Seeing the world through a theological lens...
In God's Image
Luke 17:7-10 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’?
Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’?
Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?
So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
These words of Jesus sound so harsh, don't they? Maybe he was fed up. Maybe he was annoyed or overtired from being on the road. Maybe he had a hangnail or a bunion and the nagging pain just got to him and he lashed out. Maybe...
What If he wasn't lashing out? What if Jesus's response to the disciples was a simple explanation of the gifts they'd been given and the mission to which they had been called?
The disciples had just been told to keep stumbling blocks from children; to teach children the basic truths of God's kingdom: love your neighbor, don't return evil with violence, don't get angry, forgive, forgive, forgive... If they don't, claims Jesus, they and the next generation will be dragged down even farther, as if they had a millstone around their neck.
In response the disciples ask for more faith, and Jesus tells them they have all the faith they need- and then gives an illustration. Jesus chose a metaphor they could understand. In the first century, the disciples would have been quite familiar with the relationships of slaves to master. As moderns, we balk at the very thought of slavery, but in that context it worked.
A slave does what the master tells them to do, without a thought to their own ability. The slave doesn't question the master as to whether or not the slave is capable of doing the work assigned. They simply do it; assuming that the master knows they will complete the task, and that they have every tool and every talent needed in order to complete the task.
The disciples have asked for more faith. Jesus tells them they have all they need. He reminds them through this illustration that, for them to ask for more faith, is really a way of telling God that God has made them unable to do this on their own. The assumption on the disciples part is that God has commanded them to do something that is beyond their ability. That God would give them a task they are not capable of completing without "extra" help. Asking for more faith infers that God has not given them enough to start with; and perhaps that God hasn't really thought this thing through, and doesn't really know them as well as God thinks. It says that they know, more than the God who created them, of what they are capable. It says that they do not acknowledge that they are made in God's image, and hold God's Spirit within them.
Jesus tells the disciples over and over that God has given them everything they need to do all that God requires. "The kingdom of God is within you..."
In our modern context the illustration might sound like this:
I am an office manger and my boss asks me to make a copy of something. I should assume that my boss knows that I am capable, without extra help, of pushing "print" on the copier. To tell my boss I need more tools to do the job, means that my boss has not supplied me with a copier, paper, ink, or ability. Yet all those things are right in the office. My degree hangs on the wall from business college. Asking for more help questions my bosses judgement in hiring me in the first place.
Jesus tells the disciples NOT to question God's opinion of them; not to question God's judgment. They are not just chosen for this mission, but God has given them all they need- they are made in God's image.
When we learn of God's plan for our lives, for humankind, we deflect much like the disciples. We find reasons why we are not, or do not feel, able to live it out. We look at our lives through our own lens of experience instead of seeing ourselves as God made us. We fail to notice the power of the Spirit that resides in us. And so we turn it back on God- "Give us more faith! We can't do this on our own. We don't have what we need! We are too weak, too sinful, too... "
The Kingdom of God is within you. God has created you fully equipped to do everything God has ever or will ever ask you to do and you are made in God's image.
Peace and love as you meditate on this challenging message today,
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Rev. Linda Pepe
Loving life, light, and laughter...