St Bride's: Sermons

The Faith of the Centurion

Luke 7: 1-10

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Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.

And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:

For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

The Faith of the Centurion

The Centurion of Capharnaum before Christ - Caliari

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The Miracle in the Gospel reading today is unique in that nowhere else in the Gospels is a miracle of healing recorded that occurs - without seeing or without touching the sufferer.

Another feature of this miracle is the aspect of "Authority".

Appropriate on this day in the Church's Calendar - that has been designated - Coronation Sunday. A day to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen - which, was held in Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, June 2nd, 1953.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus issues a command, and a servant is healed. Here he displays his authority in the situation. The Centurion too, is a man of authority and a man under authority - He discovers that Jesus not only has authority, in that he can heal the sick servant from a distance, But that Jesus too - is under a higher authority as well.

Here is authority real and accepted - as the Centurion bows to another's authority. Each has an authority higher than their own. So this is an aspect of the gospel today. Luke also highlights good qualities of authority - here with the Roman official, and in Jesus here andthroughout the Gospels these qualities of authority are seen in him. These qualities are:- Kindness - Humility and Faith.

We see the kindness of the centurion in his treatment of his servant. He cares for him tenderly. One can but wonder where this soldier learnt this kindness. We can only speculate about where that trait might have been learnt in a soldier. Maybe we can't be the Centurion here in this Gospel reading, but a thing we can do, is to resolve to be like him in respect of kindness. To show kindness to everyone with whom we have a connection in life. To strive to have an eye ready to see - a hand ready to help - a heart ready to feel, and a will ready to do good for others. Ready to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those who rejoice.

All these are gospel imperatives and kindness is - or at least should be - a grace that all can understand. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said - " Do your little bit of good where you are, It's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the World."

I think one can quite easily replace the word - Good, with the word - Kindness here in this quote. "To show a little bit of kindness where you are, it's those little bits of kindness shown and put together that overwhelm the world".

I believe it is one way to be happy in the world, and to see - good days - and that kindness always brings its own reward.

The second quality is humility, seen in the centurion. Humility is a word so often quoted along with an "Uriah Heep" type Humility - Excruciatingly - "Umble." But it is not to be like that. There are very few of Jesus' sayings quoted more often than:- "Every one that exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted." (Pharisee and Tax Collector Luke 18:14.)

A need of a modest - an honest opinion of one's own importance. Or as Rudyard Kipling wrote:- "If you can walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch".

And the third quality Luke highlights in the Centurion, is faith. We see his faith and the Faith of Jesus in being able to heal in the way he did in this miracle. It is a beautiful example of faith seen in the request that he made to our Lord:- "Just say the word, and my servant shall be healed."

Here it is the faith in another. In this case the Centurion's faith in Jesus is highlighted. All this seems such a rare commodity in what one sees, reads and hears today and in today's world - Faith in others. Something, which appears to be sadly lacking.

For example, how often do we hear - "trust no one" . Or - "If you really want something done it is better to do it yourself"?

The absence of Kindness, of Humility and of Faith - seems to be everywhere in the things and situations we see around us. But, that should not be the way, of the Community of the Church. I believe it would it be well for the Church, if these attributes of the centurion were more frequently remembered within the "Household of Faith."

And it seems to me also, that on this day - designated Coronation Sunday - we remember too that wehave a wonderful example of all these attributes - of KINDNESS, of HUMILITY and of FAITH in The Supreme Governor of the Church of England - Our Sovereign Lady the Queen. We remember and celebrate her, with grateful and heartfelt thanks.

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