Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, May 29, 2016:

1 Kings 18:20-21[22-29] 30-39

Psalm 96 (7)

Galatians 1:1-12

Luke 7:1-10

In this week's Gospel, we get the story of the centurion of great faith.  This centurion will not be the only one that we see throughout the New Testament.  What's behind their presence?

We may have forgotten our history.  We may have forgotten that Jesus lived in an occupied territory.  There's a reason why Christ was crucified, a Roman style of execution, not a Jewish one.  Centurions were omnipresent in the culture to keep the peace, by brute force if need be.  That might be one reason why they make appearances now and then.

From a distance of 2000 years, we also may have forgotten about the earliest conversations in the Christian Church, before it really became the Christian Church, about who could be included and who should be left out.  If we go back to the Gospels, it becomes clear that Jesus did not come only for a small group of Jewish people.  The Gospels show the broadening ministry of Jesus.

It's also important to realize that in speaking highly of the centurion, Jesus is embracing an enemy.  The centurions work for Rome, which means that they often have to oppress Jews and other cultures that Rome defeated.  Yet Jesus recognizes faith when he sees it.

It's a surprise to find faith in this kind of man.  It's a lesson that we would do well to remember.  We tend to think we know how God works in the world and how humans respond.  Then, as now, we can find examples of righteousness in unexpected places.

The Gospel lesson for this week is also a story about power, the kind that the world embraces and the kind that Christ offers.

The centurion is used to having a certain amount of power, as his language makes clear.  But then, as now, human power only takes us so far.  We may be able to hire and fire people.  We may be able to issue orders that people must follow.  But all this worldly power can only take us so far, especially when we face the issues of sickness and death.

Do we have the faith of the centurion?  Are we open to faith in unexpected places?  How can we be enriched, so that we're not surprised by the centurion types who may wander through our lives?

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