Lord, I am not worthy Trinity 1

We all know that there are times when life is just hard.

Sometimes life feels like something is beating you up, draining you of your life, bringing you to the limit of your despair, to the end of your resources, where you’re holding on by the tip of your fingers. Nothing has worked to help the situation, and nothing can be said to make things better. There is nothing else.

It could be fear, pain, loss, illness, tragedy, exhaustion, or a whole host of other things that have brought you to that place, and it seems like all is hopeless.

This is the place where the Centurion from today’s gospel is, because his much beloved servant was ill and dying and there was nothing he could do, he’d tried it all.

We do not know the Centurion’s name. We know he is a man of great authority who demands the respect of the soldiers under his charge. He gives orders and they are followed. He says ‘Come’ and they ‘Come’, ‘Go’ and they ‘Go’. But you can’t order an ill person to be healed and healthy. He probably tried it.

We also know that the Romans were seen in a bad light by the locals being the invading political enemy and unclean non Jews. They were maybe second only to the Tax Collectors, who were just scum.

But there is something different about this Centurion.

He’d heard about Jesus. He’d heard the things Jesus had taught about, and heard the stories of miracles that followed Jesus around. And so, in hope, and faith, he seeks out a greater authority then his own, and send some of the Jewish elders to speak to Jesus and ask him to come, and heal his slave.

The man who is so use to giving orders and making things happen, hands over all authority to a preacher he has only heard of.

We learn a little more of the Centurion at this stage, because the Jewish elders speak to Jesus and start making a case for him. You quickly get the picture that this is not your ordinary centurion. They tell Jesus that he is worthy, because he’s immersed himself in the culture of Capernaum. He’d show much love for the people there. He’d shown much love for their God too, so much so he has built a new synagogue. And when his slave had become very ill, the Jewish elders had no problems with trying to help him out.

And so Jesus, on the authority of their witness, and inclined also to help, made his way over.

But on the way the centurion seems to have had some sort of realisation. Inviting a holy Jew into a gentile house, making him unclean was not a good thing to do. And so he sends friends to intercept Jesus on route with a message,

‘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’.

This was the convincing factor for Jesus. He was so amazed at this message of great faith in the authority Jesus worked with, a profession of faith he had not heard in all Israel, who were meant to be God’s special people. And so Jesus spoke, and the servant was healed.

These last words of the centurion are the defining factor of this story, which takes it from pedestrian to extrodinany. Such great faith, from a gentile, and a roman, Jesus found this amazing.

And these words of the centurion have had a much longer impact then I’m sure he intended them to. These words have carried through the centuries, and are as powerful today as they were then. They have found their place in our own liturgy, or orders of service, just before we receive communion, reminding us of Jesus’ authority to make us clean and whole with just a word from his lips.

As I read through this gospel, I pondered how my own faith would compare to the centurions. Would Jesus be amazed at my level of faith? Somehow I don’t think so, because, like the people Israel, in my familiarity, I sometimes forget to be amazed at God. I forget to be amazed that he would create this world and everything in it, and love us so much that he gave himself in Christ.

This morning I share in Christ’s amazement at the faith of the Centurion. And I take his words as my own ‘Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word and I shall be healed’.

Because whether you are starting out on the journey of faith, like our baptism candidates are today, have no strong faith to speak of, in the depths of despair or are the holiest Christian here today, we are all, equally in need of Christ’s help and healing to make us whole.

 

‘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’.

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Sermon – St Luke the Evangelist

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, cure the sick who are there, and say to them “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
Today, the church celebrates the feast day of St Luke, gospel writer, doctor and patron saint to those in the medical professions. So when he wrote those lines from Jesus, ‘cure the sick, and say to them “The kingdom of God has come near to you” I’m sure he saw no problems.
To me, half of that command seems a lot easier than the other.
Richard, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you’
Kirsty, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you’
Everyone, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you’
Simples!
That’s half the work done, surely?
So that just leaves me with, cure the sick.
Being a doctor himself, for St Luke, curing the sick was a common occurrence, heck, without it he’d be out of a job.
But as far as I’m aware, I do not possess any special gifts of healing. It would be quite cool if I did. I could walk around, laying on hands, perform some miracles. Regrettably though, I’ve not been able to speak to someone in a wheelchair and convince them to stand up and dance around.
But this is the command that Jesus gives to the 70 odd as he sends them out to the villages and towns ahead of him. He doesn’t say, if you have the gifts, cure the sick. No, no, no. Jesus says ‘cure the sick, and say to them, “The Kingdom of God has come near”’. So there must be more to this.
For many, Luke’s gospel is the cream of the crop when it comes to the gospel writers. He is a great story teller for one. Theological discourse is all well and good, but it’s the good story, told well that we remember and recall most vividly.
And partly due to his skills in storytelling, Luke gives us a gospel that can directly challenge us, our culture and society today.
And that is because, he deals in everyday life.
The gospel he recounts to us, deal with human frailty, and family life. He speaks to the core of our engagement with the world. He brings to life, the holiness of our everyday lives.
Chapter 10 of Luke’s gospel makes up his longest musings on the nature of mission and ministry, and becomes one of the foundational blocks for the churches mission for centuries to come.
Cure the sick, and say to them “The Kingdom of God has come near”
Go and act, go physically, practically and help them, and then tell them to word of God.
Action & Word; the mission of the church.
Neither fully bring people to God when they stand alone.
How helpful is it really, to tell the family struggling with mounting debts, or the recently bereaved, or the homeless person in need of a hot meal that the Kingdom of God is at hand? Simply telling them doesn’t do very much.
And likewise the other way around, acts are lovely and helpful, but if the recipient doesn’t know that you work for God, how will they ever know where to direct their praise?
Action and word go hand in hand.
Cure the sick, and say to them “The Kingdom of God has come near”

Without special, specific, gifts for physical healing, we need to find another way that this command works.
But the one thing I do know, is that all of us in this world, in varying degrees, and at particular times in our lives, are sick. We are all sick, and we are all in need of healing.
And our illnesses come in a wide myriad of different forms. From coughs and colds, to illness’ that debilitate us.

Loneliness and isolation, even when surrounded by hundreds. Depression. Despair.

The inability to switch off, even in times of holiday and supposed rest.

Separation, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

That feeling that sits in the pit of your stomach when you’ve done wrong to another, and that feeling that injures when another has wronged you.
Our illnesses can take more forms then we can count.
And Christ has come to heal every one of them, and restore us to his image again.
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.
A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”
An objective person came along and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”
A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into a pit.”
A mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit.
A news reporter wanted an exclusive story on his pit.
A government official asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”
An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”
A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.”
Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand, lifted him out of the pit and said go on your way!
Action and word is the work of this church. And if we are truly the body of Christ in this world, then this is our work.
We all fall in pits from time to time. What counts is what we do to help get each other out.
And for any of you who feel in the pit, after this service there is a time of anointing and prayers for healing in the shrine.
Jesus said, ‘cure the sick, and say to them ‘the kingdom of God has come near.’ Yes Lord. Amen.