Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
Luke 17:5-10 and Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
October 6, 2019
My father was about ten years old when he planted a mulberry tree. Now this tree is big, and its fruit is very delicious. My parents share its fruit with family, friends, and neighbors, and even the passersby. Everybody loves our mulberry tree except my mother. She enjoys the fruit but not the tree itself because not only people enjoy our mulberry tree, but also flies and ants. When its fruit fall, my family must clean immediately to avoid flies and insects. One day, my mother complained a lot about the mulberry tree and flies. My father teased her by quoting Jesus’ words: “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” (v.6).
My father was teasing my mother. He was not serious. What if Jesus was teasing his disciples, too. Or what if Jesus uses metaphorical language? This verse is often taken literally, which has distorted Christians' faith into the kind of magic. Many Christians became victims of misleading or incorrect interpretation of this verse. Some Christians troubled with their faith because their faith does not enable them to uproot a mulberry tree. Some of you might think if we just had more faith, then God could do miracles through us.
We need to understand that the example Jesus is using is random in this story. “Jesus apparently points to the nearest object and dreams up the most fantastic of scenarios. He could just as easily have said ‘turn this tree into a rabbit’” (Ira Brent Driggers, Commentary on Luke 17:5-10, Working preacher). Previously, Jesus was teaching his disciples about forgiveness. His disciples shift the conversation from forgiveness to faith. The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith.
From Jesus' perspective, his disciples asked the wrong question. Jesus uses figurative language to explain to them that those with mustard seed faith will be able to forgive those who sin against them. They can do the impossible with little faith. A mustard seed faith is enough for our discipleship.
Mulberry tree can be a symbol of a problem in your life and the life of our community. For the prophet Habakkuk the mulberry tree is disguised in injustice, tragedy, violence, and destruction all over Israel. He wanted God to uproot the mulberry tree and planted in the sea. He questions God's goodness. He wanted God to give him an explanation for the pointless violence. Do not we ask God the same questions about injustice and violence, particularly questioning the senseless shooting and death of innocent people of the Pine Grove Cemetery office in Wausau?
God reminds Habakkuk and us that God will deal with evil in God’s time and that we need to have faith, “the righteous live by their faith” (2:4). God will uproot mulberry tree that causes destruction and violence in our community. We need to have faith. This faith would help Habakkuk to see hope and restoration and will help us. A mustard seed faith can give us hope in working together to uproot the mulberry tree that represents gun violence in our country. This mustard seed faith encourages us to leave our homes to go to the world to advance the kingdom of God on earth and to speaks boldly against gun violence. A little faith in the Son of God is enough to help you with any problem you are facing in your life. The extraordinary faith is not the one that literally uproots the mulberry tree and plants it in the sea, but the remarkable faith is the one that helps you to believe that Jesus Christ is with you when you feel your world is falling apart. The mustard seed faith is enough to help you to face any crisis and can save you from falling into despair.