Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hear Jesus' Words at the Table (2)

It's amazing that Jesus would say to any one of us
 "even in Israel, I haven't found faith like this."
But they are spoken to us each time
God gathers us at the Table of our Lord.
 We are not worthy that you should receive us, but give your word and we shall be healed, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 Service of Word and Table V,
UMBOW, 2012, p. 51

These words from the Confession and Pardon above are right out of Luke 7:7. They are words from the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant, and believed Jesus could do it long distance. This would have probably put Jesus far above any faith healer in that time as most healers needed to touch the sick person.

The words of Jesus from the passage are contained in Luke 7:9-10: When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, "I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this."  When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health.

Like the Canaanite Woman of Matthew 15, the Gentile official is an outsider to the blessings of Israel. And the Romans, who ended up destroying Jerusalem in 70 A.D., would no doubt be considered the truest of enemies in Jesus' time. Now, Luke writes about a centurion who has amazing faith, a former enemy of God has been made a friend. More than that, Jesus lays on him the tag- "no greater faith in all of Israel." When Jesus mentions all of Israel, we assume he's including the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the Prophets and Priests, the Kings and Judges. Wow!

How is that a centurion's faith equals that of any and all insiders, those born into the blessings? Because the outsider's experience is very different from the legacy folks. Church members and pastors who have been apart of the same faith community for even a few years can periodically go out of their way to visit a church they have never seen before. You are then equipped to see your home church and your guests very differently.

Newcomers notice things that we, in our routine, really miss. How is it that God's grace is amazing "the hour I first believed," but, when can it ever stop being amazing? When we start believing that we are entitled to it. That we earn our blessings. And the longer we hang out in a church, the more likely we are to believe that our tenure as members translates into some kind of privilege others don't have.

But, we are all one in Christ, because we are all born of one Spirit, given gifts from the same God and for the same purpose. We are all the servant who needs healing. In Holy Communion, I shouldn't be surprised if God will whisper in my ear the name of someone I have stupidly alienated or another who has hurt me, probably unwittingly. It's by faith that I receive any and all healing God has for me.

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