Luke 17:5-10; Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-9
It’s a fairly average day. You wake up, get dressed, maybe eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and head out the door. Go through the normal routine. By the third or fourth cup of coffee or can of soda you start waking up. You try to catch up or keep up with the work at hand, and wonder if there is supposed to be more to a day than this. It’s not really a bad day, but it’s not a good one either. Nothing bad happened, but you didn’t really make a difference anywhere, and that’s the problem. Nothing happened. The status quo remains. You go home, sleep, and hope tomorrow is better. Tomorrow you’ll make a difference. Today was just…today. You survived.
How many of you can remember having at least one of those blah days? Yeah. We all have those days. It’s no use pretending that there aren’t days when we just don’t feel totally with it. Days where we’re not at the top of our game, ready to tackle all of the tasks before us, or even completely awake. I think it’s safe to say the people in today’s readings are also having one of those days. They’ve had a lot of…stuff…laid on them recently. They want to see something done about it, but just can’t seem to get going. Habakkuk sees the wicked prospering and can’t understand where God is in all of this. The disciples have gotten some requirements from Jesus about how they should live and what they should do, and they’re just trying to keep up. Even the Psalmist seems to be trying to cope with the social imbalance of the wider world.
…tired days, stressful days, days when that one little thing seems to be the last straw, days where we simply go through the motions to survive, days when we don’t think we can take another minute of whatever is happening, but we have to keep pretending that we’re just fine and happy about it all.
Enough is enough. We don’t have the energy to deal with all of this and keep a smile on our faces. Enough is enough. We don’t see it getting better any time soon, and we even maybe think we’ve failed. We’re not alone in this. We’ve got a history stretching back thousands of years filled with faithful people—role models, even—who have had days just like this. Having bad days is not a new problem. The disciples feel the weight of living their lives, too. They call out “Increase our faith!” Before them, Habakkuk sighs “How long, O God?” We are most definitely not alone.
And we haven’t failed, either. Such days happen, and they happen to everyone. Is it okay to have an off day? Of course. God doesn’t leave us just because we’re not feeling “happy” about everything. In fact, there’s really no interest in any of these stories for putting on a false happy face. Honesty, authenticity is what is recognized here. What happens when Habakkuk voices his honest frustration? God answers. God says, this might not happen right now, but the vision will be fulfilled. What happens when the disciples say they don’t think they have enough faith? Jesus answers, you do. Faith as small as a mustard seed is enough.
God answers, Jesus answers, the Holy Spirit empowers us to move on. We will have bad days, but we won’t be stuck on our own in them. Perhaps the question is not whether we will have these days, or even if it is okay to have them, but what we do when we’re in the midst of those days. What are we looking for?
The disciples ask for more faith. This seems admirable at first glance. The disciples acknowledge that God is the source of faith, that it’s not something they can supply for themselves. Why do they ask, though? Maybe they want to better live the life God has called them to live. Maybe they want to heal more, forgive more, cause no one to stumble. It’s really speculation at this point. Maybe they want to be told they did well. Maybe they want to be told they are done with their work. Maybe they want someone to say “thank you.” Maybe they want to know that they’re not totally missing the point.
Jesus answers them. He says, if you have faith like a mustard seed you could tell this tree to replant itself, and it would. Jesus isn’t trying to make fun of the disciples, but simply telling them that the faith God gives is enough...something the size of a mustard seed is enough. Be ready, though, because the mustard seed has the ability to change, to grow, to produce and scatter more seeds. In these few words, Jesus reminds them that they have this faith, they just need to realize it. They are doing just fine, and they are going to be all right.
And Jesus goes on. Speaking as a servant himself, he says, “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!'"” It’s a word of caution. Are we looking to earn thanks or praise? We are the servants. When all is said and done, there is nothing we might do to earn thanks or praise or anything from God. All is a gift, including the faith we need—and have—to get through the day.
It’s okay to have bad days, yes, but that doesn’t mean we are stuck in them forever. Jesus calls the disciples back to the reality of their lives of service. He reminds them that they are part of a larger community, and that they do have the faith it takes to face their challenges, even if sometimes they need to be reminded of it.
We say it nearly every week in church “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” The church, the communion of saints—a history stretching from Adam to Habakkuk to the disciples to the person sitting next to you today.
It is not just one person—me or you—left to face the world and the day to day trials that come with it. We are connected to something much bigger—the body of Christ. Some days, I confess, I do feel like the hand or foot that fell asleep, but I also realize that there are eyes and ears and voices working on those days. On those days, I can lean on and take comfort in the witness of the larger community—the witness of Habakkuk as well as the witness of the person next to me. On those days, I take comfort in knowing somewhere out there is the arm or leg that will shake me awake. Eventually, the dreary day will pass for me, and perhaps I can be that person for someone else to lean on. Maybe on that day it will be my turn to shake someone else awake.
God answers Habakkuk, saying that the world as it is will not change magically overnight, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. It is an answer for us as well. Our world will not change to perfection, there are no promises of happiness or elation each and every day, but that doesn’t mean we have failed. Like Habakkuk and the disciples, we listen for God and remember that life is not all bad days, either. It’s full of good and bad and in between. Each one is a gift and opportunity to live faithfully and remember our connection to the larger community of faith, where it’s okay to be yourself—happy, sad, joyful, sorrowful, and just blah.
Jesus answers the disciples, saying that they already have what they need to face the world around them and affect the change they seek. This is also an answer for us. We have what we need to face the world around us. We remember that each day is a new possibility, a chance for us to learn from the mistakes of yesterday even as we leave them behind and try again. It’s a chance to live, to learn, to look for and find those moments when life makes sense again—when we hear Jesus saying, “You’re doing just fine, and you’re going to be all right, keep going.”