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Mustard seed faith

[Editor’s note: Father Baker is off this week. This column is from Oct. 9, 2019.]

By Scott Baker

Most people, when asked, would describe themselves as a person of faith, regardless if they are part of a worshiping community or not. In fact, in recent polls, over 90 percent of Americans profess a belief in God. This past Sunday the Revised Common Lectionary appointed a passage from the gospel of Luke in which Jesus’ disciples ask him to increase their faith. Jesus answers them saying, “that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could say to a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would obey their command.” I think most of us who try to walk our journeys of faith would certainly commiserate with the disciples in their desire to have more faith. Some years ago, I read a passage that challenged my view of having “enough faith.” Steve Pankey wrote, “Nobody needs enough faith to move mountains and trees. It would make a great movie though, imagine what would happen if that kind of faith ended up in the wrong hands? But in the real world, more faith is not required because faith isn’t magic pixie dust or the strength to persevere or the power to believe in something that is patently false or actually impossible. In the movie “The Last Crusade,” what Indiana Jones does in stepping out on the invisible bridge is not faith, it is stupidity. Faith is about relationship. And as a relationship, faith is based on trust, and as much as we humans like to think trust is something you can have more or less of, when it comes down to it, trust and faith are things that you either have or you don’t. For Christians, faith isn’t believing in Jesus, but rather believing Jesus, trusting Jesus, giving your heart to Jesus, having a relationship with Jesus. There is no more or less, there is only being in or out of relationship.”

Faith is a slippery thing indeed. Scientists have tried to pin the things of faith down and they either come up empty, or they come up with inconclusive results. Scientists trying to quantify faith is like saying, “Of course you’re not going to score any touchdowns you’re playing baseball.” Or trying to describe colors using numbers. Faith is about claiming, as a core part of your being, something that can’t be proven. Faith is about living life as if God is absolutely in control when all evidence seems to point to the contrary. Faith is about seeing that distant land, if only in your mind’s eye, because God said that it was there. Faith is a verb; not a noun. Faith is an action; not a state of being. Faith is claiming the love of someone who professes it because, to do otherwise, would be to live a life bereft of a deeper meaning. Jesus calls Peter to join him out on the water. God calls Jesus out onto the cross. To do either was ludicrous. Not to do so was a tragedy. Yet deep down in the midst of each was a trust, a faith big enough to make water solid and tombstones roll away. The potential is within us. God has given us the kernel of faith to begin with. The seed to plant and nurture and grow into the foundation of our lives. Steve Pankey is right, faith isn’t magic pixie dust it really is all about relationship between God and each other and ourselves. So, if faith is the size of a mustard seed, rather than asking how much faith we have, perhaps the deeper question to ask is, how well does your garden grow?

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.