10-31-13 - Loving Clams

I don’t know much about clams, but I’m told that the only way to get them to open their shells - other than violently, with a knife - is to place them in warm water. After awhile they’ll open of their own accord. That's always seemed a good metaphor for the way God loves us into opening our spirits, and a way we can love really shut-down people into transformation. The hardest heart can be melted by acceptance and mercy, just as the softest heart can be hardened by rejection and judgment.

I think that’s what Jesus did for Zacchaeus. His acceptance, signaled by coming to his house; his willingness to stand with him when no one else would, elicits not only repentance but an astonishing offer of restitution: “Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’”

It’s easy to say “I’m sorry.” As people in recovery will tell you, it’s a lot harder to make amends, go back to people you’ve hurt and offer them restitution, when possible, for what you’ve taken from them. Restitution is the visible fruit of true repentance. And here, Zacchaeus is a champion.

Those who disapproved of Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ house probably argued, “By going to a ‘sinner’s’ house, Jesus is dignifying all tax collectors. His presence is tacit approval of the guy’s wickedness. Better to isolate him than to suggest approval.” We hear voices like that in all sorts of issues. But if we isolate those who are destructive, where is the hope for transformation?

I'm reminded of the heat Jodie Foster took for hiring Mel Gibson after the many revelations about his anti-Semitic remarks and actions. She did not condone his views, but made a choice to stand with a friend – and so helped foster (sorry...) the possibility of transformation in him. The hardest heart can be melted by acceptance and mercy, as the softest heart can be hardened by rejection and judgment.

Jesus went to Zach’s house, not knowing that he would repent – perhaps inferring some openness from his tree-climbing. And his risk was rewarded, his grace met with not only sorrow but amendment of life and reversal of justice. Where Zach had taken money from the poor to appease the Romans, he was now giving half his fortune to the poor. And if there was fraud, he offered to make a four-fold restitution. Now that’s an “I’m sorry” with teeth.

How do you respond to this story? Do you want to follow Zach or to Jesus today? (Or both…?) If it's Zacchaeus, you might ask whether you feel any debt related to wrongdoing on your part? Is there anyone, the thought of whom makes you wince with guilt? What would restitution look like?

If you were to emulate Jesus, ask: Who do you know who is isolated because of their destructive words or actions? We don’t need to affirm the behavior, just provide an environment where hearts can open, and see what happens.

If you’ve ever been a clam shut tight and found yourself in a bath of warm, accepting love, you know what it meant to you. Is God inviting you to give that gift to someone?

10-30-13 - Bad Company

Zacchaeus may have been happy to hear Jesus’ announcement that he was coming to his house – but it was not otherwise a popular move. Luke tells us, “All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’

One who is a sinner. It’s all very well and good to talk about the Kingdom of God and loving your neighbor as yourself, not to mention your enemies – but to actually go to the home of one of the worst of the tax collectors? That’s a “political third-rail” move, guaranteed to get you in trouble with your followers. In our time, it might be working with sex offenders or drug lords to stop cycles of addiction and violence. Many people can see no humanity in people who abuse others, even if many abusers are also victims. If you can categorize someone as an abuser, you can stop thinking of her as a person. He’s a [          ] – fill in the blank.

I believe Jesus would stand with the persons victimized, condemn the action and the damage caused – and also reach out to the perpetrator. Jesus wasn’t interested in popularity – he was interested in the mission of God to reclaim and restore all humanity to wholeness. All humanity – even those who do their worst.

Jesus had a way of seeing past a person’s outward characteristics – illness, possession, greed, even violence. He did not confuse a person with her disease or his disorder. Rather, he aligned himself with the core self within that person, and brought the power that made the universe to a person’s inner self, weak as it may have been. He saw who Zacchaeus was, apart from all the wickedness he perpetrated. He saw a broken child of God, not just an “extortioner” or a “sinner.”

He invites us to do no less. Sometimes that inner self is hard to find. When someone is far gone on the path of addiction, for instance, the core self may be very, very faint. Yet we can trust that it is there, because this person is a child of God. And we are called to offer our strength and our will and our love to that core self – not the outer behavior, but the inner self. In Christ, no one is beyond repair, not Zacchaeus, not anyone, unless they absolutely choose to be.

Can you think of someone who seems beyond redemption, who is so destructive to herself or others, it’s hard to see any humanity? Might be someone you know of; might be a category you’ve lumped a whole lot of people into. In prayer today, can you hold that person or group in God’s light for a few moments, asking God to rescue them from who they are becoming? To restore them to who they truly are?

Is God calling you to take any kind of action to reach out to such a person? It can be like reaching out to an angry dog – you might get nipped at. Is Jesus inviting you to join him in reaching out anyway?

The baptismal covenant Episcopalians affirm asks, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” We can’t respect someone’s dignity if we lump them into a group of others – saints or sinners. We need the courage to see each person on their own terms. The answer to that question is, “I will, with God’s help.” God’s help is there for us when we’re at our worst, and God’s help is here for us to help others become their best.

10-29-13 - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

“Jane, can we bring the bishop to your house for lunch?” It was a Sunday, the day after a freak March windstorm had rendered much of Stamford without power, and our bishop was making an annual Visitation. We held dimly lit worship at church, and shivered through a coffee-less coffee hour, but the only place with electricity where the Vestry might have lunch with the Bishop was Jane’s house. Jane is of the generation that views a bishop’s visit as a Big Deal worthy of weeks of cleaning and polishing – but she said yes, and tidied as best she could, and got out the fine china, and hosted us. Ready or not.

Must have been a shock for Zacchaeus, sitting in that tree. “When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’” A shock, and a challenge – Jesus, a celebrity so big he gathers crowds as he moves through town, is coming to Zach’s house. It would be like being told the President or a Nobel laureate was coming over. It’s exciting, and a social coup – and ratchets up the pressure. What am I going to cook? When did I last clean the bathroom? What will we talk about?

Besides, Zach was safely hidden away up that tree. Now he’s going to have to meet this guy he wanted so badly to see. He responds with grace: “So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.”

How would you respond, if you got an email from Jesus today: “I’m coming to your house this evening.” Would you want to see him? Would you try to put if off?
Would you invite anyone else, or just enjoy the chance to talk to him by yourself?

Let’s try another imagination prayer today – imagine that scenario: the email, the preparation, your response, the greeting at the door… What happens? What do you talk about? See how fully you can place yourself into that scene and see where it goes. It’s another way of talking to Jesus in our imaginations, placing him in our daily lives. (Write it down afterward!)

I’m pretty sure Jesus does send us that message, every day, something like this:
“I want to come to your house. I want to spend some time with you. I want you to get off the sidelines, out of the bleachers, off the fence and into relationship with me. I’m not just some guy in a book or a stained glass window. I’m the one who made you, who became like you so you could become like me. I love you more than you can ever imagine, and I can transform your life if you let me in. I can transform the world through you if you let me. Can I come to your house, to your heart, today?”

Maybe you always say “yes.” Maybe you say “later,” or “maybe.”
We don’t have to clean the house or cook a fancy dinner. Jesus knows how messy our lives are, how full, and how beautiful. What he wants is our time and attention (just ask Martha of Bethany...) It’s the most life-changing dinner we could ever imagine. Every time.

10-28-13 - Up a Tree

Last week Jesus told us a parable about a fictitious tax collector, a prototype. This week he meets the real thing, and we get to watch. Here’s how Luke begins the story: “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.”

I’ve talked about why tax collectors were considered the lowest form of life by their fellow Jews, hated collaborators in the oppressive Roman tax system. In order to enforce collection of taxes – and extract enough over the required amount to make a living themselves – a tax collector had to be powerful and mean. Think Mafia “protection” goons, and we start to get the picture. And here’s Zacchaeus – a chief tax collector in the big town of Jericho! And wealthy. He must be very, very good at his despicable job.

Then Luke tells us something sort of endearing – that this wealthy, powerful, notorious man is so short, and so anxious to see Jesus as he passes through town, he climbs up a tree to get a glimpse. How sweet. It doesn’t help that generations of children have learned his story through a Sunday School ditty, "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he/He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.” Hard to think of a “wee little man” as scary and villainous.

So which is he? All of the above, and more? We will explore the nuances of this story this week, for it does not lend itself to either/or thinking. Today, let’s focus on the tree-climbing. I don’t know too many adults who climb trees for any reason (though my sister did so on in her wedding day… and didn’t ruin the dress!). How badly did this guy want to see Jesus to run up a tree? What did he want from Jesus? Is his ascent an indication of repentance, or curiosity – or did he want to observe without having to engage Jesus?

What or who might you climb a tree to see?
If you heard that person were passing through your town – would you try to get close?
If you had a chance to get close to Jesus in a crowd – what would you say?
  Would you ask for healing? Explanations? Forgiveness?
Today, in prayer, try to imagine the scene, with Jesus coming through your area, and place yourself in the crowd. What unfolds in your imagination? Stay with it...

This is one way to pray, to imagine an encounter with Jesus in some of the places the Gospels tell us he was – then it’s more like talking to a person and less like sending thoughts into the ether.
Like Zacchaeus, sometimes we need to change our perspective to see Jesus more clearly. I hope you will join me up a tree this week, and see what we can see.

10-25-13 - Losing Our Religion

As we have dug down into Jesus’ parable about the two men praying in the temple, I have not been very tolerant of the self-righteous Pharisee. Neither was Jesus. But let’s give him a little regard. He was motivated to please God in the way he knew best – by following the rules and upholding the whole system that made the rules important. Perhaps the rules, the Law, had become his object of worship, obscuring the offer of relationship God gave along with the Law – “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

We might say that the Pharisee represents Religion – capitalization intended, as befits an abstraction. And the tax-collector represents faith. Religion can be a wonderful vehicle for faith – but we should never mistake it for the God it purports to worship.

For us, too, uncompromising allegiance to words of Scripture or church tradition can blind us to the movements of our Living God. These are God-given gifts – but when we focus on the gifts rather than the Giver, we miss the next new thing God is doing. And our God is always doing a new thing.

I don’t think human beings can get away from religion, hard as we might try to just be “spiritual.” It is human nature to create structures that allow us to feel good and to repeat a profound experience, and to stay in community with others who have shared that profound experience. Before you know it, we’re worshiping at the same time every week, using the same words or songs or rituals that “worked” last week to mediate an encounter with God. If they don’t work as well this week – maybe we double down and get even more rigid.

Meanwhile, God is saying, “Over here, guys – I’m here now.” God is rarely in the last place we saw Him. She’s almost always on the move, doing a new thing, singing a new song, revealing a new facet of her identity.

Today, in prayer, let’s do another set of lists. Name one list “Religion” and the other “Relationship.” What activities of yours would classify “religion?” Which ones are life-giving? Which ones are stale, or like trying to wear someone else’s clothes? They don’t fit, or feed your faith?

Now, what activities would you name as “relationship building,” that enhance your relationship with God? How would you characterize your relationship with God, on a spectrum from distant (1) to intimate (5)? Are there any on the first list that get in the way of the second?

The other day the great REM song, Losing My Religion*, ran through my head. Doesn’t have much to do with religion (according to Wikipedia, band members said "losing my religion" is a southern US expression that means losing one's temper or composure), but it’s catchy as all get out, and a great theme song for us as we seek to unfetter ourselves from all that is human-made about our interaction with God, and open ourselves to the new winds of the Spirit.

The greatest gift we can give ourselves, and each other, is to lose our “religion” and open our arms wide to the relationship with God that Christ made possible for us through the Holy Spirit. All religion will pass away – but that relationship is ours for eternity.

*not the official video, which I feel distracts too much from the song…

10-24-13 - Justified

I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other…” 
That's how Jesus ends his story. What does he mean by “justified?” What does it mean that the more “sinful” tax collector is justified and the self-righteous Pharisee is not?

Justification is a key term for understanding what it means to be saved by God’s grace. Justification has to do with being “set right.” We can get a clue from how we format our documents – left, right- or center-justified. We often use the word as a defense – “Well, I was justified in saying that…” The law even has a category called “justifiable homicide.”

As a theological term, though, it goes even deeper– it means to be made righteous, aligned. It is not something we can do for ourselves – it is God’s work. And it is Christ’s righteousness that is conferred upon us, not our own. That’s why the “sinful” man was justified – in his humility he was able to receive, where the contemptuous "righteous" man could not.

Martin Luther had a wonderful image for this – he called it the “The Glorious Exchange,” in which Christ, the King and Lord of all, left his glory and took on our beggars’ clothes, our sin and self-orientation. But in this Exchange Christ does more than take on our lowly status – he gives us his. He takes our rags and dresses us instead in his royal robes of silk and velvet, his perfect righteousness. We get clothed in his holiness; it covers us, redefines us. That’s how God sees us, through Christ, as already holy.

How does it feel to put on a royal robe – or the finest clothing you can think of? Imagine it, in prayer.
How might you walk differently today, knowing you are secretly royalty? How might you talk differently?
What do you pray about, knowing you have handed off everything that mars your inner beauty and received a cosmic make-over? What would it take to believe we have received such a gift?

We are not recipients of a hand-out, but beloved children of God, reclaimed and redeemed at great cost. God didn’t send a check for us – He sent a Son, whom we know as Jesus the Christ; who came so that we might know Life. As we receive the gift, we get to be Christ, his Body, his hands and feet and eyes and voice bearing light to a world that needs it.

We can’t earn this gift, or repay it – we can only receive it. Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, theologian and Sufi mystic, wrote: “God accepts counterfeit money.”
And God exchanges it for gold: You. Me. Infinitely precious, forever justified.

10-23-13 - Sin and Self-Esteem

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This is what the tax-collector in Jesus’ parable prays. It forms the heart of what has become known as the Jesus Prayer, practiced by hesychasts striving to pray without ceasing. (Should I make you look it up? Naah – I’ll tell you: hesychasm is the “prayer of the heart,” a spiritual discipline that seeks to make prayer constant, internalized on the breath and beneath daily activity. It is what Franny was attempting in J.D. Salinger’s classic Franny and Zooey, a favorite of mine.)

The fuller Jesus Prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a [miserable] sinner.” It is short and clearly evokes the differential between us and Christ. To our ears, though, it can smack of low self-esteem and guilt and shame and all those icky feelings that have made Christianity so unappealing to so many. What happened to “You are so precious?” Is Jesus really commending self-degradation?

I think Jesus commends self-appraisal. This is a prayer from the gut at a moment of self-realization. It represents one stage of repentance, well-described by another theological term: compunction. Compunction is so often accompanied by its buddy, “dread,” that I think of them in tandem, a sort of cabaret act of the soul – “And now, let’s welcome to our spotlight, ‘Compunction and Dread!’”

Compunction is that sick feeling in our gut when we realize we’ve hurt someone, or something we’ve done or said has been exposed, or we feel inwardly convicted. It is not fun – which is why dread comes swimming up close behind it, bringing the fear of consequences to the surface. At such moments we are most keenly aware of our need for mercy.

That’s the heart of repentance, or – look out, here comes another theological term – “metanoia, ” literally, turning. We turn from patterns and behaviors and thinking that lead to pain and separation from God, ourselves, and others. We turn toward the source of mercy, grace and truth. In some ancient baptismal liturgies, the candidates actually faced west while renouncing their past and turned toward the east in affirming Christ as Lord, to embody this turning toward the light.

Repentance does not mean labeling ourselves unworthy or usurping God’s role as judge. It is truth-telling, house-cleaning, pointing out places of pain or self-reliance, inviting the Holy Physician to heal what is diseased in our spirits. Because we are able to call ourselves sinners, we can also call ourselves beloved, saints of God. There’s another great nightclub duo, “Sinners and Saints.” Simul justus et peccator, Luther said, “At once justified (or, righteous) and sinner.”

In prayer today, ask the Spirit to show you where you feel shameful, guilty or scared. Sometimes these are irrational, not tied to any real areas of sin in us; sometimes they’re legit and we need to own them. There is something bracing and energizing about facing ourselves and inviting God into the shadow places. If that sense of compunction comes up – ask God to lift it, to fill you with love and grace.

“Sinner” is not the last word on who we are. It’s just a step along the way to transparency. 

God has the last word, and it is “beloved.”

10-22-13 - Good and Sorry

We can see two models of righteousness in this week’s story: one based on doing the right things, the other based on repenting for doing the wrong things. Jesus clearly stands with the second, suggesting that the way into the Life of God is through clear-eyed humility, not legalistic moral rigor. This message was so radical, we might say it got him killed. It is still radical, and often ignored most by those who call themselves his followers.

Legalism is often easier than humility. We humans tend to like success better than failure, rules better than ambiguity. To be honest about the ways we mess up “in thought, word and deed” is much tougher than pushing those realities away and counting up all the rules we’ve managed to keep. The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable extolls his good works, his fasting and tithing – and the fact that he is not a thief, rogue, adulterer or extortioner. Hey, those are easy sins to peg. Jesus goes deeper, suggesting that, in his pride and contempt for those weaker than himself, the Pharisee is actually less righteous than the low-life tax collector.

Of course, it’s not either/or. Good works and repentance are both integral to being a follower of Christ. The question is, what comes first? A focus on “keeping the rules” puts the emphasis on our action, not God’s. It often leads to anxiety and pride.

If we start from repentance, though, the action is with God, whose grace and forgiveness we need. And as we receive God’s grace in gratitude, we often respond with greater compassion for those around us. I would say repentance often leads to good works, but good works rarely lead to repentance.

Are you ready for a little inventory today? Make two columns. On one write everything you think makes you a “good person.” On the other, everything you feel ashamed of or insecure about. Can you live with knowing both columns tell a truth about you? Not the whole truth, but truth?

How about offering God the “sin” column, trusting that God’s forgiveness was there before you even confessed. Can you receive it? Pray for the power of love in you to move you out of some of those habits of the heart and mind.

Now, the “good works” column – take a good look. Do you do all those things from your heart, or because you think you’re “supposed to?” What would you take out of that list if you followed your heart? (I admit, I'm afraid to do this exercise!)

We can choose to be self-righteous, or self-aware – but generally not at the same time. Seeing ourselves clearly makes it a little difficult to be self-righteous. And why work that hard anyway, when God’s giving it away for free?

10-21-13 - Right Isn't Always Righteous

I said last week, “God doesn’t want us good; God wants us real.” Over-simple, perhaps, but it’s based on what I read in scripture, and how the Gospels show Jesus. He is generous, compassionate and forgiving with the repentant whose sins are outward and obvious, and he is often scathing toward the “good folks,” the Pharisees and scribes who were so sure they were pleasing God.

Another week, another parable. Not hard to interpret this one – Luke telegraphs the message up front: “Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.” That pretty much summed up the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, so focused on keeping the Law in minute detail they seemed to lose sight of both God and their neighbor.

Not much plot to this story – it’s more a situation with two well-known “types”: a Pharisee (professional do-gooder) and a tax-collector (corrupt extortionist, scum of the earth). Both are praying in the temple, but the Pharisee thanks God that he is so much more holy than other people, “especially people like that tax collector over there.” The tax collector, meanwhile, is abjectly repentant, pleading God’s mercy. Jesus says that this is the one who will go home “justified… for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

This is not a call to be modest or circumspect about our gifts or accomplishments. It’s a reminder to be clear about whose judgment on us matters: not our own, and not other peoples, but God’s. The Pharisee in Jesus’ story, even if a caricature, is an excellent likeness of those who usurp God’s role as judge, who dare to declare themselves worthy and others unworthy. (I might add, it’s just as wrong to declare ourselves “bad” and others “better.”).

The Pharisee makes a case for his own goodness – his fasting, tithing, religiosity. And that case is never enough – it has to be augmented by comparison to someone less “good." That’s a problem with self-righteousness – we never get to rest our case. We have to keep marshaling evidence, comparing ourselves. The tax collector, as numerous as his sins may be, is honest before God.

So – which are you more like today? If you feel unsure of your righteousness as a child of God, why?
What evidence do you feel compelled to present? What does God say as you pray about that?
Do you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else in order to feel better about yourself?
If there’s anyone you feel is beneath you… what if you pray for that person or group today.
Try on the idea that you are no better or worse than another – though your actions might be.

The Good News is that we have received the Spirit of Christ and his righteousness – we are worthy because of who he is. We can silence the prosecutor and fire the defense attorney, because God has provided us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to stand with us. In fact, our case has already been decided – we’re good to go. Jesus said so.

10-18-13 - Wrestling with God

Moral of the week: It’s okay to struggle with God. In fact, the Bible is full of lively encounters with God – negotiations, laments, indignation, door-slamming fights. And guess what? God doesn’t go away. God hangs in, stays with, sometimes appears to change course (or was that the plan all along?)

In other words, God is revealed as One who loves – actively, passionately, fully. And those whom God seems to choose for special blessing or purpose are often far from perfect – but they are open to a robust relationship with God.

One of these was Jacob, the wily grandson of Abraham, twin of Esau, who managed to secure both his brother’s birthright and their father Isaac’s blessing. The tales of his adventures, marriages, schemes, setbacks and successes is richly told in Genesis 25-33. One such story comes up Sunday.

Toward the end of his life, Jacob is returning home with his vast family and flocks, and he hears Esau is still looking for him. Fearful, he prepares to encounter the twin he cheated so long ago. He sends his family and everything he owns on ahead. The storyteller is succinct: “Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” We don’t know who the adversary is, but Jacob holds his own and at daybreak the man wants to leave. But Jacob is tough; he won’t release him until he receives a blessing.

The man tells him, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." Imagine that. The very name of the nation that will bear God’s blessing means “has striven with God” or “prevails with God.” Talk about an invitation….

Are there issues in your life you want to take up with God? Times when you have struggled with God? Did you wrestle through to a place of resolution – or is it still locked away in you, holding you back from true intimacy in faith? Bring it out! As I’ve said, God doesn’t want us to be polite – God wants us to be real, to bring all of what we feel into our interaction with the Holy One. I hear God say, “Bring it! All of it. I love who you are. I want you to be true before me.”

And if we’re really open in this relationship, we might also find our desires or demands changing, as we are shaped by our encounters with the Holy. I think that is the goal of the spiritual life: to become ever more truly who we are, who God made us to be. In the process, we shed some of who we’re not.

I like the story about a little girl who used to stop on her way to school and watch a sculptor fashioning a statue of a lion from a block of marble. Week after week she watched as the animal took shape. When it was nearly finished, she stopped to look one day, and said to the sculptor, “Hey, mister, how’d you know there was a lion in there?”

God knows who we are. As we allow ourselves to struggle with God – and to rest in God – we allow all that is not truly “us” to be whittled away, until we stand in our truest identity, fully known, truly loved. Sometimes at that point God gives us a new name, our true name….

10-17-13 - Have a little faith...

Talk about zingers. How’s this for a closer: “'And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” That’s what Jesus says at the end of his story.

Faith. That again. Isn’t it nicer when the focus is on God’s action – or delayed action? With this parting shot, Jesus brings the focus neatly back to us. That persistent widow in his story, annoying as she may have been, was also an examplar of faith. She had faith in a system that thus far had yielded no justice. But she kept at it.

How about us? I know many people who turn away from God because their suffering, or the suffering of others, has not be alleviated, as though that were the only criteria for belief. I don’t deny the reality of that pain – AND I want to invite people in that boat to widen their vision. On any given day, most of us can see many blessings and answers to prayer and signs of God-life, as well as the persistence of injustice and challenges. We are invited to take it all in, to give praise in all circumstances, to allow the blessings to strengthen our faith for the challenges.

As I wrote this, John Hiatt’s song, Have a Little Faith in Me started playing in my head. Though it is a love song from a man to a woman, I can imagine our loving God singing it to us:  

When the road gets dark and you can no longer see
Just let my love throw a spark and have a little faith in me…

Today in prayer, instead of making lists and thinking of all the areas where we want to see God’s justice, let’s recall God’s faithfulness and our own faith. If you want to try a new prayer experience, play the song and imagine God singing it to you (okay, if John Hiatt as God is a little too much, you could just read the words…!)

God has chosen to work through our faith, weak or strong as it may be at any given moment. It is a key ingredient in bringing forth justice. So remember. Remember the times when you’ve known God’s faithfulness, and dare to have a little faith - one more time.

10-16-13 - Justice When?

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” is an expression I hear. It can sound tunnel-visioned, oblivious to what are in some cases competing claims, or the need for a process of culture change. Or maybe it’s always true, and those less hurried are simply getting more from the status quo. “It ain’t that simple,” they say. And yet, when you’re the one waiting for justice, it ain’t that complicated.

After telling how the judge is eventually worn down by the widow’s persistence, Jesus says: “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.”

What do you think when you read those words? I confess, my reaction is, “Quickly? Not delayed? How many have cried out to God day and night, century after century, and still the powerful dominate the weak, and the rich horde resources that keep others poor, and the corrupt steal justice from the powerless..." What do we do with these words?

One thing we do is trust, and wait. Chalk it up to the eternal mysteries and keep our focus on all the times we see justice break through, not just on the times we don’t. That’s important, to keep our focus on where God is.

I want to go deeper, though, to try to understand better what Jesus was saying. And I thought: What if we flip it? What if the God figure in the parable isn’t the judge, but the widow? If we might be any character in a parable, so could God.

How does it change our interpretation if we see God as that helpless widow? We could say that, in giving us free will, God has stayed his own power, and depends on us to choose justice over self-gratification. In the Bible, we see God over and over and over again asking his chosen ones to turn back to him, to righteousness and truth and integrity and justice. And over and over again in those stories humankind refuses. That’s where our belief in Christ’s incarnation is grounded.

What if God, persistent as that widow, is asking us to bring justice into being? What if, rather than waiting for justice to come from “on high,” we answered the call to be justice-makers, participating with God in restoring all things and all people to wholeness? We might feel helpless in the face of great injustices – but we aren’t called to work alone. Enough people working together can overcome any injustice.

If you were to see yourself as a maker of justice, where would you start? (Or continue…) Somewhere in your life or community, among friends or acquaintances? Or with a national or global issue? Lord knows, there’s no shortage.

And what do you see as your obstacles to bringing forth justice in that situation?
Who do you need as allies and reinforcements? List some...
Who are your adversaries – and how might you pray for them?

If you feel overwhelmed, remember this: God has entrusted us with the ministry of peace and justice, and God has equipped us with gifts, colleagues – and the power of the Holy Spirit. With the power that made the universe working in us – we can make some justice. Sooner. Together.

10-15-13 - Widow or Judge?

Interpreting parables can be similar to interpreting dreams – on some level, we can find ourselves in all the characters, and meaning shifts according to who we identify with most. So, in this parable, are you the widow, or the judge?

When we feel we’re on the wrong side of justice, powerless, unheard, unhelped, victims of a system we can’t control – we identify with this widow. It’s hard to get more powerless than widows in Jesus’ day – they were at the mercy of relatives or charity. This is still true in much of the world, including in some tribal African cultures – it has magnified the trauma of the AIDS pandemic in many families.

What situations in your life make you feel unheeded, powerless? (Government shut-down, anybody?) We all have some area in which we don’t get what we want or feel we need, and we get tired of asking. It’s okay to feel a righteous anger over injustice – and it’s okay to be angry at God.

Or do you identify with this judge, as unsavory a character as he may be? Are you tired of people haranguing you to fix everything? Maybe you think this widow ought to take more responsibility for her life. Maybe (the story doesn’t tell us…) the opponent has a good case, and ruling in favor of the widow is not the most just thing, but she’s worn you out.

In many situations in life we are sitting in the power seat, denying other people resources or justice or simply a hearing. When we hoard resources or exert socio-economic privilege, we’re like that judge. When we fail to honor the humanity in another person, no matter how annoying or destructive we may find them, we’re sitting on that bench.

There are a lot of “yucky” feelings associated with both of these characters. Sometimes we have to move through the yuck to let it go. Those feelings are part of us, and the more we’re able to bring them into the light, the better we can be free of them. And freedom is our goal in the spiritual life.

So… let’s get out the notebook. Name some things you feel helpless about, angry at, sick of. Tell God how you feel. God doesn’t want us to be polite – God wants us to be real. If these are things you often pray about, examine that. Is there another angle from which to look at them? Action you could take? Anyone else who might join you in that prayer?

Then let's switch places and assume the judgment seat. Who’s asking you for justice or mercy – or your time? Who don’t you want to be bothered with? What resources and power do you have that you might exercise on someone else's behalf? If you feel forgiveness is needed, ask for that. Even more, ask God to show you God’s solutions for those people so you can join God in helping them.

This is hard work, to look at ourselves clearly. But the light we shine into our shadows is the love of God in Christ, a fierce love that makes us truer than we knew we could be.

10-14-13 - Persistence

In his parables, Jesus likened God to many different types: a forgiving father, an absentee landlord, a generous vineyard owner, an exacting manager, the host of a wedding banquet, to name a few. Every so often, Jesus used a negative example, not to say “this is what God is like,” but rather, “If even someone this lousy can behave in a generous way, how much more will your Father in Heaven?”

So our parable this week features an unjust judge “who neither feared God nor had respect for people,” being pestered for justice by a persistent widow. He finally gives in and judges in her favor – not because he wants to see justice done, or because he has compassion, but because he wants to get rid of her. Jesus says, “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?” (He says a little more than that, which we’ll unpack another day…).

Luke introduces this as a “parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” Jesus suggests we make our needs known to God and keep on asking, day and night. I don’t know about you – shouldn't once be enough? Is God deaf? Not listening? Keeping up with his 950 zillion Facebook friends? What kind of a complaint department is this? What kind of justice?

Let’s assume that God knows what God is doing, and that Jesus is conveying truth about God. What benefit could there be to persistence in prayer? Depends on what we consider the purpose of prayer. If it is to get what we ask for, we often find it frustrating not to see the results we desire.

If it is to draw closer in relationship to God, to open our spirits to deeper understanding and belovedness, then we can pray for the same thing over and over and see what changes in us as well as in the circumstances of the prayer.

Is there something you haven't dared to pray for, which your heart desires? Something that seems impossible? Start today, in faith and humility – and be persistent.

Is there something you feel you’ve prayed for repeatedly, and haven’t seen realized? Tell God how you feel about that… and maybe ask if there’s another way to pray about it. Is God showing you something underneath that prayer?

Sometimes not seeing the desired outcome right away invites us to reexamine the prayer: why do we want that? Does it involve God controlling another person’s thoughts (the one thing I believe God will not do…)? Can we see some deeper good in our not receiving that desired outcome?

These questions don’t always get answered – and then we’re back at learning to wait on the Lord. But we don’t have to wait passively. We can wait engaged, persistent, insistent, standing on the promises we have received – that the most immediate fruit of sincere prayer is the peace of Christ, that we pray in the presence of Christ, that we can be conduits of the power of Christ.

Then we can invite God to reshape that prayer in us until it becomes God’s prayer. Those always get answered.

10-11-13 - Made Whole

“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”The phrase “made you well” also means “saved you.” Healing of our bodies and healing of our spirits is a package deal with God. We can choose to open ourselves to the deeper healing of our spirits, the eternal healing – or stop at wholeness in the here and now.

All ten men were healed of leprosy – nine returned to their “here and now” lives. Something made this one come back to seek a connection with the Holy One, to throw himself at Jesus’ feet and say thank you. He receives a deeper healing, as Jesus proclaims him whole in body, mind and spirit.

Is it his faith or Jesus’ word or a combination that made him well? That is mystery. The faith we bring is certainly a large part of the equation, larger than I’m comfortable with. Wouldn't it be simpler if it were all up to God? Yet God seems to work through us, to have us be conduits of his power and love, as we invite it to flow through us in faith, for ourselves, for each other, for the world.

Faith is the doorway to transformation. As we allow God’s love to flow through us, we also are healed and drawn closer. I believe Jesus is always inviting us into a deeper relationship with God. Not just assent to beliefs, or participation in the life of a religious community, but participation in the life of God. That’s where we find the “holes in our soul” filled, and meaning and purpose beyond our own lives.

In our story, these two men from different ways of seeing meet in the zone between their lands. The Samaritan seeks a relationship with Jesus the Jew, traveling through.

We too can meet Jesus, who is always traveling through our lives. Maybe he’s just outside our comfort zone. Today, you might offer him your thanks and your worship, and ask him to be more real to you in prayer. It helps to be still, and set some time aside, and be open. Be attentive to any words or images or prompts that you sense. Sometimes it’s just stillness. Sometimes there’s more.

The leper-turned-disciple is a model for us. He is grateful, humble and faithful. And Jesus sends him on his way, whole. As God sees us through Christ, so are we.

10-10-13 - Miracles on the Way

Have you heard the one about the person desperate for a parking spot – late for a meeting, stressed to the max, circling the block, praying, “Dear God, I need a parking space. Please!!!” Turns the corner – lo and behold, there’s a space, right in front of the building. Pulls in, glances skyward and waves, “Never mind – found one.”

One came back. Nine kept walking. Jesus noticed the differential – “‘Were not ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’”

All ten set out in faith – they weren't healed beforehand. “As they went, they were made clean.” That’s what it means to walk by faith – miracles happen as we go. Twelve baskets of bread and fish just kept not running out as 5000 were fed; cisterns of water became finest wine as they were drawn off.

But nine took the gift in stride. Only one turned back – back to the place of his suffering, the place of alienation and degradation – to praise God, to thank the stranger whose word made him clean. He knew that only God could heal like this, and he wanted to connect with this man in whom God’s power was so strong.

A Water Daily reader told me she’s been keeping a gratitude journal for while, challenging herself to note at least four things each day for which she is grateful. In time, the notations multiplied and she set herself a new challenge: to write down each day where or in whom she saw God.

Tuning our inner eyes and ears to know, “Ah… that was a God-moment,” or learning to distinguish Holy Spirit nudges from our own intuition, or seeing God’s love or forgiveness in another person, opens our spirits to a greater awareness of just how active God is around us. It’s not occasional – it’s all the time. Soon, we come to recognize that what we now call “miracles” are just the way God works - as we invite God’s power and love into our situations.

I invite you to try on either or both of those spiritual practices for two weeks, a gratitude journal or a “where did I perceive God” journal. They are training exercises for spiritual fitness. They build up our strength and resilience, tone our faith muscles, hone our faith senses.

When we name our gifts, we remember the Giver – and then it’s natural to come back in praise and gratitude. And then, my oh my, we find the Giver has even more for us...

10-9-13 - Thank You

One in ten. Not a bad percentage – one in ten could look past the amazing wonder of this gift, to praise the Giver: “And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

In an age when we can measure rates of return on everything from email “opens” to dividend yields, maybe God says, “Ten percent ain’t bad…”

And it’s not just any “one in ten” – this one is a double outcast, a leper and a Samaritan. In Gospel stories about Samaritans who “get it,” the writers always seem to point out their ethnicity, like, “Can you believe it?” It's like when Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won the Oscars – wasn’t enough that they were great actors, they were great black actors, winning top awards. Can you imagine?

The other nine presumably couldn’t wait to get to the temple, be certified as clean and back to their homes, families, lives. This one turns back, praising God loudly. He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks him. He is exuberant, extravagant in his praise and thanksgiving.

The messages of this story run much deeper than “Don’t forget to say thank you…,” but that is one. When we say thank you, it multiplies the gift we have received. The giver is affirmed for their generosity, and we in a sense receive the gift more fully as we make our delight known. I don’t know if anyone has tested the chemical or neurological effects of gratitude, but I’d bet there are some.

Gratitude is the ground for joy. It turns our focus outward. When we cultivate it as a habit, it can change our interior landscape and make the people around us feel appreciated. So let’s practice, if we’re not already intentional about it:

What gift of God do you want to say “thank you” for today?
What person close to you would you like to thank? Maybe write a note or buy a gift for?
What stranger would you like to thank today? What if we all made a point of telling our barristas or dry cleaners or check-out clerks or IT fixers or accountants, “I really appreciate the job you do – it makes my life better.” Think how a wave of gratitude could ripple around the world in a matter of hours. Let’s start a Facebook trend!

While you’re at it, spend a little time thanking yourself for taking the time to talk to God, to listen, to notice God’s gifts around you. Be extravagant in giving thanks.

You can even throw yourself at Jesus’ feet, like a runner sliding into Home…

10-8-13 - Transformed

I always wonder what it was like for those ten lepers as they went along the road toward Jerusalem. They have called out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us!” “When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’”

Why? Probably because the religious laws concerning skin diseases required that a priest certify that the person was no longer diseased. (I’m glad that’s not part of my job description…) Jesus could heal them, but to be reinstated into the community, they had to go through those rituals.

So they go. – “And as they went, they were made clean.” Did one person happen to glance at his hand and see his skin looked different? Or notice he had feeling in his feet again? Did they glance at each other in shock and wonder as their very skin became transformed, new?

Sunday’s reading from the Hebrew Bible tells the great story of Naaman, a Syrian army commander who contracts leprosy. A Hebrew slave girl tells his wifes that there is a prophet in Israel who can heal him, and he goes to find Elisha, who sends word that he should dip himself seven times in the Jordan. Naaman is outraged at this “treatment,” but his servants prevail upon him: “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan... his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.”

So often we think healing is complicated and arduous – and that is our human experience with surgical and chemical interventions, protracted rehabilitations. Healing in the Bible seems so ridiculously simple – God or God’s representative simply says the word and it is done. Could it really be so easy?

More often than we think. When I remember and invite God to release healing in me and in those I pray with, I often see it. What’s hard is believing – and that gets much easier when we see it. That’s why it’s so important that we pray for healing for each other and for the world – the evidence begins to pile up.

Sure, at times illness persists or recurs – there is mystery here, and a temporal reality of decline and death. But our baseline can be the healing we do see, rather than what we don’t. We can plant that seed of faith and give thanks even before we see the healing, and then with each lessening of symptoms or improvement give thanks all the more. “First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn.”

Try it today: pray in faith for healing in something or someone you didn’t think it was possible. And then keep giving thanks over the next few days and weeks, making note of any change or improvement you see. We can keep our energy on what God is doing, even before we see it.

That’s how we build up our faith muscles. And one day we look up and notice we’re transformed.

10-7-13 - Keeping Their Distance

This week’s Gospel reading finds Jesus outside the lines again – traveling to Jerusalem through a region between Galilee (home base) and Samaria (“Other-Land”). “As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!'"

Why were they keeping their distance? Because leprosy – often a catch-all term for skin diseases of various sorts – was considered very contagious, and having any such blemish made one ritually unclean, unfit for temple or community activities. (If you want to read Mosaic law about skin diseases, their treatment and the lengths to which someone who had been healed had to go to be reinstated into full community, read Leviticus 13 and 14 – and 15, if you want to get into really gross stuff....)

Lepers had to keep away from other people, so they often lived in small groups outside villages. But these ten must have known something about Jesus, because they call him by name, they call him “Master,” and, “Have mercy on us!”

Who lives on the outskirts of our communities, exiled by their own diseases, choices – or what they fear we think of them? Is anyone calling us, who bear the name and ministry of Christ, saying, “Have mercy?” Someone of a different nationality or ethnicity? A stranger, or someone we find strange? Maybe someone who is poor or living on the street? Or someone we know socially, whom we find annoying or troubling, and so we keep our distance?

Who comes to mind? What keeps her or him on the edges of your life? How do you feel about inviting that person closer? How are you being called to pray – for him/her? For yourself? Do you feel outside a community, wishing someone would hear your cry?

Jesus knows he can make these lepers whole, because the power of God flows through him. We have been promised that same power flows through us, as we are united in Christ. So we might have more to offer than we think to the people on the periphery of our vision, our life.

This week’s story is about healing, inside and out. As we journey through it, let’s start by opening our eyes to notice who’s calling to us from the edges, the margins, outside the lines. 

That’s so often where we find God.

10-4-13 - Wait for It...

Faith includes waiting. This Sunday we hear from the prophet Habakkuk, expressing his anguish because “…the law becomes slack and justice never prevails." He resolves to keep watch to see how God will answer his complaint. And the Lord does answer: “Write the vision; make it plain,” so that it can be seen from afar. “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie.“ He adds “...the righteous live by their faith.”

That’s our job description. To live by faith, no matter how strong or weak we feel, no matter how little evidence we see. Jesus says to his disciples, “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless servants; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

It’s not the most gentle language, and I don’t think Jesus was calling his disciples worthless. He is speaking to his inner circle, who he thinks should know better by now. And we too, do better to think of ourselves as servants than entitled consumers.

Servants don’t get to call all the shots; they do their jobs. They honor the people around them, and they take a day off. And they don’t get to regulate the timing. In an “I want it and I want it now” culture, that can be hard for us.

Is there something that you want now – or yesterday – that seems a long time coming?
Certainly justice. Rational discourse. Responsible leadership. Those are a few “big picture” desires.

What about in your own life? What does God seem to be “tarrying” over an awfully long time? Is there something have you waited for a long time and then received? Remember...

One way to pray is to plant a “seed of faith” when we make our desires known to God. 

And then trust that it is growing – keep giving thanks even before we see how that answer is unfolding. Jesus says, “First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn on the stalk.
We give thanks by faith until faith gives way to sight.

God’s vision will be realized at the appointed time. "It speaks of the end, and it does not lie."

 God’s desires cannot be rushed, nor can they be delayed. They can only be trusted in.  
"If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay."

As Barney on How I Met Your Mother likes to say, “Wait for it—“ 

And “it” is usually “awesome.”

10-3-13 - Community of Faith

This week's reading speaks of faith as something you can have more of or less of. The disciples ask for increased faith because they can see what it takes to live this "God-Life." And it does take faith to trust in what cannot be seen, to proclaim life in the midst of death, to bear light into darkness and truth in the face of injustice. We need faith to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, heal the incurable, restore those who have been cast aside as worthless.

God seems to wait for us to participate in faith. I wish it were otherwise, for our faith is often weak. But time and again in the Gospels we see Jesus respond to people’s faith, even saying to some, “Your faith has made you well.” Not “my power has made you well,” but “your faith.”

Why would God leave so much up to us, when God knows how feeble and fickle we can be? Is this a cosmic cruelty? It might be, if God hadn’t also provided what we need. God asks only that we take hold of it. In addition to the “perfect faith” of Jesus, who joins us by His Spirit when we pray, God has also set us into communities of faith.

It seems that faith is a contagious thing, and one which we can hold for one another. We can pass it down from one generation to another, and friend to friend. In Sunday’s epistle, Paul writes to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” Lois and Eunice and many a father and grandfather too have “held faith” for their children until such time as they took hold of it. Some are still holding it.

Who are your “grandmothers” and “fathers” in the faith, from whom you learned to trust and believe? Name a few. Give thanks and honor to those men and women.

Who are your friends in the faith, brothers and sisters who help you believe when your faith is weak? And for whom do you do that, by your prayers and your encouragement?

And is there a “big thing” you’ve had trouble trusting God about that you might ask a community of faith to pray about with you, for you? It’s a godly risk.

Jesus didn’t set us down, wind us up and say, “Okay – go do everything I commanded you.” 

He said, “Yo, I am with you always, to the end of the ages.” (Well, most translations say, “Lo…”)
We have plenty of faith around us to move trees, mountains, illnesses, injustice – and even hearts.

10-2-13 - Authority

Jesus’ instructions in this week’s Gospel passage didn’t end with mustard seeds and mulberry trees. He illustrated the point with an example from domestic servanthood:

“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Make supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; you can eat and drink later’? Do you thank the servant for doing what was commanded?"

Now in August, we read another of Jesus’ teachings, which said the opposite.* Clearly He is making a different point this time. And that point deals with authority. He has given his followers authority over nature, sin, disease, demons – even death. (Over pretty much everything except other people with free will – which is why we could tell a mulberry tree to plant itself in the sea, but all the faith in the world can’t get Congress to jump in a lake..)

I think Jesus is a little ticked off at their timidity, given the authority they have as agents of God. I believe he is saying, “You are giving your challenges and obstacles way too much power. You are in charge – act like it when you pray!”

Jesus is always inviting his followers to be bold, not timid. Sometimes we let something like a common cold disable us, when we could take our God-given authority and invite the power and love of God to flow through us to bring wholeness. That’s what God does – make things whole. Sometimes we feel powerless over social systems that reinforce injustice, instead of asking how God would have us exercise our faith with the Holy Spirit in that realm.

What are you being invited to take authority over in your life? This might be a personal trait, it might be something in the natural order, or an illness or injury. You might say, "Lord, help me with this one - you have the power."

We don’t have to take authority in a “large and in charge” kind of way. We don’t have to be negative about the obstacle – we can simply stand firm in the power and love of God, unequivocal in our faith that God is in charge and God is at work through our prayers, whatever their “strength.”

The only thing we can do wrong is not pray, to shrug our shoulders and walk away, going, “Oh well, that’s bigger than me.” It may be bigger than you and me, but it ain’t bigger than the God who made us.

*The earlier passage read: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37)

10-1-13 - Mulberries and Mustard Seeds

“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."

I don’t know about you – I don’t feel like I have faith to command trees to be uprooted and replanted. Yet Jesus says the tiniest amount of real faith could effect such a thing.

Jesus demonstrated a sometimes disconcerting authority over the natural order – winds and waves, water and wine, fevers and diseased cells, and, yes, trees, yielded to his command. He suggests that we share this authority by virtue of our participation in the Life of God. I know of one person with strong healing gifts who took that authority at face value and began to pray that fearsome weather systems would weaken and turn, and seismic events settle.

Here’s the thing: Jesus suggests we don’t have to have a LOT of faith to allow God to work miracles through us. We just need real faith. Perhaps Jesus’ somewhat cranky reply to his disciples’ request to “increase our faith” is to say that, where faith is concerned, it’s not quantity but quality that counts. We don’t have to whip ourselves into a frenzy of faith over “big” things – we are invited to bring our faith, however strong or weak it feels, to bear on any situation that challenges us.

And then we are to trust that the power and love of God that flows through us as children of God can do mighty things, far more than we can do, or even imagine. And when we join our faith with others in prayer, the flow of power is even greater.

So what’s a BIG thing you’d like to invite the power and love of God to affect today? Say, government shut-down? Civil wars and famines? Cancer in a beloved? Your own mood?

What’s a small thing you’d like to invite the power and love of God to affect today? It’s always good to exercise our faith on the small things. As with muscles, faith gets stronger when exercised.

We don't really have to worry about how much faith we have – just step out with what you got. Jesus promised that “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Mt 18:20) That means that when we invoke Jesus’ name in prayer, we are invoking his presence through his Spirit. That means He is praying with us – and that means one person in the group is praying with perfect faith. Whatever we add to that is sufficient, even if it’s only a tiny little mustard seed.