Letter to parishioners, 1 October 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

This week we are continuing our celebrations of Harvest. By the end of Sunday there will have been four such times of celebration and thanksgiving, times in which everyone in our rural communities will have been able to gather and give thanks for God’s generosity and love for us all. However, as we gather and give thanks for this year’s harvest, and as we pray for all those whose lives are affected by these uncertain times, I would like us to pause and think about the gospel reading that we would otherwise have been hearing this Sunday: Luke 17:5-10.

At the beginning of this reading the apostles say to Jesus: Increase our faith! There are two things about this opening that are of note. Firstly, the disciples are referred to as apostles and, secondly, they refer to faith as though it were some sort of commodity which can be purchased or bartered in varying amounts, like something one might buy in a shop.

The description of Jesus’ chosen followers as apostles, is significant. The word disciple is used to describe someone who believes and follows. The word apostle is much more pro-active. An apostle is one who goes out and uses his or her belief (faith) to bring others into a relationship with God. When we are told that the apostles said to the Lord … we are being told that this group of people have moved from being passive followers of Jesus into the role of active evangelists, those entrusted with sharing the Good News far and wide. The opening of this week’s reading from Luke’s gospel is inviting us to consider how we respond to Christ’s call to active evangelism in our own lives.

Then comes the apostles request that Jesus might increase their faith. Jesus’ response to this request is familiar to most of us: 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. Jesus does not measure faith in the same way that we might measure the harvest produce for which we give thanks at this time of the year. For Jesus faith is just that … faith, an acceptance of the reality of God, without the need for objective, worldly evidence. Faith cannot be measured as being small, medium or large, and neither does it come in pounds or kilograms. Faith is either a reality in our lives, or it is not. There is no in-between state. As such a black and white, on or off, yes or no entity the concept of measuring faith is both a philosophical and a theological nonsense.

The opening to this week’s reading from Luke’s gospel reflects the way in which we so often live out our lives of faith. We believe in the reality of Jesus Christ; we know that we are called to be both disciples and apostles; but, we try to put off responding to God’s call by coming up with specious diversionary arguments that mask our hesitancy, our nervousness and our reluctance to love and serve in the self-sacrificial way which is modelled by the earthly ministry of Christ himself.

As we celebrate and give thanks at this Harvest-time, let us pray that we might not stop celebrating in thankfulness as the final chorus of We plough the field and scatter fades away. Let us pray that we might find the strength, the courage and the humility to show that we are truly thankful for all that God gives us … even if that means putting everyone else before ourselves.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen