Increase Our Faith
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 “Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Christ washing the feet of the disciples, Pablo Veronese, 1584
Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as though everything depended on you.
There was a preacher who fell in the river, and he couldn't swim. When a boat came by, the captain yelled, "Do you need help, sir?" The preacher calmly said "No, God will save me." A little later, another boat came by, and a fisherman asked, "Hey, do you need help?" The preacher replied again, "No God will save me." Eventually the preacher drowned & went to heaven. The preacher asked God, "Why didn't you save me?" God replied, "You Faithless soul, I sent you two boats!"
The question of the day is, “How do I increase my faith?”
The answer is, “Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as though everything depended on you.” St. Augustine said this, as he, like the disciples we hear today wanted to know how they could increase their faith. How do you increase your faith when your enemies surround you? How do you increase your faith when your own brothers and sisters in Christ sin against you? How do you increase your faith when storms come, and you begin to drown? Where are the two boats that God sends to pull us out of these situations?
A faith untested is no faith at all. Our faithless soul must be awakened each day to shake off the dull sloth. Our faithless soul must renew its vows to the most High. Jesus tells his disciples this as we hear in the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke. They ask, “How can we increase our faith,” but the narrative needs context. In the preceding five verses, not selected in today’s lectionary, is his exhortation about how they will stumble. His first point is to say, they will surely fall, rejecting what God sends to them. Further, they will sin against one another. To that second point, he exhorts them to go to that brother or sister, rebuking them for their sin and offering forgiveness if they repent. There is a lot happening between those two points. One is rejection of self. The second is the rejection of the other.
The answer to how one increases their faith, relates to the two examples that Christ uses. The illustration of the mighty mustard seed and the illustration of the worthless slave. One’s faith grows when it is rooted in God, not self. One’s faith grows when it serves rather than being served. As the storm comes, and they surely will come, these two boats are intended to rescue us. They are two opportunities to be rescued from fear and from anger. We reject them because we continue to work as though everything depends on us, but we fail to pray as though everything depends on God.
When twenty souls came to Calvary last week to batten the hatches before an unpredictable hurricane, named Ian made landfall, we worked as though everything depended on our effort to save and protect. But when we were exhausted, and the day was done, we vowed to rest in prayer. We circled around, held hands, and prayed as though everything depended on God. Our parish miraculously was spared. Some parishes were not so fortunate. Does that mean we had more faith than them? Certainly not. Just because you have faith does not absolve you from persecution and heartache. It is because you have faith that you can withstand it. Our work is preparatory, but at some point, we have to say everything depends on God.
What about the storms that wage angst against you and between you and your brother or sister this day? Are you working towards forgiveness? If not, the waters will rise. The wind will be relentless and there will be no peace. Go, go to them so that you do not stumble. Be the tiny mustard seed. Be the worthless slave. Lower yourself so that God’s good deed can extend life to one another. This is how we are to live.
God is sending you two boats today.
Work as though everything depends on you,
But pray as though everything depends on God.
 St. Augustine of Hippo
 The Rev. Jon Roberts
 Luke 17:5-10