Love and Faith in Action
The Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 2, 2013
Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, Pawley's Island
I Kings 18:20-39
This parish is very important – not only for the mission and ministry you accomplish here, but also as a “resource parish” in this part of our diocese. Thank you for what you do on behalf of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina! It is good to be with you this morning.
In my remarks this morning, I want to call our attention to the Gospel lesson. The story of a centurion is recounted there. Now, the centurion was an ofﬁcer in the Roman army, and, more importantly for the story, he was a non-Jew, a Gentile. This centurion had a sick slave at home about whom the centurion was concerned. The centurion sought out Jesus, in order to accomplish the slave’s healing. However, as Jesus began his journey toward the house in response to the request, the centurion sent this word: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof... Only speak the word, and let my servant be healed” (7:6,7).
Now, as I mentioned, it is important to realize that the centurion was a Gentile – someone that the Pharisees, the religious authorities of the day, would have called “unclean.” They would have agreed with him that he “was not worthy to have (Jesus) come under (his) roof.” Yet, Jesus was ready and willing to do so – out of concern and love. Thus, the matter of religious worthiness was another one of those little laws that paled in the light of the primary law of love, which Jesus called “the Great Commandment."
From the story, we learn two important things about this centurion. First, he loved his slave. After all, love means “to will the best” for another person. The centurion did precisely that, on behalf of his slave, and further, he acted on that will. He did something about it. He loved his slave, and he acted on behalf of the slave, out of love.
Then, at the conclusion of the story, after the centurion sent word to Jesus who had been coming in his direction, we read this summary from Jesus: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (7:9). Thus, the other characteristic of the centurion about which we learn is faith. “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
You see, Jesus once again has brought our attention to an unlikely subject, in order to convey a message about essential Christian virtues. This particular subject – the centurion – was unclean, and he was judged unworthy by the religious authorities ... and by himself. Yet, Jesus of Nazareth saw in this man the exercise of what was – and is – essential and basic to the practice of Christianity. Love and faith surely are at the heart of the Gospel.
As we seek relevance in this reading for us, in our Christian lives today, several messages may be helpful. First of all, avoid judging other people. The centurion represented a part of society that had been dismissed by the religious establishment. In their eyes, he was not even worth considering. And yet, for Jesus, he became an example of love and of faith – thus, an example of Gospel witness. And, therefore, the centurion becomes an important reminder for us. Do not judge other people – perhaps especially those we might be prone to dismiss or to overlook.
In addition, this centurion becomes for us an example of Christianity in action. He exercised love in a way that caught the attention of Jesus, for he willed the best for a fellow human being. And, then he acted on that love. In addition, the centurion put his faith into action as well, for he believed in a truth which overcomes rationality ... the truth of divine mystery. That is, he believed that Jesus could heal his slave, simply by commanding it to happen.
In conclusion, as is often the case, the collect for today helps wrap up the themes from our readings. And it does a good job of collecting the random thoughts of this sermon as well: “O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth: Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are proﬁtable for us...” (BCP, p 229). May it be so, today and always! Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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