It is a powerful thing to know that you serve a good master. It is a great thing if you have a master that is good to you. So what must it be like if you have a Master and a community who care enough about you that they will not stop to see you healthy and serving as you ought to?
Am I commending usury and slavery? By no means! What I see in the Gospel for this week is the desperate difference between the socially acceptable, totally inclusive Gospel that some preach (ie. The Presiding Bishop of the TEO) and the power and authority of Christ to seek, to see and to serve that others might be freed and made whole by God. A foreigner, someone who cared for the people around him and who had the trust and respect of those he governed, heard about the Rabbi and when a beloved servant fell sick and was dying, he stopped at nothing to see that this slave was made well again.
From a business point of view in the ancient world, it would have made perfect sense. Who wants to put the time and energy into finding a new trusted side kick that is going to have to train and prepare for the role? But that isn’t it. There is a real relationship here and a genuine care for the welfare of each other that is bared, In response to the obvious care and respect that the people have for this leader and his servant who is one of their own, they go and fin Jesus and plead with him to come to the house and to do something to prevent a real tragedy: both loss and death.
A second delegation went to Jesus when he was on his way and Jesus was told, “Speak the word and it will be done.” Jesus turned and told the people following him that in his entire ministry, he had not found such faith in Israel. And what did the people who went to Jesus find when they returned home? A servant well and ready to serve, a house in awe and wonder at what had happened, and a satisfied Master who asked, “What’s next?”
What does this have to do with us and with the Church? Well, first we need to recognize that it is Jesus that saves... not political correctness, not inclusivity or open mindedness. Jesus saves. It does not matter how nice a person is or how correct or religious a person maybe. Salvation is from God through Christ. Otherwise, Jesus is dead and we are still in our sins and without hope. Until we actively preach salvation from God in Christ as the Church, we are some far less than a service organization or fraternal fellowship. After all is it not written, “There is no other name but which we must be saved”? (Acts 4.12+13)
Secondly, we need to be concerned for those around us. Should we not need to make sure that we are working to love our neighbour at least half as much as we would like to think we love God? If we are to be the Church victorious, the Church at rest, then we are going to first have to be the Church “militant here in earth.” We’re going to need to do some of the things that God asks of us in terms of drawing this city, this world closer to him. In effect we need to turn this Church inside out before we are going to be enabled by God to turn this world right side up. The mission? To seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19.10). We are to go and find the least the last and the lost of this congregation, of this city and draw them into relationship with God by being who we are.
And lastly, we need to learn to take God at his word. Speak the word and we will live it, Lord. It is that hard and that simple all at the same time. We need to stop and hear the Spirit speak to us and then go and do what we believe God is calling us to do. There will be hard times, sicknesses, even deaths in the going. Yet, all that needs to happen is for us to look at Christ and recognize who he is and in the moment trust and participate. Perhaps that is the most powerful thing of all: people of a common faith, a common work, living and praying, working and worshiping with an uncommon devotion and unmatched love and compassion for others. and we do it so that some day we will heard Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and enter your Master’s rest which was prepared for you before the beginning of the world.” And all this we do in Christ’s name.