MICROCHIP FAITH: How to develop a Positive Mental Attitude
(Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara. Sermon at St James Church, Elmhurst, New York. 10/15/2013. Text: Luke 17:5-10)
Let me start with something funny: Three men died and went to heaven. St Peter met them at the Pearly Gates and gave them instruction. “Gentlemen, here in heaven you are free to do what you want except one thing, do not step on a duck. Whatever you do, don’t ever step on a duck.” Well, they discovered that there are many ducks in heaven and it was very difficult not to step on one. They go quack, quack, quack and multiply rapidly. So the first man stepped on a duck. “What did I tell you not to do; Peter said, I told you not to step on a duck.” And with a click of his finger, the man was chained to a very ugly woman, the ugliest woman he has ever seen in his life. The second man was a bit careful but in one unguarded moment, he stepped on a duck. Again Peter said, “Didn’t I warn you not to step on a duck?” so in an instant, he was also chained to a very ugly woman he had ever seen in his life. The third man was very careful; he has avoided stepping on a duck for almost three years. But one day, all of a sudden, he found himself chained to a very beautiful and gorgeous woman he had ever seen in his life. So he thanked God and said, “What have I done to deserve such a beautiful reward?” The beautiful and gorgeous lady said, “I don’t know what you have done; but for me, I stepped on a duck!” (Note. this is a joke and too far removed from the biblical image of heaven. Fred)
Faith---our subject matter for today is faith. Jesus said in this gospel, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it will obey you” (Luke 17:6) The mustard seed is the smallest seed there is but when it is planted it becomes big tree where the birds can rest and build their nests.
Jesus was speaking to the Jews in the 1st century Palestine and so his imagery is agricultural. He was explaining the power of faith. But if He were preaching in the 21st century America, his imagery will change. Maybe he would look at one of the smallest element in the computer age, which is the microchip. The microchip is essential to the working of an electronic devise for it carries many integrated circuits. It is a very tiny element on a semiconductor plate (like silicon) but it has potential power in infinitesimal degree. So if he were speaking to his disciples in Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County, California), Jesus would be saying, “if you have faith as small as a microchip, you can say to this rocket ship in NASA, ‘fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars’---and it will be done for you.”
Faith is a gift or a virtue so essential to our lives. As St. Paul said in 1st Corinthians 13, faith is one of these three gifts (along with hope and love) that will remain. Faith is the opposite of fear; it is the opposite of doubt; the opposite of indecision. As people of God, we are called to live by faith, meaning to live with boldness and courage and even risk. As people of God, we are called to increase our faith, to use our faith, to develop our faith. How do we develop our faith?
1. First step to develop your faith is to change your thinking. The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to the values of the world but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” It means that in life, we must always have a positive mental attitude. Whatever is true, whatever is good, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise, these are the things that we must always think. Push out negative thoughts, pull in positive thoughts. Do not fill your mind with worries and fears but it with faith, hope and love. Someone said that you will know you are a pessimist or an optimist by simply looking at the doughnut. If your eyes always focus on the hole of the doughnut, then you are a pessimist. You will always find problems to worry about, you will always find people who are difficult to deal with, and you will always find something to be fearful about. And so you will not try because you are afraid to fail, you will not risk because you always see danger. Even before you do something, you already failed because your mind says, “I can’t do it” even before you try. So renew your mind; ask God to give you a faith even as small as a microchip. Be not afraid. Failure is success turned inside out. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Failure is never final. You are defined not on how you fall but on how you stand up after every fall.
2. The second step to develop faith is to change your words. Words have power. Two ladies were diagnosed with advanced stage of breast cancer and both were given prognoses to live for three months. The first one said, “I am going to die” and she died after three weeks; the other one said, “I am going to live forever.” She did not live forever, because she is not immortal but her words have given her the inner strength to cooperate with the healing process and so she went into remission and got healed.
When I was in school, we had a classmate who had a sickness called hypochondria or hypochondriasis. An individual suffering from hypochondriasis is known as a hypochondriac. Hypochondriacs become unduly alarmed about any physical symptoms they detect, no matter how minor the symptom may be. They are convinced that they have or are about to be diagnosed with a serious illness. So when someone tells him, “Oh you look sick,” and then he will get sick. One time I saw a rash on his skin and I pointed it to him and he got so upset that he might get cancer of the skin, and we went to the doctor. Our school physician who already knew his sickness, just gave him an injection of distilled water (I think), and said, “You’re OK now” and then he got well immediately.
So words have power. One of our songs says, “Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son…And now let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us. Give thanks.” So let your words speak peace, speak healing, speak joy, speak beauty, speak inspiration, speak encouragement, speak life. I like the words from Proverbs 25:11 “Words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
3. The third and final step to develop faith is to change your attitude. The great Winston Churchill once said that “attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Ronald Dahl also wrote, which I paraphrase:
“If a person has ugly attitude, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly attitude every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good attitude cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good attitude they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Now, would you prefer to be ugly or lovely? The choice is yours.
My favorite ice-skater, Scott Hamilton has suffered testicular cancer, pituitary gland cancer, and brain aneurysm and survived them all. As a result of these many trials, he lost a full vision of his right eye and was reckoned be disabled. Yet this is what he said:” the only disability in life is a bad attitude.” One of his best friends, Brad Paisley said, “Scott is a hero to me in the way he handles adversity and his positive outlook in life, no matter the circumstances.”
The moral of the story of faith is “change your attitude and you will change yourself and you will change the world.” Here at St. James, we are engaged in changing things. We are engage in changing the future of this church. Once it was in decline and now we are being revived; we are experiencing a revival because we are changing our thoughts, our words and our attitudes.
Our goal for 2014 is to have 300 Sunday attendance and 150 pledging units. I tested this vision among some members. One adult said to me, “Father Fred, from 25 to 300? That is very ambitious!” I asked one youth, and she said, “Father Fred; that’s ambitious but not very ambitious.” I think I will talk with more young people. Anyway, I am gauging the faith-level of the congregation and I’m glad that none said the negative seven last works: “We’ve never done it that way before.” Yes, when I arrived last April this year, the average attendance was 25 but today we already have 90 or so. Nothing is impossible with faith. Let us have it, even as small as a microchip. Amen.