2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:1-10

Today we’re celebrating World Communion Sunday. This observance grew from a Presbyterian pastor’s conviction that a new world needed a new celebration of Christian unity. It was 1933, and this pastor felt the grip of the Great Depression, saw the clouds of nationalism gathering, and testified to a God who is greater than any division. New technology had made the world smaller, and it was easier to see and respond to the idea that we’re all connected.

It may be even easier now, since radio and transatlantic cables have been replaced by satellites, cell phones, and the Internet. Many of us have friends and family all around the world, with whom we keep in touch instantly. We visit and see other places and different cultures. We have suppliers and customers everywhere too, as has been true for centuries, but now we can know them differently. I’m ashamed that I don’t know who in China made my new running shoes, but I do know (at least by name) who in Chiapas grew my coffee. Today we remember people we can name all around the world, and we celebrate that we’re able to live in a new way with them.

The Church knew about globalization before that word existed, and it started practicing how to live in this reality early on. Jesus and his early followers put it in different terms – the “completion of time,” or what Luke called the “fulfillment” of God’s realm. True Christian language about God’s realm doesn’t just call it the “end,” because it’s also the beginning. It’s the time of transforming life. Jesus tells us about living in a transformed world. He lays out the way of life in a new community. So here’s how to be part of God’s reality: avoid causing sin at all costs, and forgive each other over and over. Let nothing stand in the way of new life.

This way of life sounds like a grand challenge, and the apostles (the leaders of this new community) ask for extra faith to pull it off. That’s the wrong request, and Jesus’ tone changes suddenly. He had been speaking in extremes, but he was actually talking about the topic at hand. Now he moves into parables, where he’s not actually talking about what he’s saying, and he does it maybe with some sarcasm. Jesus wasn’t precisely talking about millstones before, but he certainly isn’t talking about mustard and slavery now.

The apostles ask for more faith as if it were a commodity, but faith is not measured in mustard seeds. If faith were a tool, Jesus says, even a grain would be all the power in the world. But that’s not faith. Faith is not a means to show off, not a “power” to do what you want (even if it’s something nice). Faith is the relationship of a good servant to the master, from the second parable. It’s a matter of trust in the God whom we know, from 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy and Luke are a lot like today, when the world is still mysterious. In this world, faith trusts that we don’t have to make our own way. Instead, we can serve God, do God’s will, guided by the knowledge and wisdom of a Holy Reality beyond all words.

Jesus tells us about this Holy God. He invites us, with the apostles, into the role of a master with a servant to work in our field and kitchen. He lets us imagine how we’d relate to them, having them at our beck and call, knowing they don’t expect anything more from us than to be told what to do. Then he flips that scene on its head: we’re the servants after all. The ways of this world have been reversed! In Jesus, God does exactly what we don’t expect. God welcomes us in from our service and sits us down at the table to eat.

All we have to do is participate in this welcome. If God served us, who are his servants, what should we do? It’s easier than we might think. All we’re called to do is respond in service. To the extent that we have power, we’re to serve those without it. That’s the kind of table God sets here, when we celebrate Communion. I and the officers of the church serve everyone else, to act out the idea that those in power serve those without. You’re welcome to receive here, and you’re invited to respond in kind by serving someone “below” you on the ladder.

There are several ways to serve. We could take our meals to Village Inn and feed the wait staff who normally feed us (do this figuratively, because there are health codes involved). Instead of buying shoes you don’t need, you could buy a pair for someone who does need shoes and them give to them. You could find someone who owes you an apology and choose to make the first move toward reconciliation. This one is a little broad, but when discerning how to live and care for yourself, you could first ask how not to harm someone else with your choices.

When Jesus talks about faith, that’s what he’s talking about: making a way for others, forgiving sins, and serving the least. Faith gives us the courage to start doing this, but doing this is faith itself. Ultimately, faith is a way, not a thing. Living in Christ’s new community is the way of faith, the way that reveals God in our lives and all the world.