Mustard Seed Faith
One of my grandmother's favorite scripture passages was about the faith of a mustard seed.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:19-21)Sorry, Mom, but this has never been one of my favorites. I do love the image and the idea -- have faith as small as a tiny mustard seed, and watch the mountains move. The problem is that it has always left me feeling inadequate. I wasn't seeing any moving mountains.
Did that mean that my faith was smaller than even a tiny mustard seed? Did it mean that Jesus' definition of "mustard seed faith" was much larger than mine? Or maybe it meant that the mountains I was trying to move were ones that God wanted to stay put?
Then yesterday I read this sentence from Ortberg's book (see sidebar):
I wrote next to that sentence (in Steve's book) the words "mustard seed." Maybe this is the concept that I have been missing. Perhaps mustard seed faith is the faith needed to take the first step. Maybe mustard seed faith is only the willingness to trust God enough that we will take one single step. After that step, after that initial trust, God takes over and moves the mountain.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you may be bored with my example, but the prayer vigil last year is the one that comes to my mind. It started with an idea (maybe even an idea planted by God): wouldn't it be great if the congregation could become involved in an organized prayer effort -- an effort where even those who had never done anything like it before would feel comfortable -- an effort in which those participating would feel surrounded and supported by prayer (a lasting impression of an Emmaus walk)?
I've had ideas before -- maybe even ones planted by God -- but more often than not they stay ideas with no development. No first step.
With the prayer vigil, I took the first step -- I sent the idea to Joe and to my committee, and then I started asking people to sign up for an hour of prayer. Did I have faith that it would work? No. I had absolutely no idea if it would work at all. All I had was an idea that I thought God wanted me to follow, and enough faith (which is really such a tiny amount of faith) to take the first step.
And then God stepped in and wow. It was a huge blessing and gift to me to see how much God stepped in. Mountains moved. I didn't need enough faith to know that it would work -- I only needed mustard seed faith -- faith to take the single first step -- the trust that God would make it happen.
I think Ortberg's sentence has redefined the mustard seed scripture for me. When I read the scripture now, I see potential rather than the fruit of doubt. It is a call to trust, rather than a finger pointing at failure.