The Space To Say Yes

I've preached or taught on the passages of Scripture where Jesus talks about having faith like a mustard seed at least ten times, or more over the last twenty years, and now I'm beginning to think I missed the point of Jesus' words just about every single time.   

Here are the verses in question: 

He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. (Luke 17:4, NIV)

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20, NIV)

In the first verse, the disciples had just asked Jesus to give them more faith.  In the second verse they were unable to heal a young boy who was having seizures.  

In both cases, Jesus tells them that all they need is faith the size of a mustard seed (it's a pretty small seed, in case you were wondering), and could do incredible things. 

For years, I  preached on those passages with the belief that the mustard seed-sized faith Jesus was talking about was exactly this:  Faith that I needed to dredge up from the depths of my being even when I didn't feel like it was there. 

You could have easily made the tag lines for those earlier sermons something like this:  "Suck it up and have faith."    

It wasn't until recently that I read a different take on those old stories---a commentary on the parable from Fr. Richard Rohr:  
God needs just a mustard-sized place that is in love, that is open to grace, that is thrilled, that has found something wonderful.  We’ve got to go back and build from a  “Yes” place—or faith is not faith.  That’s why faith is always rare.

See, here's the thing... most of us equate faith with belief.  We say to ourselves, "If only I had enough faith..." 

But what we're really saying is, "I just need to believe harder, find a way to remove my doubts, get answers to my questions, shore up my doctrines..." the list goes on and on.  

Belief isn't faith.   And faith isn't something you can just muster up from the depths within.  It starts with something else---openness and love.  

Fr. Richard teaches that Jesus is basically telling his disciple: "If you can find just a tiny space within yourself that is completely open to love, and grace, that is filled with joy and wonder, that is bent on pursuing God and God's purposes... you can do anything.

And it all begins with saying "Yes" to God even if it's just a tiny bit of affirmation, a minuscule willingness to remain open to whatever God might be doing in the world around you... in you... through you...  

That might be all you've got on most days, to be fair.  You might only have a mustard seed sized space that is willing to say "Yes," but that's all God needs, according to Jesus.  

Because if you give God whatever you've got to give, even if it's only a little... God can multiply that, God can grow that, God can take that tiny little seed and turn it into a towering leafy kind of faith that can move whatever obstacles are in your way.

May you find the space within you to say "Yes" to God today.  May you clear off some ground within you to live in love, and give and receive grace.  And may it grow within you the kind of faith that can move mountains.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.    

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