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.