Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

JOYFUL OBEDIENCE
Luke 17:5-10
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 22–Sunday Between October 2 and 8 Inclusive)
analysis by Robin Morgan


5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The 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. 7 “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’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So 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!'”


DIAGNOSIS: Disobedience

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Stumbling
Not simply disciples of Jesus, but seasoned apostles (!) find themselves crying out “Increase our faith!” This cry is prompted by the difficult challenges to which Jesus calls his followers in the verses preceding this text (17:1-4): to care for the “little ones” (those inexperienced in the faith, even those in society without position or power) to keep them from “stumbling” in sin, and to forgive consistently those who repent. The Lord demands this of his followers, expecting no less. They, like us, blanch at his words. How can he possibly expect such from us? It is not only the “little ones” who risk stumbling, but us at this call.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Fear
The stakes are too high, the risks too great, such devotion claims our unalloyed allegiance. Fear sets in for the disciples as well as for us. The claim of our Lord is more than we can bear. We’ve still got to function in this world, and we need to have some room. Cut us some slack and let the others “get a life.” We’ll happily be your slaves on Wednesday and Sunday as long as there’s time during the week to take care of business. Set the standards a little lower and we’ll be able to make you happy. We’re afraid that single minded devotion is not possible. Our hearts want compromise.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Lost
But God’s reaction to our requested compromise is uncompromising. The master does not wait on the slave; neither does God wait for us to “decide” for service (as if we ever could). We are lost to the household, lost to the life of obedience and deemed unworthy. God’s judgment calls us to account and then leaves us to our disobedience.

PROGNOSIS: Obedience

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Obedience for All, Obedience to the Cross
Thankfully, God has not left God’s self without a way beyond the justice of that judgment. Jesus Christ who proclaimed this word of obedience also went before us, paving the way to God’s heart through obedience, even to the cross. He let himself be utterly lost in death; but there God did find him “obedient unto death” for us. We, whose death he took upon himself, also are found through his obedience. Indeed, at least in the case of our Lord Jesus the Christ, this Master does not wait on us, “taking the form of a slave” for our benefit (Philippians 2:5-11).

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Trust
We trust that Christ’s obedience is also our obedience, and that his death-and-resurrection is also our death-and-resurrection. God will raise us to new life where obedience beyond human capacity is our privilege and joy as we trust the One sent from the Father. Such is our call to God’s own answer to our lostness. We are not enslaved to stay away, but we are grafted into the household forever.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Joy in Service
So our life can be joyous service to our Lord and through him to the world which is in need. Through Christ we may embrace our tasks: forgiveness (seven times and more), care of the “little ones,” plowing, serving the table. Wherever God places our lives, we will be able to flourish and serve because Christ has gone before. Singleness of obedience will give us the focus to fulfill our divine destiny without worrying about what other “masters” may think.

Author

  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.

 

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