Signpost for Sunday October 2, 2016: Lam 1:1-6; Ps 137; 2 Tim 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10.
I’ve often thought that in Luke 17:6 as Jesus is telling off his disciples (and me) that they don’t have enough faith. After all, they’ve just asked him to increase their faith so it always seemed to me that that they had themselves felt that.
The second thing about this verse is that it always reminds me of that bit in Star Wars where Luke is trying to raise the stone or log or whatever and Yoda is saying, ‘Stop trying and just feel the Force,’ or something like that. So it’s as if the Luke doesn’t believe in the Force enough.
But this week I found a completely different way of looking at the verse that makes much more sense to me. In his book, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables the writer Robert Capon says this:
It is not as if we have a faith meter in our chests, and that our progress toward salvation consists in cranking it up over a lifetime from cold to lukewarm to toasty to red hot. We cannot be saved by our faith reading any more than by our morality reading or our spirituality reading. All of those recipes for self-improvement amount to nothing more than salvation by works…
Luke 17: 7-10 is something else that I’ve often got wrong. I’ve thought, well why wouldn’t you be kind to your slave and let him eat first after a long day’s work? But that’s because my 21st century sensibility finds any notion of slavery abhorrent. In 85BC when Luke is writing, slavery was often not the worst way of life in the world. It gave you a roof over your head and food in your stomach. And of course this is a kind of parable.
Which is why Robert Capon also writes: “With Jesus, the device of parabolic utterance is used not to explain things to people’s satisfaction but to call attention to the unsatisfactoriness of all their previous explanations and understandings.”
I’ll try to remember that.