Summary: There are heroes of faith in every walk of life.Each and every one of us can be heroes of faith. All we have to do is invite Jesus to help us make the most of our lives. We have to ask him to do the right things in life and act accordingly.
It was known as the Roaring Twenties. It was a time very much like to the Soaring Nineties. Morals were being turned upside down. The Stock Market was rocketing to new heights. "Let the good times roll" was the national motto.
Perhaps the biggest name of the decade was a man named Babe Ruth. He had single-handedly put baseball on the map and made it the national pastime. The major league owners realized they needed a Commissioner to oversee the game of baseball and preserve its integrity. In 1921 they appointed as their first Commissioner, Judge Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis. Before Judge Landis took the position, he made one huge non-negotiable demand. It had nothing to do with money, nothing to do with benefits, nothing to do even with power in the raw sense of the term. This was his demand.
He wanted a moral covenant with ownership to steadfastly support the Commissioner, by which they say, "We will stand behind you come thick or thin, regardless of what you do, regardless of what our individual personal feelings might be about its rightness or wrongness. We have given you a tough job, and we will stand behind you and we will support you. There will be no knives in your back". What Judge Landis demanded in one word was - authority.
The Gospel reading about Jesus and the centurion, which we heard from Luke's Gospel earlier in this service, is a story about hope, especially the hope we have when we submit to the ultimate authority of God. Death is the opposite of hope. Hope energizes us to explore every possibility, just like the centurion's hope in Jesus led him to seek out the Great Physician and Healer for his sick servant. Death and despair pull their victims under in a sea without hope, but hope allows us to persevere in times of suffering and despair, just like hope recently allowed a woman to survive for 17 days in the rubble of the collapsed clothing factory in Bangladesh.
Slavery in Jesus' time was nothing like the slavery in 17th and 18th century England and America. Some masters did treat their slaves like animals, but most slaves were treated with respect and dignity. In addition, while most centurions were hated, the centurion in today's Gospel reading had earned the respect of the Jewish community. The centurion did not treat the Jews with kindness to earn their respect. As an officer of an occupying army, he was part of the enemy. He had the power to control the Jews. Instead, he was kind to them. He was concerned about God's opinion of him as well as the recovery of his servant. He was inspired to act out of faith in Jesus. It is not surprising therefore that the Jewish leaders approached Jesus on the centurion's behalf.
The centurion did not go to Jesus himself for several reasons. First, the centurion was a Gentile, and at that time Jews and Gentiles did not get along. The Jews did not realize that the Gospel message was for everyone-both Jews and Gentiles. Even Gentiles can have a faith that is acceptable to Jesus. Second, the centurion did not feel worthy to receive Jesus' kindness. In addition, the centurion knew that if Jesus came into contact with a Gentile, Jesus would have to undergo a purifying ritual under Jewish law, since Gentiles were considered to be unclean people.
The main reason why the centurion did not go to Jesus himself is because the centurion knew that he did not have to be in the presence of Jesus to receive his miracle. He asked for the miracle of healing in pure, honest, humble faith. He had confidence in Jesus' healing power. Jesus was encouraged by the centurion's humility and confidence. Just like the centurion had the authority from his commanding officers to command those who served under him by telling them what to do and where to go, Jesus has the authority from God that he can use simply by saying the word.
During the 1770s Dr. William Withering was one of the best doctors in England. As a scientist, he didn't believe in ghosts. Yet one day while he strolled through the village fair, he thought he saw a ghost . . . and then another one . . . and still another. He stared in amazement. All of these people had been very ill with a disease called dropsy which caused liquid to form around a person's heart, leading to a heart attack. He had worried about them. But as good a doctor as he was, he had no way to treat them, and when they left his office, he was sure he'd never see any of them alive again. But there they were, and they all looked very healthy. They told him about a wonderful "witch woman" who lived in a nearby wood. This "good witch," they said, had prepared a special brew which, they insisted, had cured them.