Sermon Reflections and More!
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The Second Sunday after Pentecost                                     May 29, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

1 Kings 8:22-23,41-43Psalm 96:1-9; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10

Pr. Steve's Sermon:
Pr. Steve's Sermon: "We're Not Worthy"

Children's Sermon: Making a Place Special
Children's Sermon: Making a Place Special

Choir Anthem for Pentecost: Come, Holy Spirit
Choir Anthem for Pentecost: Come, Holy Spirit

Choir Anthem: God Is So Good to Me
Choir Anthem: God Is So Good to Me

Youth Handbell Choir: THis Joyful Eastertide
Youth Handbell Choir: This Joyful Eastertide

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Sermon Notes from Pastor Steve...
So if, like me, you're "of a certain age", you may remember a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch called "Wayne's World".  It featured Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey playing Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar who ran a low budget cable show out of the basement of Wayne's parents' house.
There were lots of great quotes from those skits, but one of the most memorable to me was a line that Wayne and Garth frequently repeated when they got to meet or interview somebody famous:  "We're not worthy!"...
"We're not worthy!"  It was funny not only because of the way they said and acted out the line, but because it parodied the question of whether somebody is actually worthy or not.  So often, when people say they're "not worthy" of some honor or award, they're really just being modest.  And often, they're being disingenuous, because they're actually saying, "I'm not worthy" as a way of bragging about how great they are to be receiving something.
But Wayne and Garth were actually serious about believing that they weren't worthy, as is, apparently, the Centurion in today's Gospel reading.  This story begins with the odd situation of Jewish elders coming to Jesus and asking him to do a favor for a Roman centurion.  And knowing how bizarre it is for Jews to ask for favors on behalf of a hated enemy, the elders begin by telling Jesus that, in this particular instance, this centurion is actually "worthy" of Jesus' help.
And in their description of the centurion, the elders describe the centurion's worthiness in terms that all of us have used about ourselves and others. They say that the centurion is worthy because of:
  • What he's done in the past ... (he was the guy who built our synagogue for us - pretty big and expensive deal for an enemy and a pagan...)
  • Who he is today ... ("he loves our people"; the quality of his character, therefore, is what makes him "worthy"...)
  • Who he has the potential to be ... (it's really not stated, but if you're under occupation and a nice guy is the occupying representative, you want to keep him happy so that you can continue to lead a decent life; please Jesus, don't mess this up for us...!)
Jesus actually doesn't comment at all on whether he agrees or not that the centurion is "worthy."  But he does agree to go to the centurion's house.
But then on the way, the centurion's friends meet him and tell him that, really and truly, the centurion believes that he is NOT, in any way, shape or form, "worthy" to have Jesus even come under his roof. 
And he's totally serious about it.  "I'm not worthy."  But that's perfectly OK with the centurion.  And this is not just because he believes Jesus has the power to heal his slave from a distance, and at his word.  What's really different is that the centurion trusts that Jesus WILL help him even though he's not worthy.
And that's the thing that astounds Jesus!  Jesus says, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."  And the faith that Jesus is speaking of isn't trust in Jesus' power, or confidence in Jesus' ability to work remotely!
Instead, "faith" is the confidence - even by a pagan - that Jesus' love and power will be poured out on him even though he really, truly isn't "worthy."
Trusting in God's love and power without any worthiness on our part.  It seems simple enough.  But it's REALLY hard to do.  Like a lot of people who say, "yes, of course, I'm not worthy of this honor", it may be true that I don't think that I'm totally worthy.  But, maybe I'm at least a little bit worthy, right?!
After all, the world we live in - and the world people have always lived in - encourages us to think that it's unnatural not to talk about your worthiness.  As we're now in the season of graduations, people have been busily writing applications to schools or preparing resumes. But NOBODY talks about how "unworthy" they are!  Instead, we think, talk and write about how worthy we are because of:
  • What we've accomplished in the past - look at my job accomplishments or at least my great grades...
  • Who we are today - look at the quality of my character; after all, being a hard worker and dependable person aren't "skills" that can be taught, and that should make me worthy of being given a chance...
  • The potential we have for the future - really, consider what I can do for you in the future; even in the Psalms, there's this kind of "bargaining" with God Ps. 30:9 "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit?  Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?"...
In our daily life and work, there are so many times that we really have to promote our own "worthiness."  (Really, please don't write "I'm not worthy" on your resume or college application!)  But that also means that it can really be hard to transcend that sense of worthiness when it comes to our relationship with God.
Somehow, the centurion - at least for that one moment - was able to do it.
And it's important for us, too.  Transcending our own sense worthiness in our relationship with God is important because it helps us to focus on God, instead of ourselves.  Transcending our own sense of worthiness helps us appreciate the greatness of God's love for us. And transcending our own sense of worthiness can also help us appreciate and share God's love for other people - regardless of whether we think they're "worthy."