Lizzie Reynolds continues her podcast series of reflections on the Gospel of Luke. This week, Lizzie will be looking at Luke 7 – the faith of the centurion.
If you long for a reflective and contemplative time of immersion in Word and prayer, we hope that you’ll join Lizzie every second Wednesday for the rest of this term.
Welcome to Abide. I'm so glad you're here to carve out time to remember that you are connected to the Almighty God; to remember that you are abiding in His love and His love is abiding in you. And so that's the purpose of us pulling away, finding a quiet space, grabbing that blanket, lighting that candle. We're carving out this time and this space today to remember who we are; to remember whose we are and to deepen in that reality.
So, let's take a nice deep breath in together, and exhale out. And one more time, breathe in, and breathe out.
And many times, we come to these times of prayer and there's just so much going on in the mind and in the heart and in the body, and it's packed full of responsibilities, anxieties, tasks. Welcome to being a human being. And so today I want you to imagine with me just having a little basket next to you, whether you're lying down or you're sitting up straight. And I want you to one-by-one take those responsibilities, those challenging relationships, that paper that you just haven't started or you can't figure out how to finish, and I want you to take this time with Jesus, present with you, to put each one of those burdens into this basket next to you one at a time.
Just beginning to release the build-up that life brings.
Just begin to notice how much space and room these burdens take up in our bodies. And as we place them in this basket, knowing they're close by, they're safe, they won't run away, you can pick them up later. But for this time of prayer, we're just going to set them aside. And as we set them aside, it's almost if Jesus can now access and come closer to our very beings.
Maybe you can imagine Jesus coming in closer, reaching to you and holding you in an embrace right now. Maybe you can imagine Jesus taking his hands and holding your face with eyes of compassion and love. Maybe Jesus leans to the side and kisses your cheek or your shoulder or your forehead. And then again, maybe another embrace.
Allow yourself to experience his warmth, his closeness, his care for you. And he deeply cares about all the things you've placed in the basket. But more than that, aside from all those concerns, he longs to embrace you.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
During this time of prayer, if those concerns jump out of the basket and hop back into your lap, you know you can just smile and pick them up and place them back in the basket and say, “We're going to take a break. We're going to take a rest now and sit by a stream; sit in a green pasture; experience the deep love of Jesus.”
And so, no worries if those burdens and stresses and papers and challenging relationships hop back into your mind. Just gently place them in that basket, knowing Jesus cares about them, but he also longs to give you rest. He also longs for you to experience his embrace without all those things in the way.
So, we're going to move into our gratitude practice now and every once in a while, I like to take one part of the body and just gaze and appreciate it. So, if you are a person that closes your eyes during this prayer, you can open them up and I invite you to just allow your hands to rest in your lap or just right in front of you. And you might begin to gaze at them with the palms open, and then maybe the palms down. Maybe you notice that your hands have changed over the years. Maybe you notice your hands look very much like your mother or father or siblings. Maybe you begin to notice how intricately your hands are made and how many joints and bones and muscles are crafted together to create these hands.
Have you ever just watched your hands at work together - how they can put everything in a backpack or make a lunch? Well, what about when you talk? You use your hands and they complement one another. You don't even tell your hands what to do and they know what to do. Isn’t it amazing?
Even at night when you're asleep and barely know what's going on, your hands take care of you. They pull the covers over your body and fluff your pillow... Your hands are a wondrous thing.
So, take this moment now to sit with Jesus, gazing at the hands that he created there the hands that there is none other like- the fingerprints, the creases. And just spend time in gratitude for these tools that God has given you to work, to serve, to love, to care. Just gaze in gratitude now and I'll give you one moment for this- one minute.
Wonderful. Let's take another deep inhale and exhale together, relaxing your shoulders and your face and just letting your hands now rest at your sides, just settling in deeper into this time of prayer.
We're continuing in the Gospel of Luke. And, after Jesus has been tempted and moving with the Spirit’s power, he is on the move, loving and serving, and teaching, calling his first disciples. And we get to observe: who does he call? What kind of people does he notice? What kind of people interest him, and who does he pay attention to?
And so, we come to Luke Chapter 7, verses one through 10: The Faith of the Centurion.
“When Jesus had finished saying all of this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There, a Centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The Centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built her synagogue.”
“So, Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the Centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes, and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.”
“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. And turning to the crowd follow him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.”
Listen for the leading of the Spirit in this quiet moment.
Jesus sees faith in the most unlikely places, doesn't he? The most unlikely people: the widow, the poor, the hidden, and in this story, a Gentile, a leader- one that has prestige and power and one that even the Jewish officials regard well. And as we get to uncover the Centurion’s story a bit, we see that he values highly his servants. He values the ones below him and cares for them greatly- knows that they're very important in the greater work.
This Centurion seems to have a very good idea of what authority is like, as he knows who's his authority and who he has authority over, and seems to not press against that but respect that system. And so, I invite us all now to think about who are the people that maybe are quote unquote “under us”? Who are we in charge of or shepherding or who are the people that serve us in our daily life? Maybe it's the person that serves your coffee at Tim Horton's, or the woman or man at the doctor's office, or the bus driver? Maybe the person sweeping and cleaning the streets, or wiping down all of the door handles in your building?
How do you regard them? Do you see them as sacred? I invite you now, just as the Centurion valued the team of people that worked under and with him, wonder if you can look over your life and see who serves you to make your being possible. And I give you a minute to do that now: to pray for those people, to think about how you can show your care and your value of them. Take this time now to open your eyes and allow gratitude, and a deeper concern and care for those people.
“He was not far off from the house when the Centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority with soldiers under me and I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes, and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.”
“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.”
It's interesting how this Centurion has such simple faith- great faith- trust! It's almost as if it's crystal clear in his mind. He doesn't even need to see Jesus. Wow. And here Jesus is amazed. He can't believe it. Someone’s trusting me? Someone actually believes who I am? Someone values and knows my authority? Wow.
I wonder if our education and our training and our churches and our beliefs and our systems have all blocked this simple faith? I wonder if our desire to know and to be in control and to fully understand before we believe gets in the way of simple trust? And so, I give you this time now to sit with Jesus and talk about what might stand in the way of your belief, of your faith. Just share openly with him now.
Allow me to read the passage one final time. May you observe Jesus, and observe the Centurion.
“When Jesus had finished saying all this, in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. And there a Centurion servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick, and about to die. The Centurion heard of Jesus, and he sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and to heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
“So, Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the Centurion sent friends to say to the Lord, “Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority with soldiers under me and I tell this one “Go,” and he goes, and that one, “Come,” and he comes. And I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.”
“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. And turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” And then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.”
Jesus, thank you that you sit with us now. You sit with us hearing these words. You sit with us with our basket of concerns. And as we hear the telling of this story, we're reminded of places we serve, places where we have responsibility and authority, and places where we're under authority. I pray that we would learn from this Centurion how to value our place in life, that we would take it seriously how we care for others; that we would value what others bring. We would show appreciation and kindness and patience and love to all of those that are serving us in a day. Soften our hearts to value others above ourselves.
And God, we confess that our trust and our faith are nowhere near this guy’s. No wonder you're amazed, Jesus. So, I pray for each one of us as we hear and see this story unfold, that we would be able to set aside things that block the faith: maybe ways that we were raised or things that we've always believed, or things that we don't fully understand or confusion we feel in these very strange times, and all of these things build up a wall, where we don't even know how to believe anymore.
And so, Jesus, we ask that all the messiness of questions and misunderstanding and not fully knowing wouldn't hinder us from trusting you- from believing who you say you are. Soften our hearts, God. Bring us back to a place of simple faith. I believe. I trust that you are at work in this situation in my life, and this one, and this one, and this one too. Help me to be patient and open to your authority, to your Kingship and what you desire to bring about in my life, in my family’s life, in this great story of mine, and this great God’s story.
God, may we contribute more faith, peace, hope into the world than negativity, doubt and despair.
So go with us now Jesus into the rest of our day, with our little basketful full of concerns and worries and frustrations, knowing that we can set them aside to experience your embrace and your care over our full selves. And may we be a blessing to the world around us today. A simple faith. And may your face and your heart be amazed with our growing ability to do this.
We close this prayer by saying, “Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Spirit, as it was in the beginning, as it is now, and has it ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
Go in peace my friends, to simply trust and believe in the Almighty.
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