Pentecost 19C – World Communion Sunday – Seeds of Faith
October 2-3, 2010
Sharon: What do you think – on a scale of one to ten how much faith do you have?
Jeanette: It depends on the day. Sometimes a 2, sometimes a 8.
Sharon: Well a two would be about the size of a watermelon seed. An eight would be about the size of a walnut. How much faith would you like to have?
Jeanette: At least the size of an avocado seed!
Sharon: And yet, Jesus says even if we had the faith the size of a mustard seed – a very small seed – we have enough to do amazing things.
Jeanette: We have enough to uproot trees and plant them in impossible places.
Sharon: We have enough to radically change the nature of how things are.
Jeanette: Have you ever seen that happen?
Sharon: What happen?
Jeanette: A small amount of faith making a huge difference.
Sharon: Let me think… I can think of a lot of stories. Last July I was in Rodeito, Nicaragua, a small comarca – it’s even smaller than a village. I was there as part of a sister church delegation from Ascension Lutheran Church in Maryland. Our purpose was to fellowship with the various smaller congregations associated with Faith and Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church of Nicaragua.
Jeanette: What did you find there?
Sharon: It’s not what I found, it’s who I found. Pastor Ilo is a peasant farmer from a very rural area – not like anywhere around here – it took us 45 minutes to get from the paved highway to the church by bus. We traveled over a dirt road with deep ruts and crossed by streams. We had to keep watching the weather and ended up leaving a day earlier than planned because the road would have been impassable otherwise.
Jeanette: So how did Pastor Ilo wind up having a church there?
Sharon: He had a vision to share the word of God with people in his community. He was a farmer with little education and had no formal seminary training himself. Nevertheless, he strongly felt God was calling him to talk to others about Jesus.
Jeanette: How did he get started?
Sharon: He started with the Bible. He and wife invited friends and neighbors to come to their home and read the Bible together. God’s word was powerful and more and more people came. From that one couple grew a whole congregation. One seed joined together with others.
Jeanette: What was the congregation like?
Sharon: Their lives were centered around the gospel. They met for worship; they prayed together; they studied the Bible together. They worked together to make their community a better place for youth, for families, and those in need. They educated about HIV/AIDS. They taught young people about domestic violence and gender equality. Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran World Relief became involved with the community. They funded the building of the church and the school. They trained the local people in sustainable agriculture.
Jeanette: So actually, we became involved then too – through our support of the Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran World Relief.
Sharon: It was neat for me to see evidence of the work of our church in such a remote area. A small amount of faith on the part of Pastor Ilo, his wife, their neighbors, Faith and Hope Lutheran church, Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran World Federation, Ascension Lutheran Church, other sister churches, and even us here at St. James worked together to make a difference for our brothers and sisters in that part of the world.
Jeanette: This weekend, members of that congregation in Rodeito, Nicaragua are hearing Jesus’ story of the mustard seed too. They know how the Holy Spirit can take the small seed of faith within each of us to do great things.
Sharon: This is what I’m excited about with my new call as Latino Missioner of the Gettysburg Conference. I can see that small seeds working together can do great things. We have 14 Lutheran churches in the Gettysburg Conference which includes most of Adams County. That’s a lot of seeds!
Jeanette: Spanish-speaking people have lived in this area for decades. The churches in our community have done some outreach to them, but how much have we done with them?
Sharon: I think part of my role is to help us learn to walk together. Jesus calls us to walk with our brothers and sisters. All of us have stories to share. We can learn from each other and we encourage one another.
Jeanette: So in these last couple of months, what kind of stories have you heard?
Sharon: I think of Luis. Luis is a migrant farmworker working this summer in Gardners. Luis and his and brother could not earn enough money in Mexico to support their families. They were invited by a farmer in Florida to come pick oranges. It took them 8 days to travel across the desert to reach an orange grove in Bartow. Once there they worked from dawn to dusk until picking season was over. Once a week they’d wire money back home to their families. When orange season was over, they moved to North Carolina for that fruit season and then arrived in Adams County at the end of July to pick peaches, pears, then apples.
Jeanette: I know how you helped Luis by helping him get medical care at the camp. But how did he encourage you? How did you see God working through him?
Sharon: Luis has a seed of faith too and with practice I’m learning how to look for that seed in him. I’m trying to learn better that Luis has as much to offer me as I have to offer him. Luis has lots of gifts to share! He’s creative – he’s had to be in order to find a way to make a living. He’s persistent – he doesn’t give up but keeps on going – he moves from place to place doing what he needs to do. He loves his family and they give him his motivation and hope.
Jeanette: Those are a lot of seeds. And as we’ve been talking about, lots of seeds planted together can create a pretty amazing garden! How do you think the Gettysburg conference churches can share our seeds with our Latino brothers and sisters?
Sharon: I think first of all by listening to each other. Most of us have a tendency to think we already know all there is to know about other people. We know what “people from Gettysburg” are like. We assume we know what “Lutherans” are like. We have ideas about what “Mexican Americans” are like….But the fact is – we don’t really know! Only by sharing our stories with each other can we really understand the seeds of faith that God has planted deep within each of us.
Jeanette: So – practically – how do we share these stories?
Sharon: I think we need to be intentional about it. We need to commit ourselves to take the time to really listen and learn from each other. For example, on All Saint’s Day, we’re having a bilingual worship service at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in York Springs. I hope lots of people will come. Latino families celebrate The Day of the Dead (El Dia De Los Muertos) on that day, to remember their loved who have died. We too can join them in celebrating the memory of our own loved ones. As we fellowship together, let’s get to know each other. Let’s look for the seeds of faith in each other.
Jeanette: If we only have faith the size of a mustard seed, mulberry trees can be uprooted into the sea.
Sharon: If we only have faith the size of a mustard seed, God can do some pretty amazing things!