Sunday, July 5, 2009

Don’t Take My Word for It, Trust in the Word of God

Most all of us, if we have watched one late night movie or daytime TV show in the past ten years, know about OxiClean. We know about its cleaning powers because of the words of one man – Billy Mays. Billy Mays was known as a pioneer in the infomercial business on cable TV and was able to convince millions of viewers like us to use OxiClean to get out tough stains with just air and water. His infomercials were fun to watch and if you have ever used OxiClean you know how well the product works. Those of us who watch late night movies will miss his energetic voice and words of persuasion.

Words carry a lot of weight in our society. We are constantly being bombarded by the words of others and normally they are trying to sell us something, either a product or an opinion. Unfortunately many people use words to hurt others rather than to help. Many people use words to lift themselves above others rather than to help those around them. And words can hurt when they are used to make fun of others or to spread rumors about someone’s personal struggles and mistakes in life. It’s because there are so many painful words around us that people enjoyed listening to Billy Mays. His words were always meant to help and make our life a better place – at least cleaner and sometimes good as new.

This morning’s Gospel is about words that help – words that restore something to be good as new in fact. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8.8) These are the words of the centurion when Jesus promised to go and heal his servant. These are words of deep faith in the healing power of Jesus Christ. With these words the centurion was confessing that he knew Jesus was the same God that created the entire universe. The centurion must have known that no mere human being could just will something to be done. Even his own orders had to done by somebody. He confessed, “For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8.9)These were the words of a man who understood the power of words but more importantly he knew the Power of THE Word!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1.1) With these words, Saint John the Evangelist begins his Gospel. The centurion must have known through the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the Word of God. Nothing else can explain his faith that Jesus only had to “speak a word” and his servant would be healed. This is why the Gospel says, “When Jesus heard it [the confession of the centurion], He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.’… ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.” (Matthew 8.10,13) What exactly was the centurion’s faith?

The first answer to this question rests, I believe, in the opening two verses of the story: “Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’” (Matthew 8.5-6) The centurion had the faith to approach Jesus. Don’t forget, the centurion wasn’t a Jew but a Roman soldier who was supposed to hate and kill Jesus. When he approached Jesus he didn’t ask for his own benefit but for the sake of his servant. In fact he pleaded with Jesus because his servant was suffering. The centurion revealed his faith in God even before Jesus promised to go and heal the servant. Although the centurion was not a Jew, he knew the commandment of God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22.37-39) The second answer to this question follows Christ’s promise to “come and heal him.” The centurion had enough faith to know that if Jesus wanted to, He would only have to “speak a word” and it would come to pass. What great faith he had in God.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ we are called this morning to have such a great faith in God. We have an advantage that the centurion didn’t have. We know the whole story about Jesus. We know that He was raised from the dead and performed many miracles while He was on Earth. We know that when two or three are gathered in His name He is there. (Matthew 18.20) We know that “He healed many who were sick with various diseases.” (Mark 1.34) and that Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5.31)

Who among us is not sick? Who among us is righteous? The Church is a hospital and we are all sick, either physically or mentally or spiritually, and we all need the healing that comes from God. The only thing God requires of us is to have enough faith to approach Him and ask or “just say a word.” The Church has a long history of being a place of healing. In his Epistle, Saint James (Iakovos) writes:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders [Presbyters] of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5.13-16)

We can see then that according to Saint James and the witness of the Church we are healed in and as a community. The servant was healed because of the actions of others in his behalf. He was healed because the centurion took action and approached Jesus and spoke words of faith. We will be healed when we take action and come to God and His Church and as a community we pray for each other that we may be healed. God has already promised that he would come and heal us. All we need to do is “speak a word” of faith and He will come and heal us.

Just like OxiClean restores clothes to brightness when it combines with water, we will be restored to brightness when we combine the water of our baptism with the action of our faith and approach God. We’ve seen the power of OxiClean, now let’s trust in the power and promise of God.

No comments: