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17th Sunday after Pentecost - October 2, 2022




Satisfactory… That is a word that has lost its power over time.. When I was in school and report cards came out, we were given various grades, as children are now, to show mastery or the lack thereof of a certain subject…


However, the reporting was far less dramatic than it has become…if you had completed the work and were performing at your grade level, then you received a grade of satisfactory…Not excellence or A thru F, but simply satisfactory or and if there was work still to be done…unsatisfactory…


I usually could keep on my grade level except in conduct… all my teachers agreed that I was too outgoing and talked too much and worst of all laughed too much…


How in the world could a child laugh too much… I know; I know…


But my point being… we were pleased with satisfactory completion of a task…


During this same time period, I was blessed with a grandmother that lived with us… She and I were roommates and I loved her presence; the odor of her perfume; her contagious laughter; the very being of her.


I am certain that it was through this lady that I learned to love God and the church


She was a seeker and went to church every Sunday morning for the early Eucharist…7:30 Holy Eucharist!


I started going with her when I was 7 years old and continued until I was 17… the year she died…


She taught me how to pray…to love and seek the Holy One…And most of all she convinced me along the way that I was satisfactory


Every year she wrote me a note, telling me that I was a satisfactory gift to her…….not perfect; not the best of the four children; not the most talented; not the prettiest…


She was trying to tell me that I had grown and sought that year to be the person God called me to be at that time in my life …I was me, I was her Miss Jo; but no more or less…I still love and cherish that word:


Satisfactory


What in the world does that have to do with our Gospel assigned for today… I believe everything…


Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem in this 17th chapter of Luke and is calling His disciples to be the people of God that Jesus knows they are capable of being…


He is speaking to them and showing them through His ministry that they are created to be who God is calling them to be…they were each chosen and they have all the natural gifts necessary…


Jesus wants them to begin to grasp the importance of His message and what will be required of them if they are to participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God…


This message for the Disciples is very difficult for them to hear…and it is not understood by them because they crave more than being who they are created to be…


They want favor and Jesus is trying to make it clear that greatness is not required or expected of them…


What is required is to be who God created them to be…each with their own gifts …and that faith is not a possession but more of a disposition that leads to faithful behavior…rather than to anxiety and fear…

The two things that Jesus tells them in our reading for today were absurd and the first century listener would have heard them as absurd… we don’t do so well with first century absurdities; they go right over our head…


Jesus knows full well that if the disciples had devoted themselves to development of faithfulness, then they would be reminded in the mustard seed story …that a smidgen of faith can give rise to practices and a life that is appropriate for one who follows God…


And knowing full well that a master thanking a slave would put the master in debt to the slave and that worthless slaves refers not to their uselessness but simply that no favor is due a slave in the first century …


Absurdities… because He wants them to understand what is really going to be required…


The development of obedience for the disciples does not imply that it is for the honor gained or for a reward received, but because there are practices and behaviors that are simply the daily life of discipleship…


They are to remember those in need of justice and compassion… they are to work for the restoration of the broken and excluded back into the community of the faithful…


Their behavior is not extraordinary at all… It does not advance their status in society…in fact, it will be that it has the exact opposite effect on their lives…


Disciples will wrestle with this status question…this question of greatness…they will finally grasp the truth but not before the death and resurrection of Jesus… and not before they struggle mightily with what it means to live a life of discipleship…


Which takes me back to the word or the condition of satisfactory… You and I are beautifully schooled by society to want to be the best… the most handsome or the prettiest; the most athletic; the very best at whatever we seek in our lives…

But as we all know so clearly …there is always someone better educated; better at athletics; a better dancer; etc..etc..


We have created both in ourselves and in our children and grandchildren this need and hunger to be the best and to strive for that rather than for seeking who God created us to be…


The disciples are hungry for recognition…they live in a subsistent society and as the rich amass more than their share, there is poverty and those who are not poor but who work daily to survive…


There is slavery; there is Rome who has great power over them and their religion is rigid and unforgiving…


They want to shine; and no wonder… they want recognition… And so they ask Jesus to give them gifts that they assume they do not have…


But Jesus tries to affirm in them the very gifts that God has already given them and that will be paramount in the spreading of the word…


They are on their way to Jerusalem; the time is short; and the disciples are still clueless…


Jesus says that all you need is this tiny, tiny bit of faith to change the reality around you…


They are to dig deep; do the hard work of becoming…


They are to remember those in need with justice and compassion…


They are to work for the restoration of all people into the community of God’s family…


They are to determine their gifts and accept the daily call of a disciple to change the harsh society around them…

The disciples are in no way extraordinary…they are the people of God and their ministry is to discover their own gifts and to know that self justification and honor seeking is not a way to advance the kingdom of God…


You and I have the same work to do… We are not extraordinary… we are lovely and created in God’s image and we have the ministry to ourselves and others to explore our gifts and to learn to love what God has created in us…


In loving ourselves we learn to love others…In forgiving ourselves, we learn to forgive others…


A mustard seed is a tiny seed…but if we imagine starting with something very tiny in oneself and learning to love that tiny bit and then the next tiny bit and the next…


And by that same token find that tiny bit in ourselves that we can forgive… And then the next tiny bit…then we will blossom into who God created us to be

What God created in you and me is fine; it is satisfactory; it is good.

Amen




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