October 2, 2016
Introduction: Many years ago a former co-worker shared about how an elderly woman would sit in the back of her church and mutter “Scandal in the Church! Scandal in the Church!” One can only conjecture just what she might have been thinking about. As I consider these words today, brought to mind by the words of my commentary that translated Jesus’ words in 17:1 “It is impossible for scandals not to occur.” When Jesus brings this issue up he goes on to say that when we by our actions lead others astray there will be dire consequences. Yet he goes on to warn us that we are to forgive each other not matter what and then we pick up today’s Gospel lesson with pushing us to have greater faith and ultimately not to assume because we have accomplished what he has asked us to consider it an accomplishment rather we have only done what we are supposed to have done.
I) Jesus invites his disciples to think about discipleship. He begins by stating that discipleship comes with demands that pushes them to work at their relationship not just with God but with each other. These relationships become difficult because they demand the disciple to not only work at helping others conform to the demands of discipleship by living out the demands themselves but when others fail to live up to them being willing to forgive as often as forgiveness is asked for by their fellow disciples.
II) The ability to do these tasks seems impossible. How can they possibly live up to these demands? Jesus tells them if they had the faith of a mustard seed they could even do such incredible things as tell a great tree to be planted in the midst of the sea and even this could be accomplished!
III) Jesus concludes his remarks by pointing out that a servant (disciple) even after a hard day in the field does not expect his master to wait upon him, but comes in at the end of the day still ready to do his Master’s bidding. After all, the servant is only doing what is expected. We too, are instructed that as servants of God we cannot expect applause. Instead we are to focus on what we are supposed to do knowing that in the very act of undertaking these tasks of discipleship we become transformed. I believe this happens by our having to admit we have done acts that have led others astray, that we have failed to forgive when we have been asked to forgive and our faith has been less than adequate. Like an athlete having to push himself to ever greater heights we too are being invited to utilize our faith in such a way that it deepens are broadens who we are as a child of God.