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The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost C

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost C

Jesus provides an unsettling answer to this apparently earnest plea from the disciples.  By describing the amount of faith they currently possess as being even smaller than a mustard seed, Jesus effectively tells them they have no faith at all… no faith at all to increase.  Faith itself has eluded them.  Jesus informs them of their need for faith itself.  These disciples are like the rest of us, even though we are centuries distant from them.  They easily confuse, as do we, faith as a human virtue with faith as a divine gift.  Faith as a human virtue cannot escape the self as its source and subject.  It is unable to avoid the “I” in “I believe.”  This human virtue, faith, is all about the commitment of the “I.”  The “I” loves, believes, trusts, acts, obeys, and remains loyal to the object of its commitment, God—The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This “I” is empowered by God’s gift of grace and the Holy Spirit to accomplish all the work of its commitments or not.  This faith as a human virtue is simply the faith possessed by the “I.”  On the other hand, faith as a divine gift does not come from inside of oneself as a virtue or any other work of the “I.”  Faith as a divine gift takes the “I” out of itself.  It leaves that old sinful self in the grave of its mortality.  Faith as a divine gift establishes the New Creature in Christ on the other side of the eschaton where its eternal life is a reality in the New Creation.  Faith as a divine gift is not possessed by the “I.”  Instead, this faith possesses the “I” and hides its life away with Christ in God (Col. 3:3-4).  Though it takes away the “I,” this faith establishes Jesus Christ as the life of the mortal body and as the Lord of the Conscience and, rather than being inward-directed, this person walking in newness of life is turned outward in usefulness to the neighbor and creation.  This faith as a divine gift admits no degree.  It is or it isn’t.  Either Christ is your life, or he is not.

Prayers from one who yearns to be possessed by faith…

Heaven Father, possess me in faith such that I live from its reality and by the revelation of your Word…

Heavenly Father, possess me in faith such that Jesus Christ is my life, his righteousness becomes my righteousness in that blessed exchange of his life for my death…

Heavenly Father, possess me in faith such that the virtue I would call faith falls from my possession, my hands and heart emptied, and then filled with the heart and works of Christ…

Heavenly Father, possess me in faith such that both creation and neighbors are returned to me as gifts to be enjoyed as they exercise my usefulness…

Heavenly Father, possess me in faith such that I delight in those neighbors closest to me, loving them and receiving their love through the life of Christ…

Heavenly Father, possess me in faith such that I extend my usefulness to the Institute of Lutheran Theology…

Heavenly Father, possess me in faith such that the future holds no fear or dread for I have what my Lord Christ has promised me:  life with him eternally.

Into your hands, heavenly Father, I commend my body and soul and all that is mine, let your holy angels have charge over me that the wicked one will have no power over me.  Amen