New Testament Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 22: Year C
“The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17: 6)
Is Jesus saying they had no faith or that the faith they have is sufficient? I borrow heavy from Fred Craddock writing on Luke for Interpretation; a Bible Commentary.
“The Greek language has basically two types of “if” clauses; those which express a condition contrary to the fact (“if I were you”); and those which express a condition according to fact (“if Jesus is our Lord”). The conditional clause in verse 6 is of the second type; one could translate it “if you had faith (and you do).” Jesus’ response, then, is not a reprimand for an absence of faith but an affirmation of the faith they have and an invitation to live out the full possibilities of that faith. Even the small faith they already have cancels out words such as “impossible” (a tree being uprooted) and “absurdly” (planting a tree in the sea) and puts them in touch with the power of God. That Luke has a “sycamore tree” (a kind of mulberry) instead of a “mountain” as in Matthew and Mark, in no way alters the message: faith lays hold of God with whom nothing is impossible, and it is God who empowers the life of discipleship.” (Fred B. Craddock writing for Interpretation; A Bible Commentary: Luke: 1990 p. 200)
From this we learn that the apostles already have all the faith they need to do the work of ministry. And the work of ministry is a lifelong, and eternal state of being.
Again from Craddock, “There is no place or time, therefore, at which the apostle can say, “I have completed my service; now I want to be served.” If this parable was prompted by the remark of the apostles at verse 5, then two things can be said, First, the lesson is especially applicable to the leaders of the church who can easily forget that they are “servants of the servants of God.” “The request for an increase of faith (verse 5) must not seduce the apostles or any leader to assume that with the increase comes elevation in position so that the period of serving ends. Second, “Apostles and all leaders of the faithful come under the instructions for all disciples. In the field or in the house, a servant is a servant;” (also, Fred B. Craddock writing for Interpretation; A Bible Commentary: Luke: 1990 p. 200 and 201)
For me at least, this means that I should train myself to love serving to the point that it is my preferred state of being, in this life and in the next. I want to be the field hand and later the house hand as well. This earth is the field, heaven is the house. I am honored to serve in both. How about you?
As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John