Planning for a New Day 6-2-13

Today we start a new sermon series titled Planning for a New Day. I want us to think together about the changes that are happening at St. Luke – the changes happening in the children’s program and the music program, and the changes the trustees are considering for the buildings. We kind of have a lot on our plate this summer. When the Bible says “Sing a new song,” we say, “OK, but don’t throw out the old songs.” We say, “OK, but not too many new songs at once.” So we need to think about how we decide what is too fast, what is too much, and what is too little, what is too slow.  Sometimes I ask questions like this a bit randomly of the lectionary text, a little like opening the Bible and putting your finger down, except that this is the assigned text for today. Let’s see what it has to teach us about planning for a new day.

Luke 7:1-10 When he finished speaking to the people, he entered Capernaum. A Roman captain there had a servant who was on his deathbed. He prized him highly and didn’t want to lose him. When he heard Jesus was back, he sent leaders from the Jewish community asking him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and urged him to do it, saying, “He deserves this. He loves our people. He even built our meeting place.” 6-8 Jesus went with them. When he was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell him, “Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well. I’m a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9-10 Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.” When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.

June 2, 2013

Planning for a New Day

Did you ever discover that you were lost and you didn’t know your way home? I can remember a couple times like that as a child. One time I was really little and I lost track of my mother at an amusement park. I was wandering around crying probably not far from my parents at all, but not recognizing any of the knees right in front of me. Some adults saw that I was distressed and helped me reconnect with my folks.
Another time, when I was a little older, I remember wandering a little too far into the woods near my house by myself. I really had no idea where I was, but I knew that if I kept going one direction I would come out of the woods and find some help. I discovered some interesting things in that woods before I found my way out – with some help.
This passage and the gospel readings for the next couple of weeks, have a flavor in them of God’s unexpected graciousness to people who are lost or hurting. Today’s reading tells of a centurion, a leader of 100 soldiers in the Roman army receiving gracious help from Jesus.
The centurion feels so out of place that he never actually talks to Jesus directly. He sends people to vouch for him and ask for help for someone who is enslaved to him. He is very worried about this servant and asks friends to convince Jesus to heal the slave.
Now I just want to notice that this talk about enslaved people is a bit discomforting. I don’t want to make any excuses for the Bible’s acceptance of slavery in the first century. Obviously it was a fact of life then. Still, for that enslaved person who has no voice in this story, that is not a great comfort.  The great comfort does come though, in the healing hand of God, that comes as a total surprise, to one who must have been feeling totally lost and powerless.
The centurion was also feeling lost and powerless even though he was used to being quite in charge and powerful.  He asks some advocates in the Jewish community to let Jesus know that he considers Jesus to be even more in charge and more powerful. The centurion puts his faith in Jesus’ ability to heal this enslaved person even without ever seeing him or coming near.
Jesus is impressed by this show of faith and indeed he heals the enslaved person on the spot without ever going to visit either the sick person or the centurion.

So what does this story have to teach us about planning for a new day? The key lesson from this text is a lesson of faith, of trust in the power of the Living God, no matter what.  Though the centurion was feeling lost and relatively powerless about the sickness of the person he had enslaved, though he was an outsider who by rights knew he didn’t even have rightful access to Jesus, when he discerned where God was leading, when he trusted in the greater power of God in Christ, when he trusted in the vision of healing by and through God, he did indeed find healing. He also trusted in the broader community to help him make his case and guide him through the process.

In our process of planning for a new day – whether for our children’s program, our music, or our building, the first step is to trust God’s presence – no matter what. We trust God’s vision for ministry. We trust God’s leading of our ministry. We trust God’s healing when we need it. We trust God’s direction.
We start this summer by trusting God’s vision and trusting God’s community, coming together at the altar for this communion meal that unites us as part of Christ’s body, God’s community. We begin with prayer and discernment of where God wants us to go with our ministry in this corner of Bryn Mawr.

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