“Word for Today” – Luke 17 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

September 9, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


Liver and Onions 1From conversations I have had with my friends, it seems to be a trauma experienced almost universally by children everywhere.  Indeed, I too was traumatized by this experience in my own childhood.  It usually began with an odor – a foul odor – emitting from the kitchen.  I knew that trouble was imminent and so I would trot into the kitchen and ask my mother, “Mom, what’s for supper?”  “Liver and onions,” would come her reply.  Immediately my stomach began to churn and turn.  “But I hate liver and onions!” I would protest.  “Can’t I have macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly, or beans and franks?  Anything but liver and onions!”

I have never met a child who enjoys liver and onions.  Yet, I have also never met a person who, when growing up, was not forced to eat this despicable dish by their menacing parents.  One would think that with the unanimous disdain that liver and onions garners, parents would give up on trying to force this meal down their kids’ throats.  But it didn’t stop my parents.  And I’ll bet it didn’t stop your parents either.

I would arrive at the table to find my plate of liver and onions waiting for me.  Mercifully, with my liver and onions also came some broccoli and potatoes.  Thus, I would always eat my sides first while leaving my main dish untouched, and then ask for more potatoes to which my parents would reply, “You can have more potatoes when you finish your meat.  There’s plenty of food on your plate already.  You don’t need anymore.”

In our reading for today from Luke 17, Jesus gives his disciples a hard teaching:

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. So watch yourselves. (verses 1-3)

A millstone was the ancient equivalent of a pair of the mafia’s cement boots.  If you were wearing a millstone in the water, you were preparing to meet your end.  Jesus says that this should be the desired end for someone who has caused another to stumble in his faith.  Now that’s a tough teaching!

How do the disciples respond to such a difficult word?  “Increase our faith!” they exclaim (verse 5).  This is an understandable request.  After all, to trust that it’s better to meet your demise than to harm another person is about as easy to swallow as a plate of liver and onions.  But notice how Jesus responds to his disciples’ request:  “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’” (verse 6).  Rather than giving his disciples increased faith, Jesus explains the value of small faith.  For even small faith can do magnificent things.  Essentially, Jesus is saying to his disciples, “There’s plenty of faith on your plate already.  Even for my hardest of teachings, you don’t need anything besides the faith you already have.”

One of the cries of the Protestant Reformation was sola fide, a Latin phrase meaning, “by faith alone.”  The reformers proudly held that a man is saved by faith in Christ alone and not by his own righteous works.  Interestingly, when the disciples ask the Lord to “increase their faith,” they use the Greek word prostithemi, meaning literally “to place something with.”  In other words, the disciples are saying, “Faith alone is not enough to receive your teachings, Jesus.  We need you to place something else alongside our faith.  What extra thing do you have for us so that we can properly receive your teachings?”  Jesus’ answer to his disciples is, “Sola fide.  Faith alone is all you need.  For even the smallest faith can believe my most challenging teachings.”

Perhaps you have encountered a trial, tragedy, or trouble where you wondered if your faith in Christ would be enough to get you through.  Couldn’t Jesus add to your faith?  Perhaps he could give you a divine sign or a heavenly vision or a miraculous solution.  Sure, Jesus could give you those things, but most often, his reply to such requests is the same as his words to the disciples:  “There’s plenty of faith on your plate already.  Even during your toughest times, you don’t need anything besides the faith you already have.  Sola fide, dear brothers and sisters.  Sola fide.”

May the cry of sola fide be your cry today…and always.

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Luke 16 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Luke 18 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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