Weekly sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship based on two RCL lectionary readings
Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
by John Watson
Sunday 6th October 2013
2 Timothy 1:1-14 and Luke 17:5-10
If Jesus was into pep talking some might think this would not be his finest moment. When we come to end of what we are asked to do, as followers of Jesus, and we have done what we can - we will hear no word of thanks (unlike the master in Matthew 25.21ff.). We should be content only that we have done what we ought to have done anyway!
So how can we see this passage in Luke as words that inspire discipleship today? As we look closely at the context it will reveal a realism that moves us to personal reflection, action and deeper trust.
Verses 1-4 speaks about the disciples not becoming a block to others in encountering faith. And when sin interrupts relationships and causes friction, discord and strife we are to name it for what it is and forgive. Doing this is a hard task. Sorting out broken relationships hurts and is painful. Realizing you could be an obstacle to someones faith growing is sobering and self-stripping. Taking action on this will involve personal cost.
So the cry of the disciples in vs 5 in the light of that seems to make sense - but even then Jesus does not lessen the need for reflection. As faith is not something that can be measured in quantity or size, but only measured in effect. If we let that trust in God affect our lives then we will begin to see it has nothing to do with us or our abilities - but everything to do with God and his life.
Increasing in faith is decreasing in self.
It is only then we can seek to make sense of the words that follow about being like a slave. For it is the stripping away of any self-grandeur that we become our true selves. It is a call to travel the via purgativa, a journey in which we let God take off the layers of a false self in us so that we reflect his image. Faith is not simply a statement of belief but a intentional relationship with God.
But the journey of self-stripping is not done in isolation from others. This journey cannot be completed without our sisters and brothers in Christ. V 10 “we have done...” “we are slaves...” - if we go the isolated route we will be in danger of ‘spiritual pride” as Thomas Merton says: “I am not like others - I am a martyr!” So we must journey towards wholeness together, me must journey in service together, we must grow in faith together.
Paul opens his own soul in this chapter as he points to the way he has come to understand himself as his faith and trust are grounded in Jesus. This faith has the power to shape how we see the world and others and how we relate to the world and others. This faith, planted like a seed within us, even through our own family’s efforts, has the potential to grow and shape us as we encounter the powers of the world. And we can face those powers bravely and courageously as we let God’s life become our life.
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.