November 8, 2015

27th Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

The quality of the audio recording was compromised this week.  It’s available above but is difficult to understand.  We apologize for the difficulty.

Is it enough to read one lesson? A parable that’s only one sentence long? And a mustard seed, no less, the tiniest of all seeds. Can this be enough to carry the gospel for the week?

When this parable was circulating at the time of Matthew’s writing, there were only tiny Christian communities in small cities and towns. Maybe there were a few house churches in the major cities. Mostly, the message of Jesus hadn’t caught on. And it wouldn’t for hundreds of years.

It was an act of faith to believe that these tiny seedlings of church would grow large enough to matter to anyone. They never saw the harvest of their tiny investment of faith. They simply kept gathering in little groups, sharing bits of bread, reading words of God’s justice and peace that must have sometimes felt laughable in the face of Roman power and might. They took in orphans, one at a time, or carried food to one more widow. They shared what little resources they had for the greater good. They welcomed those that came to their doors. And they worked to love like Jesus loved.

Most everything they did likely seemed small. Yet history turns because faithful people decide to do little things, which in the hands of God, turn out to be not so little.

That’s the logic of the mustard seed–the logic of how God works. One person has enough faith to do one little thing; one group decides to do something together, and it sets into motion a series of little things. And before you know it, harvests are being carried in. The sick are healed. Hearts are made whole. Peace emerges. Hope takes root, and love grows.

As you may know by now, our stewardship theme for this fall is “Be Part of the One Percent.” We’re asking everyone to increase their giving by one percent of their income. Figure out what 1% of your income is, then add it to your current giving; that will equal your pledge for 2016.

I was talking with someone who heard about our campaign and said, “Leave it to the Lutherans to aim low.” I don’t think we’re really aiming low. I think we’re trying to demonstrate that, in the hands of God, a small thing can produce amazing results when we all do it together. Because the truth is, growing our giving by one percent of our income may actually not be a small growth in giving for some of us. It might mean a new and significant investment in the life of this church. It might mean a step into sacrifice for some of us. Some of us might even have to work a few years to do it.   This little step might be a big step for some. For others, it might mean taking one more step in a giving plan that has been growing over years.

And let’s be clear, for some, growing by one percent of income will be impossible this year. There are simply too many difficulties, too much job insecurity, too much to change right now. There is no shame in that. And truth be told, there will be members who increase their giving by more than that one percent of their income. They will make special gifts because God did something extraordinary for them. Those people will carry others. And next year that will change. Some will grow; some will decrease. The logic of the body of Christ is that we carry one another. The point is what we do together.

I’m still trying to understand the math of God’s reign. One percent of our income individually will certainly help. But all of us growing by one percent will cause us to grow way past one percent of what the church has been doing. Our mission would grow exponentially. You would have to ask Pastor Javen or Pastor Lois to figure out the math on this one because one percent stops being just one percent when we’re all doing it.

Here’s how I understand it: one percent becomes one hundred percent full of the reign of God. Our mustard seed gifts. Our mustard seed commitment and faith, when joined to the love of Christ, is one hundred percent heaven.

I’m not sure I know how that miracle occurs. But I do know that it is the logic of God’s reign. We do one little thing, and history turns.

We give a bit of our income and we dare to trust that generosity is more life-giving than accumulation. We invite a neighbor to church, and we dream of a community where everyone is welcome. We teach a few children how to read the Bible, and we imagine that the gospel will get passed down for generations to come. We change one law to protect the vulnerable, and we believe that society can include and care for all. We make one effort to resist racism, and we believe that we can conquer it’s power. We do one thing to care for the environment, and it becomes possible that every living thing can nest in the branches. We eat one piece of bread and dare to believe that the whole world can be fed. We pour water on one child and dare to trust that every child is loved by God.

We do little things. And God does miraculous things.

I’ll admit it. I don’t understand the math. But I have tasted the goodness of God. And I see it among every ONE of you.