Confirmation and the Left Out - Sermon on Luke 7:1-10

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Jesus healed the beloved servant of a gentile, breaking the Jewish norms, and inviting all to the table. In our confirmation, we become adult in the church, in service to all who are suffering.

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

May 29, 2016 - 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

"Confirmation and the Left Out".  Text is from Luke 7:1-10

Click here for sermon audio





Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

Our Gospel is about the faith of a Roman centurion, a citizen of the empire that has put the nation of Israel under their boot. This man is a gentile and probably has been a pagan for most of his life. And then he arrives in this city, Capernaum, which is a relatively minor village in Galilee, but a home for the primarily Jewish people, and it is one that he has come to love. 

And indeed, the people of Capernaum have come to love him as well, because they are the ones who reached out to find Jesus who they'd heard so much about, the man who heals the sick and has reputedly made other miracles happen. And although many view him as a rabbi or some other kind of Jewish Holy Man, the people of Capernaum have decided to take a chance and approach Jesus to help this man who they admire. This man who put the money forth so that they may study Torah and worship God with each other. 


So the centurion, knowing that Jesus was approaching him, and also knowing enough about his Jewish friends to know that there should be a separation between a gentile like himself and a Jewish holy man like Jesus, sends people onward to speak to Jesus in all humility and devotion, while not hiding who he is and what he represents. Indeed, he is someone, and various readings of the gospel offer us different interpretations, actually owns a slave. How difficult that must be to process for many of us in modern society; and certainly the fact that it was commonplace and in fact tolerated by both Romans and Jews should not excuse the nature of the relationships between the man and his servant. But it must also be noted that he has come to love this servant. And the fact that this young servant that he loves is close to death is breaking his heart. 

Hands on Marissa.jpg

Jesus, is moved and amazed and tell the crowd that he finds faith in the Centurion of a kind he has never seen in the entire people of Israel, but says nothing about the servant at all. And isn't it interesting that the crowd gathered there are themselves the people of Israel? And yet, as the friends that the centurion sent to speak to Jesus returned to his dwelling, they found the servant in good health. 

One of the things I am stricken about in reading this passage is that Jesus and the centurion never meet face to face. The entire encounter happens through intermediaries. And while Jesus was entirely prepared to go to the centurion's house, he was nevertheless stopped by these same intermediaries, these Jewish friends of the centurion before he arrives. 

While the centurion does not consider himself worthy Jesus considers it different. How odd it might seem to us, in looking at the context of the times of Jesus and his disciples, that this foreigner would be raised up as the emblem of faith above those people around him. How telling it is to us that the table that Jesus lays out is not just for his friends and ethnic community but also for the stranger and the foreigner among them. 

And it's not just a message that was set aside in the days of Jesus and his disciples, but it's also something that Marissa and the other students learned this year in confirmation class. As we continually learned as we went through the Gospel of Luke, that the life and times of Jesus over and over again stressed the importance of the four "L's": the least, the lost, the left-out and those needing liberation. Surrounded by this community of Jews, this centurion, and particularly his servant are the left out. What we found in confirmation class, each and every month we had a God Out There activity that brought us to unique and different places. 

We cleaned the shore by Point Isabel Park. We walked the streets of the Tenderloin with the night ministry. We stood vigil at West Contra Costa Detention Center for the undocumented immigrants. We visited seniors at a Nursing Home in East Oakland. We held vigil for World AIDS Day right here at LCC. As we studied scripture on the first Wednesday of the month, we put our faith into practice the rest of the month.

And now what happens? Our sister Marissa becomes an adult in the church. In a little while, Marissa will affirm the promises of her baptism and provide for us a statement of faith that she herself, now armed with the foreknowledge of what living a Christ-centered life in the Lutheran church means, has made a choice. This is not the end of learning and this is not the end of service, because that commitment that we make when we affirm our faith is one that knowing that the love of God is within us, drives us forward to be faithful servants of the one God, knowing that Christ will provide for us, will heal us of our ills, will love us even when we feel nobody else loves us. 

Marissa will soon claim her baptism as her own choice, as fully responsible disciple of Jesus Christ. The indelible mark of God's promise that was installed on her at her baptism will now be there because she herself wills it, knowing what that mark means to her and to her community. And we, the community of Christ, are the better because of it. 

The good news, my sisters and brothers, is that the church is uplifted on this day and made better by the increase of one more confirmed. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Amen. 

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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on May 29, 2016 10:34 PM.

2nd Wednesday after Pentecost - Homily on Luke 7:1-10 was the previous entry in this blog.

4th Wednesday after Pentecost - Sermon on 2 Samuel 11:26--12:10, 13-15 is the next entry in this blog.

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