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“The Faithful Disciple: At Another’s Disposal”

Mother’s Day May 8/16 Lk.17:1-10


On this Mother’s Day Sunday, let’s begin by acknowledging a lot of serving goes into mothering – in fact, into parenting in general – and it’s not always appreciated or celebrated as it should be. There are many demands on mothers; the work, for one thing, never seems to be done. And yet those closest to them sometimes don’t really ‘get’ how valuable a mom’s efforts really are.

      Here are some responses by children in Grade Two to four questions about their moms.

A) What ingredients are mothers made of?

1.God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.

2.They had to get their start from men's bones.Then they mostly use string, I think.

B)What kind of a little girl was your mom?

1.My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.

2.I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.

3.They say she used to be nice.

C) Who's the boss at your house?

1.Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.

2.Mom.You can tell by room inspection.She sees the stuff under the bed.

3.I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

D) If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?

1.She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean.I'd get rid of that.

2.I'd make my mom smarter.Then she would know it was my sister who did it not me.

3.I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

      ...Some humour there – but also a lot of truth. Good moms can come across as bossy at times, even with “one dab of mean”, because they seem to have eyes on the back of their head and make us do things we don’t really like, such as cleaning our room.

      Parents play a vital role in helping train succeeding generations to grow up into responsible adults who are capable of raising their families and caring for the planet God gave us. But some schoolteachers are detecting an alarming trend. Children are becoming more “wild” at school, undisciplined, harder to keep under control. Teachers used to be able to count on parents to back them up on matters of discipline; but today parents may side with their child instead where there’s such an issue. Also parents don’t seem to be nurturing a healthy respect for authority in their kids. Sometimes it’s because the parent wants to be their child’s ‘friend’ rather than a parent: lacking a sense of self-worth and identity from other sources, the parent leans too heavily on the child for positive strokes and affirmation, not daring to “play the heavy” and institute disciplinary measures.

      Or, with the new technologically “tethered” generation, parents may just not care to give children the attention warranted. The parent is too preoccupied checking social media, or playing a video game, sometimes with a peer online. Children are allowed to run more wild at home and not steered in the direction of positive play or constructive activities. Mom’s or Dad’s attitude becomes, “Just don’t bug me.” The parent’s self-preoccupation sets the child up to become selfish in focus as well, less submissive and co-operative.

      In today’s Scripture lesson, Jesus highlights the importance of accountability and attentive servant leadership for those who would be His disciples. Such characteristics would go a long way toward making better parents, too.


In order to have any kind of discipline or accountability, you have to know what the expectations are, to draw the lines between right and wrong – and this a society that prides itself on ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusiveness’ is increasingly loathe to do. The word “sin” itself is increasingly sparse in people’s vocabulary. But faith willingly submits itself to the Master’s ways; it trusts Him to be able to teach us how to distinguish between what’s pleasing to God and what’s not, based on what God has revealed, communicated to us. So in the first four verses of Luke 17 we see Jesus warning about sin’s SEVERITY, advocating sin’s CENSURE, and helping us learn how to undo sin’s SEVERING by way of repentance and reconciliation. He wants us to be ALERT about sin’s toxicity, its deadliness.

      Lk 17:1-2 “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.’” I would say that sounds kind of SEVERE, wouldn’t you? Temptations to sin are not something to take lightly, to monkey around with. WOE to those through whom they come; “what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting!” (NLT) God is going to hold you accountable. Being hurled into the sea with a huge millstone tied around your neck would be preferable.

      Is Jesus using hyperbole here, exaggerating for the sake of making a point? Does one aim low when comparing with the suffering of hell? In another passage He said something similar about sin’s severity: Mt 5:29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Here hyperbole would suggest He’s not ACTUALLY meaning for us to gouge out our eye: but that we need to take sin VERY seriously.

      Sin is SEVERE and it needs to be CENSURED. V3a “So watch yourselves.If your brother sins, rebuke him...” Now just hold on a minute before you jump to rebuking someone else. What was that first phrase? “So WATCH YOURSELVES.” Faithful discipleship begins with alertness and attentiveness to one’s own conduct. Before you presume to pass judgment on someone else, are you completely perfect? WATCH yourself – give heed to, pay attention to, yourself. The Lord’s Prayer suggests we ask for God’s forgiveness regularly. Are we reading God’s word written (the Bible) and doing soul-searching to identify ways we’ve messed up? Living as a disciple implies continual submission to God’s standards, and examining ourselves to see if we’re in step with Christ’s teaching.

      “Watch” - be alert. Recently our granddaughter had some allergy tests (again) which suggested perhaps at age 4 she had outgrown her peanut allergy! We’d had to be so careful at family vacations, not to bring any peanut butter or even buy cookies that had those 3 devastating words on the package: “may contain nuts”. Our granddaughter celebrated with her family by eating a peanut butter sandwich. All was well at first, but later she developed hives. Thankfully no need for an epi-pen or rushing to the hospital, but her parents will probably still be watching closely her peanut consumption.

      Are you ALLERGIC to sin? Do you watch yourself carefully so you don’t risk injuring your spiritual condition? Or are the books you read, your online browsing habits, the programs you watch, kind of like our granddaughter wolfing down a peanut butter sandwich yet hoping not to have a reaction? Faith remains ALERT.

      Christ’s Body the Church is a community where we experience mutual ACCOUNTABILITY. Jesus went on to say, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” This is SO counter-cultural! The mantra of today’s agnostic independence-worshipping anti-authoritarian culture is, “Nobody’s going to tell ME what to do!” (Did we mention schoolteachers are having more trouble keeping classes orderly?!) But when we are baptized, we are confessing our sins and acknowledging our need of God’s forgiveness through the symbolic washing with Christ’s blood; and our need of other sisters and brothers in faith who will help support us in our spiritual journey and keep us on the right track. Sometimes that means asking the tough questions; getting in our face when we’re risking error or disobedience.

      A New Testament example occurred when Paul got in Peter’s face, as the latter drew back from fellowshipping with Gentiles at the coming of the circumcision party to Antioch. Galatians 2:11,14 “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong...When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?’” Paul was just doing as Christ directed – “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” Do you trust and love the person down the row or across the aisle from you enough to accept that? Do you care enough to offer it, when needed? Let’s be humble enough – and secure enough in God’s love and acceptance and grace for us – to be able to hear a rebuke or question and not immediately react by getting all huffy and defensive. We need others to help us see our blind spots.

      “Watch yourselves.” One mother and daughter put a playful, positive spin on this. The mother wrote in Reader’s Digest, "One day I spoke gruffly to my little daughter: 'If you don't watch it, young lady, I'm going to pick you up and whirl you around and hug you and kiss you.' Her eyes narrowed.Gravely she said, 'I'm not watching it, Mom.' I solemnly filled my arms with my daughter, spun her round and round, and then kissed my bundle till we both were giggling. I know this was a good thing, one of the many, quick, marvelous moments between parent and child. It might have been fleeting, but she wanted to do it again and again, then call her dad to tell him.

      “I repeat it just often enough with my daughter to keep the chuckle fresh. I like it especially when she comes and finds me, peeling carrots or sitting at the typewriter, and holding back a smile says, 'I'm not watching it, Mom.' Already my daughter is 38 pounds. I won't always be able to scoop her up and whirl her around. But when I make wishes, one of mine is that being whirled will be one of her favourite childhood memories."


A faithful disciple is alert, allergic to sin, accountable – and ABSORPTIVE. At the cross, Jesus was “taking the hit” for us; substitutionary atonement means He was punished for our sins, that we might be forgiven and put right with God. He calls His followers to similarly live lives of forgiveness and grace. Lk 17:3-4 “[So watch yourselves.If your brother sins, rebuke him,] and if he repents, forgive him.If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him."” SEVEN TIMES IN ONE DAY?! What do we have, a slow learner here?! Again, Jesus may be overstating to make a point. It’s not that 7 times is the max: He means forgiveness is to be endless, a bottomless well of grace, as when He told Peter “seventy times seven” was the standard in Matthew 18:22.

      This is not to say or pretend that forgiveness is easy. It hurts when others sin against us, and we may not FEEL like forgiving them. Sin can cause a lot of genuine harm which is hard to repair, and may take months or years to genuinely heal from. But we are still to forgive, accept the blow, and extend grace as Christ empowers us. Are you a little too eager to “keep score” of how many times someone has let you down? Can you give up keeping track, and let God, the only absolutely Just Judge, keep score instead? Your job is to forgive and release, let it go. 1Corinthians 13:5 says that love “...it keeps no record of wrongs.”


Perhaps daunted by Jesus setting such a high standard of forgiveness for those who wrong us, V5 “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” The verb in Greek is “prosthes” as in our ‘prosthetic’, like an artificial arm or leg added to the rest of the body. “Add faith to us!” the disciples plead. But faith is not an “add-on”. It’s not something that you can symbolically tuck under one arm and say, “There now, I’ve got faith.” It’s not an add-on we can just check off our list and move on to the next thing. Faith is seen better indirectly in the rear-view mirror.

      How does Christ respond? V6 “He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” They whimpered, “Increase our faith!” But He replies, “HAVE faith.” Also Mark 11:22, “HAVE faith in God.” Stop pleading and step into it. The thing about faith is not your believing itself but what you’re believing and trusting IN! Life Application Bible comments, “What is faith? It is total dependence on God and a willingness to do His will...It is complete and humble obedience to God’s will, readiness to do whatever He calls us to do.The amount of faith isn’t as important as the right kind of faith – faith in our all-powerful God.”

      Remember the Roman centurion in Luke 7 who amazed even Jesus by having what the Lord described as “great faith” (Lk 17:9)? What was the centurion’s attitude? Lk 17:6-7 “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He reckoned Jesus had the authority needed to do the miracle even from a distance.

      Likewise Paul expresses great faith in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” His belief rests in a great Saviour who can be trusted to have the resources sufficient for the job.

      The effect of genuine faith can be amazing. Jesus talks about a mulberry tree being uprooted and replanted, or a mountain in Matthew 17; the point is, Mt 17:20 “Nothing will be impossible for you.” I understand the current movie Miracles from Heaven shares an amazing outcome based on a true story also involving a tree and trust.


Faith isn’t something we manufacture or conjure up by concerted act of willpower: it’s more an adjusting our perception to the already-existing reality of God’s sovereignty and greatness, ACKNOWLEDGING His might and wisdom and justice in all things, aligning our view to accord with His existence and pre-eminence. Verses 7-10 in Luke 17 follow on v6 for a reason: in v6 Jesus says, “If you HAVE faith,” then He uses an analogy to illustrate what ‘having faith’ looks like. Don’t miss the connection between the two sections. Genuine faith doesn’t look so much like a wonder-worker going around casting trees in the sea so much as it looks like a faithful servant uncomplainingly going about the master’s business.

      Vv7-10 “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

      The word translated “unworthy” by NIV in the last verse more literally is ‘useless’ or as the NRSV puts it, ‘worthless’ (as in Mt 25:30) – a very humbling term. The point? Not our ‘worth-lessness’ but the Master’s supreme ‘worth’ / value / right to command. Jesus is Lord, is Boss – not me! By my actions, do I acknowledge that? Or am I secretly wanting to ‘jump queue’ and enjoy the banquet ahead of the Master?

      Faith involves the discipline of subjugating MY desires / wishes / plans to the MASTER’S: that is, manifesting a servant attitude. Faith ACKNOWLEDGES His authority; it also ACQUIESCES. To ‘acquiesce’ means to ‘agree tacitly; accept (arrangements, conclusions)’. Can I accept God’s will having its outworking in my life, even when it’s maybe not what I would have chosen?

      In closing, here’s a poem by Ruth Bell Graham which describes what might have been the experience of four mothers in the Bible – the mothers of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and then Mary the mother of Jesus. Their faith must have been stretched by the way God wove their sons’ lives into salvation history.

Had I been Joseph's mother

I'd have prayed / protection from his brothers

"God, keep him safe. / He is so young,

so different from the others.”

Mercifully, / she never knew

there would be slavery / and prison, too.

Had I been Moses’ mother

I'd have wept / to keep my little son:

praying she might forget / the babe drawn

from the water / of the Nile.

Had I not kept / him for her / nursing him the while,

was he not mine? – and she / but Pharaoh's daughter?

Had I been Daniel's mother

I should have pled / "Give victory!

– this Babylonian horde / godless and cruel –

Don't let him be a captive – better dead,

Almighty Lord!”

Had I been Mary, / Oh, had I been she,

I would have cried / as never mother cried,

"Anything, O God, Anything...– but crucified.”

With such prayers importunate

my finite wisdom would assail

Infinite Wisdom.God, how fortunate

Infinite Wisdom / should prevail.

Let’s pray.