Have you ever wondered why we merit God’s attention? It was a question that I was considering carefully this week. And that’s when it dawned on me. In Christ, though the incarnation of the Son of God, God has visited and redeemed his people. It is a common theme that runs through the Gospel of Luke and is part of what happens in the Gospel lesson for Sunday (Luke 7.1-10).
With finishing Easter and moving into the Long green season of learning to be disciples. We pick things up again after Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” which mirrors the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus returns home to Capernaum and is requested to go with some high ranking synagogue officials to heal the servant of a local centurion. The military officer had heard about Jesus and sent people from the community to find him and make the request. When the people get to Jesus, they make the plea for help, and try to sweeten the pot by pointing out to Jesus that he is worthy of this honour because he has done nice, even good things for the community and he cares for the Jewish nation; including building the place of worship.
One of the things that sticks out for me in this story, is that Jesus does not seem to notice or acknowledge the nature of the man that is making the request – that he is a nice guy who has been pleasant and giving towards his neighbours. He considers the life of the person he is being asked to heal and save because a person’s life, physical and spiritual is on the line. As I like to think of it, Jesus is faced with a moment of sudden ministry. There is a request and a demand for salvation. Without batting an eyelash, Jesus agrees to travel with the group that came to fetch him. Remember God is coming to visit and redeem his people. We should keep in mind that the centurion who asks for the healing is a gentile and that the person who needs the healing, is more than likely Jewish.
Ministry has those sudden moments when one is asked to act. It is a simple thing. Either you will or you will not. Its like a wife calling out to you from a hospital room because she is sitting with her dying husband. You know about him because for years he has declared to be an atheist. Facing his own demise and suddenly, maybe for the first time, sensing the presence of the Almighty at the approach of death needed hope and wanted prayer before death came. It is like doing a pastoral visit to an elderly couple who, when you arrive at the door, are invited into a rather loud discussion about the husband giving up his driver’s licence because he is 83 and has had three accidents in the last three weeks. Its like having a 16 year old girl show up at the Office door. She has been thrown out of her home by her stepfather. She moved in with her boyfriend, got into drinking, then into drugs and now finds out that she is three months pregnant and does now where to turn. Or it is like getting a phone call from someone who has a family member who is dealing with grief issues and PTSD. They won’t tell you who they are or where they are but they want your help to make things better all the same.
Where do you go and what name do you call on when you are in trouble? Remember God is coming to you and he wants to redeem, heal and rescue you. Jesus came not just to show us the way but to be the path. And if there is something that this lesson reminds me of it is this simple truth: where prayer is focused, power falls. We can consider the request of all these people to Jesus a prayer. And where prayer is made power falls.
So let me ask you a question then out of all of this, when will you as an individual, when will we as a community of faith put our trust in the living God? When will we take God at his word and begin to live in the hope and the strength that God gives to his people that the world might see Him in us? The world needs to see, to hear and to feel his life in us so that they might to begin to be open to the possibility that they can have this life too. It is time to do more in this Church than just survive. We are made so that we can thrive. The Father loves us and cares for us more than we can ever be aware of. The world needs to see this in us before they will accept that they are being called into the life of the Church. Once they can see that in us, then they can have it for themselves and begin to change the world around them.
And if there is need of encouragement, then remember this, we live our lives, do our ministry and die our deaths and we do it all in the sight of the Lord. As Scripture says “Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his faithful servants.” Psalm 116.15