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my miscellany

Pentecost 17, 2022 — 2 Oct 22

Pentecost 17, 2022

Wood, Thomas Waterman, 1823-1903. Sherry, Sir, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54276 [retrieved September 29, 2022]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/freeparking/2224821427/.

RCL Year C, Proper 22 (Alternate Readings)
Habakkuk 1:1-4 and 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, II Timothy 1:1-14, Saint Luke 17:5-10

The best sermons come from preachers who have thoroughly learned the lessons they preach. Unfortunately, I cannot promise that to you today.

The attitude of the disciples comes so close to that of most baby boomers, which is my generation, that I am only beginning to glimpse them and Jesus’ rebuke of them.

Just before the Gospel today begins, Jesus has told his disciples that they must forgive a sinning disciple if he repents. He goes on to say that if the same person sins against them seven times a day, and turns back to say, “I repent,” they must forgive.[1] Jesus thus tells his disciples how much effort it will take, how much emotional fuel it will take, to do the forgiving that they will be required to do. Jesus calls into question two things that boomers hold dear: their competence and their commitment to achieve their goal of being a good disciple.

That is the point at which today’s Gospel begins. The disciples respond to Jesus’ challenge and exclaim, “Increase our faith!”[2], as if to demand the tool they think they need to do the job of forgiving. They bring the teacher an apple. But Jesus is not to be fawned over; he sees through their manipulative guile.

“If you had faith,” Jesus begins. He tells them that there may be nothing there to increase. So much for their competence and their commitment. And then he tells them what they need to hear despite their perceived competence and their commitment to being a good disciple.

He gives them two examples of a master and a slave. In the first example, the master serves the slave after the slave turns in a hard day in the field. How likely is that? Not very likely. Jesus isn’t about to increase their faith simply because they demand it. The second example he gives has the master telling the slave, after a hard day in the field, “[p]repare supper for me…and serve me…later you may eat and drink.” That is more likely.

When the disciples have done all that difficult forgiving that he has told them about, they only can say, “we have done only what we ought to have done!”[3]

In a day when equal outcomes are preferred to equal opportunity, when every participating team is declared to be the winner, when there are no losers, and when every participating player gets a trophy, it is hard to hear and to understand that God does not shower thanks and trophies on us for doing what we are supposed to do. We are to do our duty. We are to love and to serve God and our neighbor. Creation really is not about us. It is about God and God’s will being done.


[1] Saint Luke 17:1-4.

[2] Saint Luke 17:5.

[3] Saint Luke 17:10.

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