Gospel: Luke 17:5-10
1st Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
2nd Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Do we have any mulberry trees amongst us today—anyone who likes to stay put and isn’t planning on budging any time soon? Every time, I’ve read this in the past, I’ve just dismissed it because it is so ridiculous that anyone would be talking to a mulberry tree. But today, I decided this is about people and how we get stuck and cannot move.
We get stuck. We get paralyzed. We can’t move. We can’t motivate ourselves to action. To get us to move would be a miracle, plain and simple. We get paralyzed by comfort. What we have is just too good to give up or sacrifice. Even if it is chaos, we say, “It is my chaos, at least!” It is a situation I’m comfortable and that I know inside and out. If I was to give up my chaos, I could then take on another that I wouldn’t know as well and wouldn’t be able to navigate, so here I sit!
We get paralyzed by fear. We are afraid of the unknown. We look from our place of rootedness, and look out to the sea—it may be beautiful, but it is dangerous. We are afraid to risk being uprooted and taken what we know to go where we don’t know.
In the reading from Habakkuk, the writer is paralyzed by fear. He is surrounded by enemies. He calls out to God but cannot hear an answer.
In the reading from 2 Timothy, Timothy is paralyzed by fear—did you hear the writer refer to cowardice?
In the Gospel, the apostles are paralyzed. They are making excuses that they don’t have enough of what they need to move forward and follow where Jesus is calling them.
We get paralyzed, too, sometimes. Do you ever feel yourself in that same rut, going through the motions, doing the same things day after day, out of habit? We do it out of comfort. We do it out of habit. We do it out of fear of the unknown, and fear of our own shortcomings.
The problem is, we are not mulberry bushes. We are called to action. We are called to act on our faith—to step out and risk. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to be transformed by our faith and to help transform our world because of our faith. We aren’t satisfied being stuck in one place and we look to God for direction and meaning and motivation to get unstuck and get a move-on to a journey that will bring us life and love and help us make a difference in our communities. Our fear and comfort may hold us back, but something bigger is calling us to more and we’re actually considering allowing ourselves to be uprooted and get a move on.
What is it that we need to help us get up and get moving, get motivated to live the life to which we are called? We need inspiration. The word “inspiration” has the word “spirit” in it. Spirit also means breath. Some even say the name for God from the Bible, “Yahweh” sounds like a breath. We need the indwelling of the spirit. We need God’s breath to come to us and get us going. Think of the story of the first human from the Bible. God created a human from the dust of the earth. The human was lifeless until God breathed life into him. Only after receiving breath from God, was he alive and moving and making decisions (although not always good ones), and naming animals and so forth.
What do we find inspiring? For Timothy, he is reminded of the example of his mother and grandmother. Think for yourselves some of the people who have gone before you in the faith. Think of how their faith sustained you. Consider the lives they led and how they modeled faith. Think of how they really lived life, all they taught you, the risks they took for their faith, and how it got them through times of fear and cowardice and comfort.
In my life, it was my grandparents that I look up to in the faith. They weren’t perfect, but they cared about other people, were generous, and passed down their faith that got them through the depression and many trials of life. And although they were Missouri Synod Lutherans, they still supported me, and were not closed-minded about who God could work through.
In this congregation, shout out some names that come to mind for you. Tell me a little story about that person and how they modeled faith.
For further inspiration, we go to God’s creation. We look at a tiny mustard seed and can look to that. If you have that much faith, that is enough. No more excuses! Look to the animals. They don’t despair about where they go or what they do. They just do it. They don’t worry about the future—lay awake at night. They just are. We certainly can be inspired by our pets and are every day. They teach us about healthy rhythms of life, rest and play and joy and delight. We can be inspired watching them. They are God’s creatures, claimed and loved, just as we are. Tell me about your pet and how your pet inspires you.