This text is supposed to be a story of several disconnect. First, there was the social disconnect between a master a servant. Second, the disconnect between the Elders and Jesus. Third, the expected disconnect between a Jewish Rabbi and a Gentile Leader. Then, the big divide between a sickness and a miraculous healing. Meaning, in normal conditions, this story should not have a happy ending. There were so many disconnected variables. But apparently, it did. From centurion, to town elders, to Jesus, and from Jesus, to friends, to centurion, to servant, they bridged all disconnects and the one who was sick was made well again. I see 2 ways of how they did it.
THE WAY OF COMPASSION
We all know that slavery was a standard practice in ancient times. But this centurion mended this gap, by authentically caring for someone who was supposedly below his social status. And then there was Jesus and the centurion--a Jewish local rabbi, and a Gentile military commander; a religious leader of the oppressed nation, and a leader of the colonizing empire. But all these cultural gaps were bridged by the genuine kindness of a master to his servant; and by Jesus, to those who were labeled as outsiders, heathens, pagans. Jesus the bridge-builder extended compassion across this unreasonable social divide and healed a dying man.
We become bridges as we embody compassion in a society that is separated by labels, status, politics.
When we become a beacon of openness to diversity,
When we resist thoughts that we feel superior over others,
When we choose reconciliation instead of strife,
When we choose forgiveness instead of hatred,
...we become bridge-builders for God.
THE WAY OF FAITH
Jesus celebrated the centurion's faith saying, "I have not found such great faith even here in all Israel."
During that time when faith was mostly based on the written letters, visible rituals, the tangible experiences, this pagan centurion bridged the gap between the miraculous and the crisis; between a terminal illness and the healing power of God. Not by depending on the literal attendance of a healer, but by a faith that transcends physical absence and external evidences. He said, Lord, "Just say the word, my servant will be healed."
Sometimes people equate faith to external religiosity-church attendance, denominational affiliations, faith statements and doctrinal beliefs. (Which indeed are all parts of our faith tradition).But this man doesn't have much of that.
Is this story reminding us that maybe faith is only as vital when it really works in actual real life!
When push comes to shove,
When deficiency threatens our financial stability,
When an illness lingers and it won't go away.
Is God inviting us this morning to bridge the gap between shallow religion and a faith that is genuine, alive, pulsating, active, and dynamic in the midst of a crisis, calamity, and sickness. Because at the end of the day, that is when faith significantly matters.
May we go forth this week as bridge-builders.
In the midst of separation, may we build the bridge of compassion.
In the midst of apathy, may we build the bridge of living faith.
In the midst of chaos, may we build the bridge of joined intention
Go and build bridges in the love of Christ. AMEN.