that she can save her son with the help of her four companions. When these people trust in themselves and in each other, they can work together to complete their common goal.
Isn’t it funny how a common cause can throw out our complications so that we can work together? Sometimes, our faith in each other keeps us going through the best and the worst. Yet, our faith in each other only goes so far. Our faith in God is what we truly need. And the best part? Our faith is a gift. God gives us faith. God gives us more than we need.
When the disciples said, “Increase our faith,” they were being foolish because they didn’t need to have their faith increased. None of us ever should feel like our faith isn’t enough, because you can’t quantify faith. Faith is not dependent upon believing certain facts in the Bible. Actually, doubt and questioning are important parts of faith.
Also, faith is trust. We live out our faith when we trust in God, when we trust that God is in control, when we trust that Jesus has already saved us through his death on the cross. The amount of our faith is irrelevant because God has already given us what we need. God has given us new life in Christ. What is more important than that? Amen.