Luke 17.5-10 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "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.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? 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!’"
Reflection Episcopalians never miss a beat with this familiar dialogue. “God is with you.” “And also with you.” But, what are we actually saying? I believe we are consenting to “with God” life. What that means is, we are consciously choosing to subordinate our personal self interest in order to advance Christ’s mission and ministry in the world. Essentially we are saying, “We are male or female servants, or slaves of Christ.”
As “slaves” of Christ we are aligned in the will of God. This means, we are sincere when we pray, “Not my will, Your will be done.” In this act of giving ourselves, our self interest away we are acknowledging that we are people who serve another. It does not matter if we are called disciples, apostles or pupils, attendants, devotees or servants, we are giving our selves over to God. We are essentially, the slaves of God.
Like our young sister Mary, we are asked to conceive of the utterly impossible; “uprooting and planting a mulberry tree in the sea,” lavishly give shelter to the homeless, food to the hungry, healing to the sick, wholeheartedly offer welcome to the stranger, freedom to the prisoner, love to the enemy, which all together add up to; unequivocally give birth to the presence of God with us. When we are asked to subordinate our personal self interest in order to advance Christ’s mission and ministry in the world, what is the first thing that comes to mind? “How can this be, since we are only human? The problems in our world are far beyond anything we can manage. This is too hard. There are too many homeless and hungry and sick, scores of strangers and prisoners and frightful enemies.” It is time to put down our protests and hear the words the Angel of God spoke to young Mary echoing in every cell and every space of our being, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”(Luke 1.37) With God.
The little word “with” is rich with meaning in Biblical Greek. “Para” refers to something that proceeds from one's sphere of power, or from one's wealth. When we accept the Angel’s annunciation, “For with God nothing will be impossible,” we are affirming that with our will aligned in the will of God, all that proceeds through us is impregnated with the power and the wealth of God’s presence. With God, all things are possible.
Without reluctance we confess, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done,” because achreios, which in our text is translated ‘worthless,’ achreios is understood to be a hyperbolic reference to pious modesty. We humbly acknowledge that all the good that we do arises from the wealth and power of God’s presence with us. As slaves of Christ we call ourselves achreios, not deserving of merit, because we have done nothing more than what we ought to have done; lavishly give shelter to the homeless, food to the hungry, healing to the sick, wholeheartedly offer welcome to the stranger, freedom to the prisoner, love to the enemy, which all together add up to; unequivocally giving birth to the presence of God with us.
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