After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go,’ and he goes, and to another, “Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. [NRSV]
We have the ability to look back and compare the disciples Thomas and Peter and others to this unnamed Roman centurion. Based on his military training the soldier recognizes the power and authority of a command. On the other hand, Thomas, Peter, and John felt they had to see and touch to trust and believe.
This switch is a reversal of what we would assume to be the reality. The disciples would seem to have the blind faith and the Roman soldier who was expected to be an avoided adversary. But the story of what is assumed is not the story of the Gospel message.
This account is most accurately knows as a story of healing. The centurion’s servant found in good health after a remote conversation between Jesus and the soldier. (This is an early example of the range of divine Bluetooth/WiFi healing.) But as remarkable as the healing this is also an example of trust.
I am very proud of my son Luke for finishing his work at the Air Force Academy and becoming a second lieutenant. Four years ago, his being an officer in the military was something neither of us could picture. All Luke knew for sure was a good school; they let him play on the football team and is in the western part of the US. Four years later I can see he has rapidly increased his ability to make informed decisions, to communicate effectively, to take calculated risks and set goals of his choosing, all the while remaining committed to growing his faith.
In the early days of his training, they took daily photos during boot camp to preoccupy family and friends by seeing evidence that they had not quit and run away. There were a few days where fear, exhaustion and disappointment were in the photos, but others had smiles, comradely and confidence. This last semester I learned of some of the struggles he was called to discern and hopeful times that his delegation would not require any further follow through.
This moment in Luke’s Gospel is one of those times of delegation. Jesus is asked to delegate his authority to heal.
This request comes from the soldier who trusts Jesus do be able to do what is needed by making it so. Say the word, and so shall it be done.
- It is like asking for the quilt committee: We need a prayer quilt. And sometimes, overnight, it is done.
- It is like asking for help with Show and Sell: We need food preppers and server, and it is so.
- It is like asking for a SS teacher or new Wednesday helper in the children’s department, and we have to turn folks away… ( ..well I was on a roll and hoped it would be so.)
But this is right where the difference between the devoted disciples and serving soldiers paths cross.
Who is worthy? The faithful who have been by Jesus’ side all this time or those willing to Go, Come, Do?
Somewhere in our model of being and doing Church we build some assumptions that you must be old enough to be accountable and able to serve in meaningful ways AND you have to be young enough to be responsible and able to help in meaningful ways. So we excuse you when you are a kid and retire you when you get tired.
Your church is calling you to Go, Come and Do right now.
“Oh, now it’s summer break. We are going to be gone, and we will see you when we get back into the fall routine.”
- When you have occasion to travel and cannot be present here, remember to worship where you are. Either experience worship, in a different place or log in the streaming of the early service. Find God with you where you travel.
- Practice talking to strangers about Jesus; you might never see them again, and that is one reason to share your faith, and the other is if you do, you might transform a person’s, life you would otherwise not be present to reach.
- Remember the ministry of your church continues even when you are in other locations. Be consistent with your giving. Use the online giving, send a check early or remember to catch up.
- Be open to finding God where you Go, to bring back new experience that helps us DO ministry here.
- The purpose of a vacation is renewal and relationship building. What better time to spend with your travel mates and family than to sing praise/hymns, share the scriptures, and learn how God is at work in new places.
No matter the season, we are called to respond to needs of those who are hurting around us. Here is the tricky part. We respond, not because it makes us feel better or eases our accountability, we serve Jesus when we do. The centurion works with Jesus as Jesus command.
There is an obsessive amount of ‘worthy’ language in such a short passage. The “I’m not worthy” language.
Here is the point about Jesus:
- First, Jesus says to us, and to everyone in the scene: I am here because you are worth it to me.
- Second, Worth is not determined by the government, peers not even the church. God declare we are worthy, because of Jesus.
- Third, Jesus responds not because what the soldier had earned with the religious leaders. Jesus responded to the trust and authority the centurion acknowledges in Jesus.
Our calling to heal the sick, feed the hungry, visit the lonely, care for the lost is because it gives witness to us and the world that Jesus is at work in us.
The soldier came to Jesus because he knew Jesus could do what no one else could do. Not because he felt bad about his servant. Not because of his desperation. Not because of his business dealing with the elders at the synagogue. The soldier came in faith.
This weekend we honor those who made a worthy choice to serve under another authority, trusting that they were part of a larger force of good. Not every soldier helps for reasons of faith, but this centurion has shown us that even in serving his command, he found a way to connect with Jesus.
We thank those who given their lives in service. We honor their willingness to Go, Come and Do what they were called to do. They are for us an ongoing challenge to do the same for Christ as the church.