"Increase our faith!" The disciples ask Jesus. After all this travel in the countryside, all these miracles along the way, all the crowds who have gathered, and through all the head to heads with the religious leaders do something for us. Make it like a miracle, increase our faith to be like yours, I'm sure this is where the trouble is. Increase our faith, super size it make it just as wonderful and as good as yours, Jesus. Then we will have the ability to do what you do.
We can understand this plea. Give us a shortcut, make it easy, build us up and when you don't we leave. Faith is not something another person can give you. Faith is its own work in your life. We have to take responsibility for our own faith and Jesus tells us it doesn't take much faith to do great things. A little faith goes a long ways. Faith has a good amount of doubt mixed in it. Paul Tillich wrote a whole chapter on the intersection of healthy faith being not assured, but full of doubt.
Faith is written about in Hebrews, the faith of our fathers, Abraham, Melchezidick, and so on. They are lifted up as the examples we should live by. Even today Timothy is reminded of his faith and how it started in Paul's encouraging letter to him. Yet faith is our own work. We either have it or dismiss it, if we think the work is too hard or a place where we don't want to go. Faith can lead us to discouraging places, just like Peter being asked in John three times if he loves Jesus.
We talked this week at clergy conference about the prayer book and what change looks like for it. We talked about deepening what we do with the liturgy, for example, taking the confirmation blessing and using it as a blessing on teachers at the beginning of the Sunday School year. Deepening may use what we have in new ways and enrich our faith and yet this is also up to us. Another things we spoke of was the words and actions matter, it is not something covered in an instructed Eucharist because like faith, there are things we can't teach which come through experience.
Now there are plenty of ways to deepen our faith. Reading the bible, doing a daily devotional, reading a blog, reading a book, doing a spiritual practice these are all some ways to encourage our faith. Faith is not a drive through menu where you can pick and choose and come out with more. Yet faith does have communal ties, this is why the drive up doesn't work, it is through being in community that we experience the rough road of faith. Because gathering, saying the prayers, sharing the fabric of our lives all brings us along on the road of faith. We can't ignore the story of the Emmaus road is in Luke, where the disciples meet and are shown by Jesus all that was to happen from Moses through to the prophets and still they didn't recognize him until the breaking of the bread. Faith means we keep on going even when we have it least, even when we don't believe its there, even when we don't get it until... and then we are brought into it again.
Faith is not a seeable, increaseable thing. Faith is the everyday work, it is the mundane and unglamorous, it is living in us. Faith is our own to cultivate. Can we cultivate faith, even when our culture tells us it should be easy, even when it tells us we should be able to reach out and grab it? Do we have the stamina to walk it no matter where the road leads? Keep the faith.