Until I moved to the US, I owned a pet dog, Rocky. He was given to me as a gift by a family in a little town where I served as Vicar. Rocky was a sweet, beautiful dog and I tried very hard to tend and to offer him the best of care. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to claim that Rocky was the one dog who felt a little too special. Rocky felt like my baby. I would take him to the veterinarian in a bigger town about an hour away from my little town because there was no vet in mine.
As Rocky grew, it became quite difficult to take care of him because he turned out to be quite a wild dog. When let loose, he would run and attack neighbors. For that reason, we had to unfortunately keep Rocky chained up every day. I finally had to give Rocky up because I simply couldn’t take care of him, nor could I handle his wild side. Whenever I think about Rocky, I ask myself if there was anything that I could have done differently. More so, if there’s something that I can do differently.
There’s always that one thing we could’ve done differently, or can do differently. There was also something that St. Francis wanted to do differently. I am not sure how many of you have read about St. Francis and his checkered life, but it appears to me that, at some moments in his life, the reality dawned on him that he could live differently.
There is an interesting part of his story where he had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in a country chapel of San Damiano, just outside Assisi. In the vision, St. Francis saw the Icon of Christ Crucified and said to him, "Francis, Francis, go and repair My church which, as you can see, is falling into ruins." Francis initially thought that the vision was about the church in which he saw the vision because that church was falling apart.
In later years, however, St. Francis came to understand that the vision was about the larger church. And so, with little-to-nothing and with the help of many different people, St. Francis called the church into a new vision of itself. Against the wishes and maltreatment of his father, St. Francis chose to live differently. Abandoned by his family but counting on his faith, St. Francis pointed us to a kind of love that connects us with nature.
If we ever thought that God’s creation was to be distant from us and that we were to subdue creation, St. Francis taught us to see the divine - not only in each other but in each little bird that sings, each little flower that brings joy to us, each tree that swings to the tune of God’s rhythm and each sunrise that awakens us to live differently each day.
The reality is that it doesn’t take that much faith to see the divine in Rocky, the bird, the flower, the sun, or each other. It doesn’t take that much to live differently.
At every Christ Church Vestry Meeting, we open with a devotion by a Vestry member. Ron Couch, our Secretary, led our devotion this past Tuesday. He shared with us a sermon he read about Luke 17:5-10, which is our gospel story for this Sunday. In the text, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith.
Two important things I got from the sermon: first, it is not about how much faith you have - each of us has enough. Second, even if your faith is like a mustard seed, make it work.
How do I make it work?
In my personal reflection on the scripture verse, I made the point that as a community of faith, we can only do extraordinary things; we can tell the mulberry tree to move into the sea and it will obey us, much to our surprise, if we all bring our faith gifts together. In fact, the incredible ministry that happens in this parish is made possible because of your kindness and generous giving spirit.
More importantly, we can live differently if we are able to contribute to deepening each other’s faith.
This Sunday, we will begin our Stewardship season. It is a season when each of us is invited to faithfully contribute to the ministry resource budget of our parish. Pledge cards were mailed out last week. If you have not as yet received your pledge card, you may pick one at church on Sunday or you may go online and make your pledge.
For me, the good news is that it may not matter how big or small your faith or mine may be, what matters is that you possess enough to count on that faith as a means by which you can live differently, share differently, honor differently and give differently - in other words, you can make it work.
This year has been a blessing, and like St. Francis, we choose to live differently, because God has called us to fix God’s church, to hold the church together, to see the divine in all creation, and to see His hand at work in the life of the church.
I invite you to join me in this ministry of living differently.