Sermon Luke 17:5-10 “A Mustard Seed Faith” October 6, 2013

Were we to take a survey this morning, to the question, “How would you describe the state of the world today?” likely the largest percentage of respondents would rate the world as one, big mess. Worldwide nothing seems to be going right. The world economy is a mess; communities are splitting over large and small issues; too many countries are actively at war; the climate is warming; the oceans are rising and there is greater number of unemployed, uninsured, and poor throughout the world. Well, that’s the bad news but the good news is that as long as we are alive and here, we can use the faith we have to imagine the impossible and make it possible. Not alone, of course. Our faith rests in God and it is through our faith in God that miraculous turnabouts can and do happen.

But how do we keep our faith strong when there is so much around us to erode its power for change? That’s what I see in this cry from the apostles. Dealing with their own set of circumstance, no less dire to them than the events in our lives are to us, they cry out to Christ to “Increase their faith!” It is a plea and a prayer. Christ responds with the idea that even a faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, or in this case, a mulberry tree.

Mulberry trees can be quite prolific in their harvest. The fruit is sweet and a healthy Mulberry Tree can produce quite a bit, yielding a crop far exceeding the size of the tree. When I was a child, there were two huge trees in the back of my grandfather’s house and each season, the Mulberries would litter the back driveway – at least the ones we had failed to pick and eat. Ripe, they were a dark purple, sweet fruit and quite exotic since few, if any, grocery stores would carry this luscious fruit. It would have been a quite common fruit staple in the temperate climates of Libya, Palestine, and other Middle Eastern countries and so familiar to both Jesus and his disciples.

As was the mustard seed. A mustard seed, though not the smallest of seeds, would, indeed be a tiny seed and it therefore, lent itself well to being a good metaphorical moment. Jesus could teach about faith and forgiveness using this tiny, little seed as a way to illustrate that even the smallest expressions of faith could move trees, mountains, hearts through power of God’s grace.

What grabs at us in this passage is the need for faith to move one to give and receive forgiveness. On our own, without the help of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness for most of us is a tall order. Our pride, shame, or disinterest can derail any effort to offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt us. But, by and through the grace of God, forgiveness can be offered. Faith, even the smallest kernel of faith, can move us to heal or be healed of the pain and distress we lay on one another. We can often wonder what true faith in God can accomplish in our broken world if allowed expression. When we celebrate Communion especially on a day like this one when around the world communities of faith are sharing the bread and cup, our first step is to offer forgiveness and to receive it. What the apostles learned that day became a cornerstone of their faith and it has been passed down to us. As F.B. Meyer states it:

It is not the quantity of faith, but the quality of faith, that is important. A grain of mustard seed and a pellet of dust are similar in appearance, but the difference is immense. The one has no life burning at the heart of it, while the other contains life as God kindled it. Faith that has in it the principle of life is a faith with God in it.[1]


Words to live by; words in which to have faith – the Spirit of God in it all. As we celebrate Communion together this morning, we offer our lives and wait on the faith that indeed can move trees, mountains and even hearts. Amen

[1] F.B. Meyer Online resource,