“A Sermon on Faith, Doubt, and Mustard Seed Necklaces” (By Nadia Bolz Weber)

This is a sermon from one of my favorite Jesus Irascibles, the Pastrix Nadia Bolz-Weber from October 7, 2013


2013-10-06 nbw hfass sermon 2 <—-click here to hear a real, live preacher.

When I was a little girl, I was given a small necklace.  It was a Christian necklace, see, but it held, not a little gold cross or a silver Jesus fish symbol-thing. No.  Hanging from this gold chain was a small, clear, plastic orb – that contained within it a tiny round seed.  You might see where this is going…it was a mustard seed.  If you have faith the size of this tiny mustard seed, Jesus said, you could uproot a huge tree and throw it in the ocean.

Um, maybe you guys could help me with something here: I have never understood why, if given such vast power over physical objects, one would, out of all the options available, choose to uproot bushes and throw them into the ocean. I have no idea what good that does.

And regardless of the relative merits of mulberry bush drowning…this text has often made my faith feel inadequate. Because I’ve always heard it as this syllogism:  With only a teensy weensy amount of faith, Nadia could perform miracles. Nadia does not perform miracles, therefore Nadia has so little faith it’s not even as big as that mustard seed around her neck.

Well, for the record, that necklace was super cheap and always turned my neck green so, you know, I didn’t wear it much anyhow.

This week while on the road, I had a really interesting experience around how some people struggle with what they think it means to have faith.

See, I’m basically boring myself to death out there. I mean, I’m saying the same things over and over which is downright monotonous for me, so what I really love, is doing Q and A – or as my friend Brian Calls it: Q and R Question and Response.  This Thursday I spoke to about 11 hundred people on the UND campus in Grand Forks North Dakota, which I think may also be the actual population of Grand Forks North Dakota.  Anyhow, it was too many people to be able to do a proper Q and A where people stand up speak and so we asked people to write down their questions instead.

And reading these questions, I realized how different it is to write something anonymously than it is to stand up and say it out loud in a room full of people. I think that’s why the prayers of the people here at House are so raw and vulnerable – in a way they wouldn’t be if people were standing up and saying their prayers out loud.

What I was struck by were the sheer number of questions that were so similar – no, not “what do your tattoos mean?” but things like, is it ok to feel distant from your faith when you are going through a really hard time in life? And…  What does it even mean to have faith?  And…What if I am not sure what I believe? And.. Is doubt ok? And one was really a statement and not at all a question: someone wrote: Sometimes I wonder if there really is a God because of all the hurt and suffering in life.

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