Joshua Serraro, San Carlos, CA

Warm-up Questions

  • What does duty mean? 
  • Do you believe that you have any duties as a child, sibling, student, or citizen?


John Stewart is an actor, comedian, and talk show host. He is probably most famous for hosting  The Daily Show, a comedy news show, for many years. Stewart is also a well known advocate for 9/11 first responders and the military. 

Recently he did an episode on his Apple Tv show, The Problem with John Stewart, talking about toxic burn pits from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The military dug large holes in the ground and put anything that they didn’t want anymore in them.  They then burned the contents with jet fuel.  Soldiers reported that the thick black smoke made its way into the camps when the wind shifted.  Many soldiers have developed health problems including respiratory issues and cancers, which they claim comes from exposure to the pits. 

John told a crowd that Congress agreeing to take care of our military should be the lowest hanging fruit in the legislative agenda. But, for some unknown reason, many lawmakers decided not to support the legislation to care for the military.  During each interview Stewart gave he repeated that the soldiers did their jobs and now it’s time for congress to do its job.  After much media attention and public support the bill eventually passed after many of the those who voted against the bill changed their minds and voted for it.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think that our society and our lawmakers have a duty to our military and first responders to help take care of their health care issues resulting from what they did on the job? 
  • What duties do you think we have to each other in our country?

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Today’s gospel reading can be broken up into two parts:  the disciples asking Jesus for more faith (Luke 17:5) and Jesus’ responses to that request (Luke 17:6-10).

When the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith they do so because Jesus has just told them to avoid causing little ones in the faith to stumble.  This follows Jesus command to be quick to forgive. He says in verse 4, “And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”  This causes the disciples to exclaim, “Increase our faith!” requesting increased desire to do their duty.

Jesus says, “If you had faith the size of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up’ and be planted in the see’, and it would obey you.” Scholars hotly debate the meaning of these words! Fred Craddock believes Jesus is saying, “If you had faith the size of the mustard seed (and you do)…” Luke Timothy Johnson believes that Jesus implies that they don’t actually have faith and that they need just a bit the size of a mustard seed.  Nonetheless, in verses 7-10 Jesus brings the conversation back to the disciples’ duties as Christians. 

Jesus uses the master/slave imagery relevant in his time, but we should sober reflect on the implications of that image, considering the United States’ brutal history and lingering affects of slavery today.  Some translations of the Bible have tried to soften this image by translating it as servant/master.  In Luke’s gospel Jesus uses the master/slave dynamic in a few other places. 

The slave in Jesus’ example has two jobs, out in the field and in the household. He seems to be pulling double duty, just as the disciples are being asked to continue in their duties to rebuke sin and forgive those who repent throughout the day.  The slave doesn’t get gratitude or praise from the master for carrying out the two jobs commanded.  Jesus says elsewhere in scripture, “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Likewise, as followers of Jesus we should not expect to be served, but to serve.  Our place is doing what Jesus has called us to do.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think about what Jesus was saying in Luke 17:6? Did the disciples have faith or not?
  • What duties do Christians have?
  • What duties as a Christian do you feel you must do?

Activity Suggestions

Discuss the ministries of your church and reflect together on what you are doing in the community? Does the group think that you should be doing something else? Do your church’s ministries reflect the character of Jesus? 

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, you forgave us of our sins, help us to forgive others.  Give us the grace to do what you have called us to do. Amen.