So the disciples demand, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17: 5). It isn’t surprising to find that Jesus’s response to this demand is a little testy. Our reading from One Timothy also talks about faith. In this letter we get a deeper sense of what faith is and what it means for us. Almost immediately we read that faith is passed on from one generation to the next in Timothy’s family. This intrigues me somewhat because it subtly hints at another dimension of faith that is often overlooked. That being, faith is something that is living. If faith is therefore living, then there is the implication that faith is also active. Faith is both living and active in the lives of those who have gone before us and continues to be a living, active force in our lives today.
But what is faith actually? We understand that it is something that is living and active, but what is it exactly? This is where some of the challenge lies because we are talking about something that we cannot see or touch. But even though we cannot see or touch it, we know that it is very real and powerful in our lives and world.
From the response that Jesus gives the disciples when they ask him to increase their faith and from the author of One Timothy we can clearly understand that faith is a force that is also proactive. Part of the problem Jesus has with the disciples is the sense that they are passive recipients of faith. It is as though they are expecting everything to be done for them, by someone else. You, Jesus, increase our faith.
From what we already understand about our sense of mission and ministry in the world, one thing is clear. We are not passive recipients of faith. We do not sit by the sidelines and watch the world unfold before us. Our calling as followers of Christ is that we engage fully with the issues and concerns of the world. This does not mean that we always know what to do. It does not mean that we always get it right. Sometimes when we act with the best of intentions, things don’t work out the way we planned or envisioned. Getting it right is not the point. The point is that we engage, pay attention and take a proactive role in our lives and the lives of the whole People of God.
Right here at St. Martin’s we have an example of this. When I first arrived in the parish and since then I have often wondered whether our Mission Statement should be something like, “We do food.” Social interactions and gathering as a community is one of our strengths. The annual Harvest Dinner is an opportunity for us to express our understanding of God’s abundance and gracious hospitality in our lives. Inviting people to come and see some of the amazing ways God is alive in us forms the spark and the catalyst for others to see the same in their lives.
From this we learn that faith is a force that grows and strengthens the more we engage with the work that God has called us to do in the world. The source of this work and our faith is Jesus. Paying attention to Jesus and how is alive in our lives deepens faith.
This is vital to our Spirituality and faith. As with all things living they need to be cared for and nurtured in order for them to thrive. It is easy to become complacent and take our faith for granted. When we fall into this habit our faith and Spirituality loses the spark it once had and becomes strained and fatigued. Interest dwindles and we find ourselves asking the question, “What is the point . . . Why should we bother . . .?”
As with our bodies and, the animals and people that we care about, we need to be always engaged and paying attention to how we are being called, where we are being called and when we are being called? If we find our faith is becoming strained and losing its spark we need to focus once again on Jesus, our source and come to him in prayer. Doesn’t have to be a complex prayer, doesn’t mean we have to wave our arms in the air and dance around; doesn’t mean that we need to fill the space with thoughts and petitions as worthy as they may be. All it means is simply to come before the Lord in prayer and say, “Here I am Lord, make me a channel of your peace.”