Mustard Seed Faith

Scripture     Luke 17:5-10


        The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!”

             The 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.




Several places throughout the Gospels the evangelists record that Jesus taught his disciples the meaning of his parables “when they were alone”. It was while they were alone with him, in an aloneness that was the fullness of his presence, that they were taught the secrets of God’s kingdom.  Taught, sometimes by words - having the meaning explained in greater detail, at times taught by osmosis - by simply living with him so closely, by being so united to him, that they just learned the ‘secret mysteries’ as they seeped into their very persons.  Beyond his words, his teachings, they were coming to know him.



As they listened to him describe those radical ‘kingdom’ values, I’m sure they must have felt their poverty of spirit and their inability to accomplish such daring things as ~ forgiving their enemies ~ living beyond dualities and polarities ~ living in intimacy with the living Triune God, even in the here and now! How would they ever be able to live in this world – as it is - with those ‘kingdom’ values he has been speaking about for the past weeks and months? It all seemed like such a radical reversal of what was familiar and known.



And so they asked him, “Increase our faith!” Increase our belief in you and in this way of life and way of being that you are proclaiming! Jesus replies that it is the quality rather than the quantity of faith that needs revitalization within you. Although small, like a mustard seed, faith has an inner dynamism operative that transcends the boundaries of space and time. It is a life within you that goes about creating more life. Faith life generates more life as it is being activated in daily use.  But how this is accomplished, “one does not know, “with a rational logic. To guide them, Jesus uses the metaphor of the mustard seed. We do know that this tiny insignificant seed holds such a profound hidden potential. Its life-giving powers remain dormant until “it falls into the ground and dies.” The mustard seed’s inner life is only activated when hidden in the soil. Unless it dies, it still remains a seed. But in dying, it produces new and more abundant life! The mustard seed is something small that slowly grows and has much larger effects. But you must use it!



So, Jesus reassures them and us. You disciples, with this type of living faith, will have a power to achieve the impossible. Yes, even when your faith feels small, like “the size of a mustard seed” you will inwardly experience a power to do miraculously incredible things: things like forgiveness of your enemies, acceptance of the things you cannot change, confidence in your absolute safety in God. In your humanity it will seem to be impossible, yet  it could be considered comparable to that power that can “uproot and plant mulberry trees in the sea.” This mustard seed faith has a power to achieve the impossible. A new way of being and living is possible because of the deepening faith and belief in the power of the indwelling God.



Jesus talks a lot about ‘faith” or “believing.” He said repeatedly that healing and forgiveness were ‘according to your faith.”  Faith is that commitment of all that is mysterious and ineffable in myself to what is mysterious and ineffable in God. This commitment shapes my identity, involves my whole person, and henceforth my life becomes intimately bound up with God's life. This believing in Jesus is not an act of blind impulse but rather it is an act of one who has first been grasped and invited by the other - God. Faith, then, is yielding to this Someone who has grasped us by an invitation. Faith is our response and our awareness of being called into relationship - a relationship that involves a decision, a decision to live for God. One's whole life revolves around this decision! The decision of faith commits one's whole person. We become a part of all that we love and trust.  Yes, we become part of God's life and God’s dream for humanity.



The ‘mustard seed’ faith that Jesus is addressing here is an invitation to all of us disciples to enter into the creative consciousness of God. Jesus wants us to have that kind of faith that characterizes the ‘kingdom of God’. Jesus desires that we take on that same model in our minds and imaginations as he has lived and proclaimed. From this perspective, we can all start to sort out our life experiences in these new terms and work towards bringing forth a new transformed world. Such is the power of faith – the power of the indwelling God – to activate such a restoration, such a revitalization within the human family. Yes, doing our small actions daily with great love is changing the world, one person at a time, one action at a time, for the betterment of all humanity. Will we live to see these kinds of miraculous transformations increasing and multiplying in our day? The hyperbole of the mulberry tree being uprooted and planted in the sea may be Jesus’ way of saying to us with strong impact statement – you just watch and see what your faith can accomplish!     



And so we ask today, "Increase our faith." And Jesus says to us, gently, confidently, "You already have enough faith. Put it into practice." There is a wonderful comment by Thomas Merton that applies here.

We are indoctrinated into means and ends... But that is not the way to build a life of prayer.

In prayer we discover what we already have.

You start where you are, and you deepen what you already have,

and you realize that you are already there.

We already have everything, but we don't know it and we don't experience it.

Everything has been given to us in Christ. All we need is to experience what we already possess.

The trouble is, we aren't taking the time to do so.



Do you accept the ongoing responsibility of your faith?  Paul Tillich says "Faith is the relationship to that which concerns us ultimately." If we refuse to make that commitment, refuse to believe in Jesus, then Jesus is unable to do any work within us. We have only to recall Jesus' frequent pleas in the Gospel for persons to come to belief in Him. It was "faith in him" that produced their cures, their healings, their new life, their discipleship with Him. Yet wherever there was no faith in Him, he was "unable to do any work there and moved on."  Faith is a most precious divine gift. As one of the theological virtues, faith is an infusion of God's very own life. God initiates faith. God calls this relationship into being and gives us faith as a "gift" enabling us to respond to Him. The faith we are given at birth comes with a readiness to grow and develop and with a capacity for ever deeper trust and self-donation. We are co-responsible with God for the quality, extent and depth of our faith response.



Carrying Grace    I’m a believer. My words and actions manifest the power of God working in me.



#2 arletteh 2010-10-03 17:41
Jesus reminds the disciples that faith is for serving others(as in the next parable),not to eventually be served, since people would admire them for their faith, as the disciples did with Jesus, perhaps.The faith that is needed is the faith for the daily tasks -large or small-unspectac ular;there for the asking.Mother Theresa said that ,once she had found her vocationin the slums, God seemed to disappear.God knew tha t she would now, at this advanced stage ,have the faith for every day, that she would see herself to be a faithful" unworthy servant"
#1 arletteh 2010-10-03 17:31
I remember the day when I discovered that our faith does not have to be as big as the problem we're trying to solve or the project we're initiating.What a relief! Only a tiny little mustard seed!I wonder why the apostles asked the question . Did they want to do the fantastic things they saw Jesus doing? At what stage of their journey with Jesus did they ask the question?

You must LOGIN to add a comment.