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The Secret To Success

Luke 17: 5-10

The Rev. Jon Roberts

6 October


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.’”


The Mustard Seed by an unknown artist

The secret to success for the mighty,
yet small mustard seed
Is the message, sent forth,
In thought, in word and deed.[1]

​Today, we are going to spread the secret; the secret to success.
[The priest announces the direction to which the secret will be whispered to one, then shared throughout the church. The message is, “Jesus love you.]. Today is a day to celebrate the life of a saint of the church, whose faith relates to the mustard seed. This Christian is somebody who lived long ago (13th century). His story captivates us. He is known as the lover of the animals, one who lived in the woods, giving up all he had and was wed to Lady Poverty. But this is not where he started in life. To be successful we normally think of someone who is powerful, rich and strong. They are mighty; This doesn’t sound like a mustard seed. Francis may have begun his life as a rich man, but he eventually became poor. He gave up everything, to his rich father’s chagrin. His father was a wealthy clothier and had his son’s future all planned out. Then came a conflict between the people of Assisi and a nearby city and Francis went to battle. He would not stoop to be a foot soldier or servant. No, those positions were beneath him. He took to a horse and road his way into battle, clearly to be seen by all. Then, he was knocked off his horse, captured and ransomed after a year of negotiations between his father and captors. When he was released he was a changed man. His father expected him to run the family business and started him out by giving him an expensive loom of cloth in which to retail.

But Francis had a conversion prior to this. He entered a church and observed a statue of Christ with tears and blood seen on the figure. He said he heard Jesus’ voice instruct him to build the church. Francis, taking the loom and selling it, would use this money to build the church, but his father was furious. He had the local bishop go to Francis and demand the fortunes to be returned since he dishonored him. With no earthly possessions, he turned to the wilderness. His legend is of course, rich. He was seen with the birds, the bulls and the wolves. This is how we have arrived at the legend of him being the saint of animals. Francis was much more. He acclaimed that his faith, although small in resource, was great by prayer. After listening more carefully, he heard God’s command was actually to rebuild the church. The city of God was empty. The message of Christ must be sent forth, in thought, word and deed. His secret to success was being “small.” Faith can multiply very quickly and it can grow wherever it goes. In harsh places, with little water, this is what Jesus is asking us to do. Like the place where Jeremiah looked around, where the people of Israel were taken captive and the sense of emptiness and desolation were present.[1] This is often the case in our present time. Where death spreads over and tries to destroy, the love of God spreads forth to counter it, and raise up life.

Cancer is something many of us can relate. When we hear that word, we go into shock and assume our life is over. This is a terrifying illness and it has a way of reducing us, and we weep like the daughters of Babylon.[2] Even this has no dominion over us. We may get lost in the medical details of identifying with markers, blood tests and chemistry, but ultimately we get lost in the minutia. It is the simple, small message that we need to hear in these times. As the message comes to us, in our small, yet mighty faith, it is through our suffering in Christ Jesus, as Paul mentions six times in his letter to dear Timothy, that we become apostles, teachers and heralds. [3] Whatever is broken, whatever is ill, God is able to heal and to restore. St. Francis, Paul and Timothy were restored by a simple message. The diagnosis of being a Christian, is one who spreads God’s good news of his son who came and died for us and that message is…
“Jesus loves you”

​There are things in this world that try to prevent that little message to come into our life. Jesus did not ride in to the battle on a horse, but instead a donkey. The message that Jesus gives us is to be spread forth, as far as the local Walmart, the airport or the mailbox. It is amazing what happens when you spread this simple phrase in the midst of hardship and calamity. It has a way of growing where nothing else can. This is how faith is increased, according to the gospel.[4]

“Jesus love you”
This is our secret to success and we are to spread these words.
Say it when you are down.
Say it when you are cast out.
Say it when you feel lost.

The secret to our success, we, the small
yet mighty mustard seed,
Is to spread forth the message of Jesus,
In thought, word and deed.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Lamentations 1:1-6
[3] Psalm 137:1
[4] 2 Timothy 1:1-14
[5] Luke 17:5-10

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