There is an interesting little story from The Presbyterian Church of Fremont NE. newsletter, “The Bell”. On May 24, 2007, this story was found in its pages:
A popular television show from the past featured the husband and wife team of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Gracie was always causing George grief through her confusion over the simplest things. On one of the programs, Gracie became upset because her new electric clock kept losing time. She called a repairman who immediately discovered the problem; the clock wasn’t plugged in. Gracie’s response was, “I know that. I didn’t want to waste electricity, so I only plug it in when I want to know what time it is.”
We need to discover what time it is. At least I suspect we need to learn what time it is and thus we need to learn to not only how to get plugged in, we need to stay there once we do. And we are not alone. We often look at people who are considered to be spiritual giants and think that we could never be like them; that we could never do what they do. We think that we cannot talk like them or be able to live the kind of life that a spiritual Goliath can. And somehow we think that because we cannot do that, that its okay to disconnect ourselves and not try.
The Twelve must have been horrified by what they had heard from Jesus. They must have wondered what they had gotten themselves into. They didn’t believe that they could live the kind of life he was calling them to. Jesus calls on those who follow him to live their lives in such a way that they do not cause others to stumble and sin in their faith and lives. Jesus was calling them to do things like making forgiveness a habit and not just the occasional thing, if one is willing. They perceived that they didn’t have the resources or the strength of will to live that kind of life. And so they asked for greater faith to live out what they were being asked to live out. What came next must have been a shock.
Jesus then tells them that they already have within them that which they need to live up to what they have been called to. Jesus tells them that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed – the size of a grain of sand – they could go and take trees and plant them in the salt water of the ocean and the trees would grow and flourish. Now we know that trees of any kind are not going to grow in salt water… or can they? Maybe we need to stop and consider that faith isn’t so much about what you have, as it is that you have the opportunity to do something with what you’ve got. And as we move to do things we need to keep in mind that we are called to do our thing not a great thing. We as Christians are not called to do the great thing of faith. Greatness belongs to God and God alone. No, we are called to do our thing, the common thing. We are called to do the common thing with unbounded joy and unending enthusiasm so that others can see our joy and enthusiasm and be drawn at least to what we are doing if not to us. And from there we can share what we have with them – whatever that might be. Food. Joy. Shelter. Compassion. And yes in the right time, we can share what moves us to share with them and share our faith too.
It’s not that we as a church or even as individuals need more faith to do what needs to be done but rather that we need to have what is within us released. Faith only has power when it is backed by someone powerful. A $1,000 bill is printed on a piece of paper that costs a single penny. It has the power of a $1,000 bill because it is backed by the federal government who guarantees that the bill is worth more than the paper it is printed on. Faith works in much the same way. It is worth something because it is within us. And at the same time the power of faith comes from God because God guarantees the gift he has placed within each of us. God backs the faith he has put in us. The power of faith comes from an ongoing connection that allows us to be empowered and to, in effect, know what time it is.
So as we wait for the Master, what should we be doing with this little bit of faith we have discovered inside of us? We need to do at least two things. First we need to wait patiently and be filled with hope. We do not need not to consume ourselves with what we have or don’t have in terms of faith (and other spiritual gifts). We need to live the faith that is within us. In doing so, we can show others the joy that they need in their lives to drive out the fear they know in their own. We can show them a God in whom they can delight and who takes great delight in them.
Second we need to believe and to trust that God has a vision got the future that includes us. We need to trust that in time God’s plan and vision will find their fulfillment. We need to remember that being faithful means that we choose be joyful even when everything is taken away: when the crops are gone, when the animals have died and the barn is burnt to the ground, when the very ground is washed out from under your own feet you still choose to rejoice. You choose to fan in to flame again that gift that is within you and to release your faith, plug into your relationship with God and live.