Sunday, October 27, 2013

23 Pentecost

October 27, 2013

Luke 18.9-14

+ I must be in an ornery mood lately. Last week, in my sermon, I actually mentioned cracking my knuckles. And I got some major feedback about my feistiness and knuckle cracking. I’m still in that mood this week.

Partly I am because, I saw someone on Facebook say something that really set me off.   For all my years in the church, there is one thing you can almost guarantee will set me off. In fact, you’ve no doubt heard me go off about this before. But one of the things some people in the church love to say is something that I simply cannot stand.  You’ve heard this phrase before, I know.  The phrase is this.

“I love the sinner, but I hate the sin.”

Grrrr. My blood runs cold when I hear such a thing.

Now, to be fair, people who say it feel they are saying something kind and selfless. But the reality is it really isn’t kind. Or selfless. It is, quite simply, self-righteous statement. And it’s a terribly judgmental thing to say.

When we say such things, we end up sounding very much like the proud Pharisee in Jesus’ parable this morning.  That stupid phrase just makes no sense to me.

I love the sinner, but I hate their sin.

It sounds too much like we are saying,  I am just so thankful that I am not sinning in that same way. And most times, the so-called “sin” the person hates, is really a sin they themselves are not guilty of.

And that is the real rub here. How easy it is for any of us to say we hate someone else’s sin, when it isn’t our sin. OK. I need to get over this feistiness.

I just need to relax and let things like this go. And I need to remind myself of what to do in those situations when I confront someone’s sin in a way in which I really do hate their particular sin (which, yes, happens). In those moments when I am confronted with what seems like someone’s else’s sin, I realize what I have to do is the example of the tax collector in our Gospel reading for today.  

I too need to beat my breast and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

It’s probably one of the purest and more honest prayers we can make. And what I love even more about this parable is the fact that the prayer of the Pharisee isn’t even necessarily a bad prayer in and of itself. I mean, there’s an honesty in it.

The Pharisee is the religious one. He is the one who is doing right according to organized religion.  He is doing what Pharisees do; he is doing the “right” thing; he is filling his prayer with thanksgiving to God.  We should all thank God for all the good things God grants us.

The problem arises in the fact that the prayer is so horribly self-righteous and self-indulgent that it manages to cancel out the rightness of the prayer. The arrogance of the prayer essentially renders it null and void. The tax collector’s prayer however is so pure. It is simple and straight-to-the-point. This is the kind of prayer Jesus again and again holds up as an ideal form of prayer. But what gives it its punch is that is a prayer of absolute humility.

And humility is the key here. It gives the prayer just that extra touch.  There is no doubt in our minds as we hear this parable that God hears—and grants—this prayer, even though it is being prayed by someone considered to be the exact opposite of the Pharisee. Whereas the Pharisee is the religious one, the righteous one, the tax collector, handling all that pagan unclean money of the conquerors, is unclean. He is an outcast.

Humility really is the key.

And it is one of the things, speaking only for myself here, that I am sometimes lacking in my own spiritual life. But, humility is important. It is essential to us as followers of Jesus.

St. Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite saint, once said, “Humility, humility. In this way we let our Lord conquer, so that he hears our prayer.”

I think we’re all a bit guilty of lacking humility in our own lives, certainly in our spiritual lives and in being self-righteous when it comes to sin. We all occasionally take some delight, as the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable does, in the shortcomings and failures of others.  We watch with almost gleeful joy when politicians are involved in scandals, or movie stars get in trouble with drugs or the law, or even when clergy fall and fall hard.

In those moments I find myself saying: “Thank God it’s them and not me.”

And maybe that’s an honest prayer to make. Because what we also say in that prayer is that we, too, are capable of being just that  guilty.

There but for the grace of God go I, we may say.

We all have a shadow side. There’s no way around that fact.  But the fact is, the only sins we’re responsible for ultimately are our own sins—not the sins of others. We can’t pay the price of other’s sins—only Jesus can and has done that—nor should we delight in the failings of others.

I remember reading a saying once by an Eastern Orthodox saint, Barsanufios.  He said, “”He who recognizes his own stench in his nose cannot recognize any other smell even if he stands on a pile of dead bodies.”

Yes, it’s a disgusting image, but it strikes home. All we can do as Christians, sometimes, is humble ourselves. Again and again. We must learn to overlook what others are doing and concentrate on what we ourselves are doing wrong.  And when we recognize what we are doing wrong, we need to struggle to correct those wrongs and to strive to do right. And that’s hard work. It’s sometimes impossible work.

It exhausts me. And so I don’t know why I would want to deal with other’s sins if my own sins exhaust me.

There are too many self-righteous Christians in the world.  We know them. They frustrate us.  And they irritate us.  We don’t need anymore. What we need are more humble, contrite Christians.  We need to be Christians who don’t see anyone as inferior to us—as charity cases to whom we can share our wealth and privileges.

Rather, to paraphrase the great St. Therese of Lisieux: we should sit down with sinners, not as their benefactors but as the “most wretched of them all.”

That is true humility. We should because we are. In our own eyes, if we carry true humility within us, if we are our own stiffest and most objective judges, then we know that we are the most wretched of them all and that we are in no place to condemn others, nor are we in a place to hate the sins of others—only our own sins.

In dealing with others, we have no other options than just simply to love those people Sin or no sin, we must simply love them and hate our own sins.  That is what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. It is essential if we are going to truly love those we are called by Jesus to love and it is essential to our sense of honesty before God.

So, let us steer clear of such self-righteousness as hating other people’s sins and let us draw whatever hatred we might have within us onto our own failings and shortcomings—not so we can beat ourselves up and be self-deprecating, but so we can overcome our shortcomings and rise above them. Let us look at others with pure eyes—with eyes of love. Let us not see the sins of others, but the light and love of God permeating through them, no matter who they are. And with this perception, let us realize that all of us who have been humbled will be lifted up by God and exalted in ways so wonderful we cannot even begin to fathom them in this moment.



Monday, October 21, 2013

22 Pentecost

October 20, 2013

2 Timothy 3.14-4.5

+ Last evening our Diocesan Convention delegates limped home from Diocesan Convention. I think that’s an apt image. It was…well…let’s just say, as Cathy McMullen said last night, an “interesting” convention. Quite a bit contentious on some levels.


But I’m a person who has a somewhat love/hate relationship regarding Diocesan Conventions. I have been to too many of them in my life. On one level, for an extrovert like me, I can say that I always have a good time, no matter how contentious the convention might get. And this one was no exception.

But I must say, that  much the real gist of what happens at Convention happens not on the convention floor. Or at the Convention Eucharist.  Oh no. It happens at the meals. And it happens, yes, in the bar.

It just so happened that one of the most interesting conversations for me happened at the bar on Friday night. It seems that out little congregation of St. Stephen’s has been getting some notice in the diocese. Notice as a progressive, dare I say, “upstart” kind of congregation.

One of the conversation I had was with a deacon from another congregation. She and I have been friends for a very long time. We are still very dear friends.

But, during the course of the night, she said to me, “Jamie, I just don’t understand how, in scripture, you can defend being essentially a liberal, progressive congregation that welcomes all people.”

She said “welcoming” in a kind of derisive way, like it’s a bad thing. As in, “are you saying our congregation is ‘unwelcoming?’”

When I asked her why she had such issue with our supposedly progressive/liberal attitudes, she said, “I just believe  Scripture is clear about certain things that you profess in your congregation to welcome and embrace.”

We all know where she was going with this. I certainly did anyway. 

I said to her, in no uncertain terms, “Be careful, my friend, where you go with this. This is slippery slope, using scripture in such a way.”

“As long as I go with Scripture I will never be wrong,” she said. “Scripture cuts through everything. And with scripture as my guide, as the sword in my hand, I have no need to be careful.”

I smiled. And then I said, you are right. I will concede that. Scripture IS a sword. A two-edged sword, especially for those who use it as a weapon.

And then I very gently warned her, If our intention is to cut people with the swords of scripture, just be prepared that we too will in turn be cut. That is what scripture does when we misuse it.  But if we use scripture as it meant to be used—as an object of love—then it is also two-edged.  If we use it as way of open the channels of God’s love to others, then the channels of God’s love will be opened to us as well.

That, let’s just say, essentially ended out conversion. We, of course, parted friends as we always have. But when it comes to people using scripture as the basis for an arguments such as this, I love crack the knuckles.

I hope it doesn’t surprise anyone here this morning that I truly do love the Bible.  I mean, what kind of priest would I be if I didn’t love the Scriptures? After all, one of the vows I made when I was ordained as a Deacon and later reaffirmed when I was ordained a Priest was this (and renewed these vows yesterday at the Convention Eucharist):

“I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation…”

Now, that might sound like a somewhat fundamentalist view of such things. The scriptures are the Word of God? you might ask.  Even with all the apparent flaws and contradictions? And it contains everything necessary for salvation?  Come on. But I do believe these statements—though not in a fundamentalist way of thinking.

If we look in our Prayer Book, as we do on a very regular basis, back in that place I like to direct us to go sometimes—the Catechism—we find a little expansion on this thinking. On page 853, you will find this question:

“Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God?”

The answer:

“We call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks through the Bible.”

I think that is a wonderfully down-to-earth, practical and rational explanation.

In our “Episcopal 101” classes that we do here on a regular basis and several of you have taken,  we have been having fun exploring what Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church are.  One of those fun ones for me, anyway, is what is called Richard Hooker’s three-legged stool.  Some of you might remember this.


Richard Hooker was a great 16th Century Anglican theologian. He explained that Anglican belief was based not on “The Church Alone” of the Roman Catholic Church nor even on “The Word Alone” of some Protestants, but is in fact based on a more balanced view.

The three legs of the stool of Anglicanism are Scripture, Tradition and Reason.  Take one of those legs away, the stool wobbles and falls.  But use all three and you will have a very a balanced view of religion. For example, if we only have Scripture, without Reason or Tradition, we end up with what I consider the heresy of fundamentalism.

And it is a heresy. Anytime we place anything on par with God—any time we claim anything is perfect and without flaw, except God—we have a created an idol. My view is that fundamentalists have made the Bible into an idol.

But for us Episcopalians, our view of scripture is based on a balance of tradition and reason. We can’t just believe anything we want with regard to Scripture.  There are scriptures that we don’t like hearing. But none of gets to edit the Bible.  We don’t get to cross out those things we don’t like. We have to confront them and meet them face-on. And we have to wrestle them and in wrestling with them we must use a good dose of reason, and a good dose of tradition.  And if we do that, we come away from those difficult scriptures with a new sense of what they say to us.

For example,  I personally might not like what the Apostle  Paul says sometimes—I might not even agree with it—but, good or bad, it isn’t up to me.  Or any of one of us.  It’s up to the Church, of which we, as individuals, are one part and parcel. For us Episcopalians, we don’t have to despair over those things Paul says that might offend our delicate 21st century ears. We just need to remind ourselves that our beliefs about Scripture are based on a rational approach tempered with the tradition of the Church.

In fact, if we continue reading on page 853 in the Catechism, we will find this answer to the question, “How do we understand the meaning of the Bible?”

The answer:

“We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of Scripture.”

There you see a very solid approach to understanding Scripture.  Reason (in this sense the inspiration of the Spirit), along with the Church (or Tradition) helps us in interpreting Scripture.  Such thinking prevents us from falling into that awful muck of fundamentalism.  Such thinking steers us clear of this misconception that that the Scriptures are without flaw. Such thinking also steers clear of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, with regard to Scripture as well.

Sometimes, if we use too much reason in our approach to Scripture, we find ourselves reasoning it all away and it becomes nothing but a quaint book of myths, morals and legends.

Yes, the Scriptures are not without flaws. As God-inspired as they might be, they were written by human beings. Pre-scientific human beings, writing in a language that has been translated and retranslated over and over again.  And human beings have been notorious—even in Scripture—of not always being able to get everything perfect, no matter how God-inspired they are. Not even Scripture expects us to be perfect.

But, the second part our explanation of the question from the Catechism of why we call Holy Scripture the Word of God is even more important to me.

“God stills peaks to us through scripture.”

I love the idea that God does still speak to us through these God-inspired writings by flawed human beings. And what God speaks to us through Scriptures is, again and again, a message of love, even in the midst of some of the more violent, or fantastic stories we read in Scripture.

Now, one of those flawed human beings in the Bible was of course, the Apostle Paul.  Paul himself would admit, on one of his less grandiose days, that he was a flawed person.  And I love the fact that, this morning, God seems to be speaking loud and clear through Paul in his letter to Timothy.

“All scripture is inspired by God,” Paul instructs, “and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”

I love that. That is some rational, solid thinking, if you ask me. Scripture here is intended not to condemn, not bash, not to hurt, but to build up and equip us for “every good work.”

“Proclaim the message, “ he tells Timothy (and us), “be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorably; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.”

For any of who have been teachers, those words strike home. But, if you notice, nowhere does Paul say we must condemn or pound down, or coerce others using Scripture.

Scripture must build up and encourage and teach us to serve and to love.  And Scripture must be a conduit through which God continues to speak to us.

So, let us embrace this balanced and reasonable very Anglican approach to Scripture. Let us listen to Scripture and hear the Word of God speaking to us through it. Let us continue to place the Scriptures at the center of our lives and let us allow them to guide us into a pathway of love and service.  And, most importantly, let us use it, again and again, as an instrument of love rather than a weapon of war and hatred.  And when we do, we will find that the two-edged sword of that instrument of love, will open the doors of God’s love to us as well.

 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

21 Pentecost

October 13, 2013


Luke 17.11-19

 + I was once accused, many, many years ago, of being—if you can believe this—morbid. Morbid? Me? I didn’t even know what morbid really meant when I was first accused of it.  But this friend of mine said I was morbid because, “Well, Jamie, you like to hang out in cemeteries.”

Guilty as charged! I do like cemeteries. I very unapologetically will admit to that. They’re great places. They’re not spooky or morbid to me at all.  For a history buff like me, they are perpetually engaging.

Well, yesterday, I was at a cemetery.  Yesterday, my family gathered at Maple Sheyenne Cemetery to dedicate my brother’s gravestone. For those who might not know, my brother died very suddenly at the end of July in Colorado.  So, we gathered on Saturday to dedicated and bless the stone that covers the place his ashes are buried, using a beautiful liturgy from the Anglican Prayer Book of New Zealand.

After the service, we stood around talking a bit and looking at the nearby stones. As my family was looking at my father’s gravestone, they realized that, on the back of it, there is my inscription.

OK. You know what… Maybe I am a bit morbid. I actually have my gravestone inscribed already. Yeah, that might be a bit morbid.

Actually, no. It’s just practical.  I had the inscription put on it not long after I went through cancer about twelve years ago.

As we were looking it, I realized that one thing I had always intended to have inscribed on it was a very popular Anglo-Catholic inscription. At my seminary, Nashotah House, in the cemetery there, many of the stones carried a very brief, but beautiful epitaph:

Jesu, Mercy.

And I’ve always wanted that inscription on my stone as well.  Because I love that phrase.

Jesu, Mercy.

I love it because I really love that word, Mercy. It’s an incredible word.

Mercy.

And it’s one that I think sums up so many of the prayers we pray. Certainly, the prayers I pray. In those moments in which I am overwhelmed or exhausted or simply don’t know what to pray, I often find myself just praying, Jesus, have mercy on me.

Today, in our Gospel reading, we find that word, Mercy, in a very prominent place. In fact the prayer the leper prays to Jesus is the pray any of, in our deepest moment of moments, finds ourselves praying.

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!”

And he does.  We see, in our Gospel reading today, mercy in action.  And it is wonderful.  These lepers are healed.

But, before we lose track of this story, let’s take a little deeper look.  Now, first of all, we need to be clear about who lepers were in that day. Lepers were unclean according to Jewish Law. But they were worse than that. They were contagiously unclean. And their disease was considered a very severe punishment for something. So, to even engage these lepers was a huge deal.

But, the real interesting aspect of this story is what you might not have noticed. The lepers themselves are interesting. There are, of course, ten of them. Nine lepers who were, it seems, children of Israel. And one Samaritan leper.

Now a Samaritan, for good Jews like Jesus, would have been a double curse. But the nine other lepers, knowing who they are and what they are, do the “right” thing. Again and again, throughout the story they do the right thing. They first of all stand far off from Jesus and the others. That’s what contagious people do. And when they are healed, the nine also do the right thing. They heed Jesus’ words and, like good Jews, they head off to the priest to be declared clean. The only “wrong” thing they do is that, before heading off to the priest, they don’t first thank Jesus.

Only the Samaritan stays.  And the reason he stays is because, as Samaritan, he wouldn’t need to approach the Jewish priest. So, he turns back.  And he engages the One who healed him.  He bows down before Jesus and worships him. Jesus is irritated by the fact the others did not come back.

But, if notice, his mercy remained. They—along with the Samaritan—remain healed.

That is how mercy works. The interesting thing for us is, we are not always so good at mercy. We are good as being vindictive, especially to those who have wronged us. We are very good as seeking to make others lives as miserable as our lives are at times. But we are not so good at mercy, especially mercy to those who have turned away from us and walked away after we have showed mercy to them.

Luckily, none of us are Jesus. Luckily, none of us are God incarnate. Luckily, none of us will be the ultimate Judge of such things. Because the One who is Judge all of things, is a master at mercy.

Still, we, as followers of that One, are challenged. If the One we follows shows mercy, we know it is our job to do it as well. No matter what. No matter if those we show mercy to ignore us and walk away from us. No matter if they show no gratitude to us for that mercy.

Our job is not to concern ourselves with such things. Our job, as followers of Jesus, are simply to show mercy again and again and again. And to seek mercy again and again and again.

Jesus, Master have mercy on me.

Jesu, mercy.

This is or deepest prayer. This is the prayer of our heart. This is prayer we pray when     our voices and minds no longer function perfectly. This is the prayer that keeps on praying with every heartbeat within us.  And by praying this prayer, by living this prayer, by reflecting this prayer to others, we will know. We will know—beyond a shadow of doubt—that we too can get up and go our way. We too can know that, yes, our faith has made us well.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

20 Pentecost

October 6, 2013


Luke 17.5-10

+ It happens rarely. Very rarely. Occasionally, in our collective Christian lives, there comes along a person. They change things. They rile things up. They challenge. They step outside the box, a bit.


I know what you’re thinking. That is soooo Father Jamie. Thank you. But no…I’m not talking about myself.

No, I am actually talking about someone who is taking the Christian world—at least here in the United States—by storm. I am talking about Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. She is a Lutheran pastor you have heard me talk about a few times before. I first heard her speak in 2010 in Des Moines, at a Provincial meeting, and was very taken with her style—she wore a band collar on her sleeveless black clerical shirt which showed off the tattoos on her arms.  (You all may remember me talking about how much I secretly wish to have a tattoo, if I wasn’t such a  wimp—so that kind of appealed to me)

I am not alone in my appreciation of her, obviously. Our own Senior Warden, John Baird, a few weeks ago, visited her church plant in Denver, called The House of All Sinners and Saints.  And when Pastor Nadia spoke at the Chester Fritz in Grand Forks this past Thursday, our own Sandy Kenz made the pilgrimage to cheer her on.

Pastor Nadia’s book, Pastrix, is definitely taking the Church by storm. Everybody’s talking about this book. I read it while I was on vacation and liked it very much. It’s full of fresh insight, new ways of thinking about God and the Church, solid theology—and a fair share of cussing (everything I like).  I will probably be quoting from this book again and again, but one thing she addressed in her book was this interesting anecdote.  

One time, while in Clinical pastoral Education, Pastor Nadia visited an elderly woman recovering from shoulder surgery is she would like he to pay for her.

“Oh that’s nonsense, dear. I’m an atheist.”

What I loved, was Pastor Nadia’s response: “Man, good for you. I wish I could pull that off.”

Which is very similar to the response I have when someone tells me they’re an atheist.

I love atheists, as many of you know. And I don’t mean, by saying that, that I love them because of some intent to convert them. No. My love for atheists has simply to do with the fact that “get” them. I understand them. I appreciate them—even if I don’t necessarily believe what they say. And I have lots of atheists in my life!

Agnostics and atheists have always intrigued me. In fact, I was an agnostic, verging on atheism, once a long time ago in my life. Now to be clear, agnosticism and atheism are two similar though different aspects of belief or disbelief.

An agnostic—gnostic meaning knowledge, an “a” in front of it negates that word, so no knowledge of God—is simply someone who doesn’t know if God exists or not.

And atheist—a theist is a person who believes in god, an “a” in front of it negates it, so a person who does not believe God—in someone who simply does not or cannot believe.

You have heard me say often that we are all agnostics, to some extent. There are things about our faith we simply—and honestly—don’t know. That’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. It keeps us on our toes.  I think agnosticism is an honest response.

But atheism is interesting and certainly honest too, in this sense. Whenever I ask an atheist what kind of God they don’t believe in, and they tell me, I, quite honestly, have to agree. When atheists tell me they don’t believe in some white-bearded man seated on a throne in some far-off, cloud filled kingdom like some Monty Python cut-out, I have to say, “I don’t believe in that God either.”

I am an atheist in regard to that God—that idolatrous god made in our own image. If that’s what an atheist is, then count me in.

But the God I do believe in—the God of mystery, the God of wonder and faith and love—now, that God is a God I can serve and worship. And this God of mystery and love that I serve has, I believe, chosen to come to us, here in the muck of our lives, and become one of us in Jesus. Certainly that is not some distant, strange, human-made God. Rather it is a close, loving, God-made-human.

But there are issues with such a belief. Believing in a God of mystery means we now have work cut out for us in cultivating our faith in that God.

“Increase our faith!” the apostles ask Jesus in today’s Gospel. And two thousand years later, we—Jesus’ disciples now—are still asking him to essentially do that for us as well.  It’s an honest prayer.  We want our faith increased. We want to believe more fully than we do. We want to believe in a way that will eliminate doubt, because doubt is so…uncertain. It is a sometimes frightening place to explore. And we are afraid that with little faith and a lot of doubt, doubt will win out. We are crying out to Jesus—like those first apostles—for more than we have.

But Jesus—in that way that Jesus does—turns it all back on us.  He tells us that we shouldn’t be worrying about increasing our faith.  We should rather be concerned about the mustard seed of faith that we have right now.

Think of that for a moment.  Think of what a mustard seed really is.  It’s one of the smallest things we can see. It’s a minuscule thing. It’s the side of a period at the end of a sentence or a dot on a lower-case i.  It’s just that small.

Jesus tells us that with that little bit of faith—that small amount of real faith—we can tell a mulberry tree, “be uprooted and planted in the sea.”  In other words, those of us who are afraid that a whole lot of doubt can overwhelm that little bit of faith have nothing to worry about.  Because even a little bit of faith—even a mustard seed of faith—is more powerful than an ocean of doubt.  A little seed of faith is the most powerful thing in the world, because that tiny amount of faith will drive us and push us and motivate us to do incredible things.  And doing those things, spurred on and nourished by that little bit of faith, does make a difference in the world. Even if we have 99% of doubt and 1% of faith, that 1% wins out over the rest, again and again.

We are going to doubt. We are going to sometimes gaze into that void and have a hard time seeing, for certain—without any doubt—that God truly is there.  And that’s all right to do.

But if we still go on loving, if we still go on serving, if we still go on trying to bring the sacred and holy into our midst and into this world even in the face of that 99% of doubt, that is our mustard seed of faith at work. That is what it means to be a Christian.  That is what loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves does. It furthers the Kingdom of God in our midst, even when we might be doubting that there is even a Kingdom of God.

Now, yes, I understand that it’s weird to hear a priest get up here and say that atheists and agnostics and other doubters can teach us lessons about faith. But they can. I think God does work in that way sometimes. I have no doubt that God can increase our faith my any means necessary, even despite our doubts. I have no doubt that God can work even in the mustard-sized faith found deep within someone who is an atheist.

And if God can do that in the life and example of an atheist, imagine what God can do in our lives—in us, who are committed Christians who stand up every Sunday in church and profess our faiths in the Creed we are about to recite together.

So, let us cultivate that mustard-sized faith inside us. Let’s not fret over how small it is.  Let’s not worry about weighing it on the scale against the doubt in our lives.  Let’s not despair over how small it is.  Let’s fear doubt. Let us not be scared of our natural agnosticism. Rather, let us realize that even that mustard seed of faith within us can do incredible things in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  And in doing those small things, we all are bringing the Kingdom of God into our midst.