“You shall be like trees planted by streams of living water.”
This is a line from psalm 1. I’ve been using it to publicize Maribel’s Creation Care workshop on trees for the kids. This week I also thought of it: “trees planted by streams of living water,” in the context of the mulberry bush. This notion of being re-rooted and thriving in “new" waters.
Jesus gives us two seemingly strange examples in this Gospel today to get his point across. The mulberry bush and the role of servants. But as strange as they are, what they have in common when he relates them to Faith is this: Faith is a God-given natural state that manifests itself in service to life.
The disciples ask to have their faith increased. Jesus gives them an answer based in embodiment! Jesus says, "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." It’s an example of embodied metaphor for versatility, conversion, and growth in the midst of new waters - and how living water roots us even in dangerous waters.
One pitfall that occurs with this phrase about Faith (when it is taken out of context from it's story) is the idea that if we just had more faith everything would go right. It has been harmfully used to make us feel that we are not acting faithfully when bad things happen. It can be used as an easy and dismissive answer to life’s difficult situations.
Lamentations has a response that some may feel seems unfaithful, and yet it is a prayer. It is a lament. But it is a conversation with God… about abandonment and lack of hope. The community has been in Babylonian exile after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Lamentations both cries out on behalf of community and gives voice to one individual.
It is cathartic, in that it allows us to know we may also voice our personal suffering to God. This is not faithlessness. This is truthful expression in relationship with God. It is a process of faith.
Our current Global situation is scary, and lifting our voices to say, “help us God,” “help me God” is not faithlessness. We know that some of our greatest peacemakers and workers for justice were what we call “people of faith.” Martin Luther King, Jr., ArchBishop Desmond Tutu, Ghandi, The Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, all had and have deep conviction, but also constant dialogue with the divine, asking in continuous prayer for hope and for help for humanity and for themselves, to do the work they’ve been given to do.
We can imagine all of them in daily prayer postures. (I’m sure many of these times spent in lament)…Yet many of these leaders also emulate joy for us, an undercurrent of deep peacefulness as part of their character and approach to living, a manifestation of their rootedness.
When the disciples ask this question, "how do we increase our faith?” they aren’t showing faithlessness, but rather entering into direct conversation with the living God about how to embody and live out a faith-filled life.
Jesus brings us back to his mustard seed again. It is this tiny seed with potential to bloom into a huge bush.
And it is this small degree to which we show up in this crazy world with the sense, that things ought to be different. We have not bought into the World, nor have we given into it. We see the world, we become witnesses to the problems and we keep showing up to do our part.
The good news shows up in the midst of the world and the choppy waters. We have to remind one another of this innate and natural response on our part.
People show up in the midst of horrendous hurricanes to serve one another. People show up in during war with supplies and medicine. People show up at our food pantry to help feed families in the midst of a recession. It is a natural response. Like the mulberry tree rooted in the sea, in the midst of our salty tears and …in a sea of distress…there is a tiny seed that draws us to one another and to a higher love…and that love grows.
One of the mysteries of being a Christian is that we stand in the middle of two things that might sound quite contradictory. As Rowan Williams says, “We are in the middle of the heart of God, the ecstatic joy of [the Trinity]; and in the middle of a world with threat, suffering, sin and pain. And because Jesus has taken his stand right in the middle of those two realities, that is where we take ours. As Jesus says, “Where I am, there my servant will be also’ (John 12:26).” 
The Faith we are speaking of in the Gospels is not about a trusting comfort in things going "our way.” Faith is not belief based in a surety of outcome. Faith is about imitating Jesus as "the way" in service to a transformed world. Jesus is saying you already have the tiniest drive toward transformative life, it’s in your nature. God makes this happen naturally. And you disciples (and us by the way) have this power naturally germinating inside of too. We have the power to help shift and transform communities) one situation at a time, one prayer at a time… To embody what being rooted in living water means, and to help others see that.
Remember last week, Jesus said, one who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much (Luke 16:10). Faith in God is an activity in service to a transformed community…
Faith is believing ultimately that God is about restoration. The nature of God is Love, and that while it may take time, mysterious works that we don’t understand, there is also a lot we do understand in our small human ways that reach out toward that love and through that belief in a restored and healed World.
1. Rowan Williams, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible Eucharist, Prayer.