S (Scripture): Matthew 8:5
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: 6 “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” 7 Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! 11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour.
O (Observation): Who gets the benefit of faith in Jesus? A centurion! He pledged his allegiance to the state and to the Caesar, politically and religiously. But something has changed. He sees Jesus and has heard of what he has done and believes in Jesus now. He believes that Jesus can save his bond servant – a person who has effectively sold himself into the service of the centurion, having owed him a debt.
Why would Jesus do this? Why would Jesus show mercy to a soldier of the empire? Why would Jesus bring healing to a servant of a man who has no Christian qualifications, and no Jewish background, and who is keeping a bond servant in his service?
Perhaps Jesus ignored the centurion’s present and past, because the centurion now believes that Jesus has the power to heal, and from a distance! The centurion believes that Jesus has the power. That’s all Jesus needs for now. This man believes something about Jesus.
This healing flies in the face of the Jewish tradition of Jesus’ time. One had to follow the ways and traditions in order to receive God’s mercy, to be close to God. Of course, God has shown mercy to all kinds of folks throughout the Old Testsment scriptures, but the religious authorities of the time focused on right living according to traditions. Jesus turns this tradition on its ear, effectively ignoring past and present allegiances, in favor a person’s belief that God has sent Jesus.
A (Application): Sounds too easy. But this is grace. Grace takes hold of us, and then moves us.
As a pastor in the ELCA, I see that God has a wide umbrella of grace under which we all travel. The problem is that many people don’t believe that this umbrella exists. They look at Christians and say, “I don’t live like them, and I don’t believe what they believe.” And that’s it. They give up, or don’t even try.
I feel like my call is to help Jesus-followers be people who live their life UP-IN-OUT. UP is living a life knowing that God loves you, no matter what. IN is living life with fellow believers. OUT is living life connecting with other people outside of your faith.
When we practice UP, our lives show people that faith is not about what we put into life, but what God does in us and for us. When we invite those people IN, we help people feel a part of an extended family with unconditional love. When we bring those people OUT, we see that we live for more than just ourselves. We live for sharing faith with others.
So, would I extend an invitation to a centurion of today? I hope so. I remain open to many people, even those that disagree vehemently with me. Because I don’t have it all figured out, but I do believe in Jesus as my Savior. But sometimes, my savior is my own smarts or strategies. In those seasons, I typcial fail. But God is ready for me to come home. God never leaves me.
What does UP-IN-OUT look like for you? Who have you invited to faith lately? Do you invite others to believe with words or actions? Both?
P (Prayer): Lord, the life of faith is simple but hard: Believe in Jesus! But we have so many other messiahs competing for our attention. Help us to believe in you, and help others to see the umbrella of grace under which we all walk and have our being. Amen.