|Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 31, 2016||Proper 13, Year C||Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21|
|Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 24, 2016||Proper 12, Year C||Luke 11:1-13|
|Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 10, 2016||Proper 10, Year C||Luke 10:25-37|
|Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 3, 2016||Proper 9, Year C||Luke 10:1-11, 16-20; Galatians 6:7-16|
|Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 26, 2016||Proper 8, Year C||Luke 9:51-62, Galatians 5:1,13-25, Psalm 16, 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21|
|Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 19, 2016||Proper 7, Year C||Luke 8:26-39: Luke 24:13-35|
|Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 12, 2016||Proper 6, Year C||2 Samuel 11;26-12:10-13-15, Luke 7:36-8:3|
|Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 5, 2016||Proper 5, Year C||Luke 7: 11-17|
|➤Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||May 29, 2016||Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Luke 7:1-10|
|Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C||May 22, 2016||Trinity Sunday, Year C||John 16:12-15, Psalm 8|
|Day of Pentecost! Year C||May 15, 2016||The Day of Pentecost, Year C||Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17, 25-27|
|Easter 5, Year C||April 24, 2016||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Psalm 148|
|Easter 4, Year C||April 17, 2016||Easter 4, Year C||Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||April 10, 2016||Easter 3, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 3, 2016||Easter 2, Year C||John 20:19-31|
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:May 29, 2016
Scripture: Luke 7:1-10
Liturgy Calendar: Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
"Jesus Healing the Centurion Servant" – Paolo Veronese (1575)
Whose authority are you under?
On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember the soldiers under the authority of this country who have served this nation and those who have died in that service.
Today’s gospel is about a soldier in another time and place—the centurion in Luke’s gospel, under the authority of the Roman Empire, which occupied a great deal of the world at that time, including the small region of Palestine, and the town of Capernaum, where the centurion was stationed.
According to The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, the centurion would have been a career soldier who had attained this high rank after years in the service of Rome.
The centurion was experienced and knowledgeable, would have had many responsibilities, including the discipline of his soldiers. He would have been well paid, a man of prestige, clearly faithful to Rome.
In addition, this centurion had earned the respect and love of the people over whom he had authority—and the Jews of this occupied territory were grateful that the centurion, out of his own resources, had built a synagogue for them.
In every respect, a worthy man.
The centurion’s worthiness is not the issue, however.
What really matters in the end is that the centurion recognizes the true authority of Jesus—Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.
Jesus, as Lord, has authority over disease, demons, destruction and mayhem.
The centurion realizes that the authority of Jesus is not bound by human authority, by space or by time, or by nationality.
The centurion also realizes that Jesus does not need to be physically present to heal the beloved slave. And the centurion does not feel a need to dictate the timing of the healing. The centurion recognizes the fact that this Jew, not a Roman, has ultimate authority.
And so as Jesus approaches his house, the centurion sends this message. “But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.”
Luke tells us that Jesus is amazed at him and says to the crowd following him that “not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the servants return to the house, they find that the slave has been restored to health.
Back at the beginning of today’s gospel reading, Luke tells us nothing about what the centurion knows about Jesus other than that the centurion had heard of Jesus.
Luke does not tell us why the centurion then has a faith in Jesus so deep that he, a man in authority, can lay down his own authority in deference to Jesus’ authority, and to ask for the healing of a slave, a beloved slave, to be sure, but still a slave who would have had no opportunity to speak for himself.
To put all of this into prayer book language, the centurion is a person who respects the dignity of every human being in both thought and action.
And the centurion is a person of humility, so that he is able to acknowledge the Lord’s authority, above his own authority, and even above the authority of Rome.
Paul tells the Philippians in Chapter 2 of his letter to them to let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, also a person of humility.
Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Paul goes on to say that God highly exalted Jesus and “gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The centurion can confess through his humble actions that Jesus Christ is love because his faith in Jesus has grown in the fertile soil of love for his fellow human beings and his knowledge that Jesus has ultimate authority, even above Rome, the centurion’s own nation.
The centurion sets a good example for us. His example shows us that humble love for others can prepare our hearts to receive God’s love.
We Christians who live in a nation that we consider Christian can also strive to do what the centurion did and what the prophet Micah tells us in chapter 6, verse 8 that God desires from us, so that people can see, by who we are and what we do, that we are Christians under God’s authority.
“He has told you, O mortal what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”
To do these good things allows us to grow in our faith as Christians in authority under God, and to better live out the ideals of this nation that we say in the Pledge of Allegionce is “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
On this Memorial Day weekend, we give thanks for the blessings we enjoy as people who live in this nation, the United States of America.
And we give thanks for the people who over the years, have been willing to die in order to keep the ideals of this nation alive, so that we can continue to live in freedom.
Today’s closing hymn, “O beautiful for spacious skies” ends with these words. “America, America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”
Katherine Lee Bates wrote the poem in 1893. She published it in 1895, and it was soon set to music. Bates said that although she “was initially surprised by the poem’s success, she later reflected that its enduring ‘hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.’”
So on this Memorial Day weekend, may we remember and give thanks for our ultimate authority, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lived with us, loved us, died for us and through his grace gives us the desire to walk in love with God and with one another, and who makes possible our undying hope for one great fellowship of love, not only in this nation, but throughout the whole wide earth.
The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, A-D . Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN. 1962.