TEXT: LUKE 7:1-10/GAL. 1:1-12/1 KINGS 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43
SEE WHAT GOD MARVELS AT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal. 1:3-4). 


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: have you ever heard someone speak about “a God moment”?  I was unfamiliar with that phrase until our recent trip.  In using it, people seem to mean something out of the ordinary which they interpret as a special sign from God.  “A God moment” has been used to describe finding a sale price on needed pots and pans – the avoidance of flood damage incurred by others – being able and willing to help a stranded motorist - praying with an injured person - seeing in an unexpected place a type of bird or animal that was special to a deceased loved one.


Because human hearts are veritable idol factories, they are also good at manufacturing “god moments.”  The internet has exploded the sharing of such events – strange occurrences – beautiful cloud formations – a symbol - seen as evidence that God is acting to bring strength or comfort or direction.  Often such uncertain “god moments” are stated as certain proof that God is present in an exceptional way.  Meanwhile, the real certainty of what God does speak and promise is easily sidetracked by such fascinations.

Scripture does not use the phrase “a god moment.”  Nor does God direct us to seek His presence and power in momentary uncertainties.  Yes, He wants us to know He is at work in earthly vocations.  Yes, He wants us to use opportunities to pray with others in need.  Yes, He wants us to give thanks for daily bread and for unexpected blessings and for safety in a storm. But none of these are moments by which He promises to give us Himself – His life – His healing – His forgiveness – His kingdom.  The Centurion does help direct our attention with certainty to where God would anchor our hearts in faith.

SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST– JUNE 2, 2013
TEXT: LUKE 7:1-10/GAL. 1:1-12/1 KINGS 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43
SEE WHAT GOD MARVELS AT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal. 1:3-4). 


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: have you ever heard someone speak about “a God moment”?  I was unfamiliar with that phrase until our recent trip.  In using it, people seem to mean something out of the ordinary which they interpret as a special sign from God.  “A God moment” has been used to describe finding a sale price on needed pots and pans – the avoidance of flood damage incurred by others – being able and willing to help a stranded motorist - praying with an injured person - seeing in an unexpected place a type of bird or animal that was special to a deceased loved one.


Because human hearts are veritable idol factories, they are also good at manufacturing “god moments.”  The internet has exploded the sharing of such events – strange occurrences – beautiful cloud formations – a symbol - seen as evidence that God is acting to bring strength or comfort or direction.  Often such uncertain “god moments” are stated as certain proof that God is present in an exceptional way.  Meanwhile, the real certainty of what God does speak and promise is easily sidetracked by such fascinations.


Scripture does not use the phrase “a god moment.”  Nor does God direct us to seek His presence and power in momentary uncertainties.  Yes, He wants us to know He is at work in earthly vocations.  Yes, He wants us to use opportunities to pray with others in need.  Yes, He wants us to give thanks for daily bread and for unexpected blessings and for safety in a storm. But none of these are moments by which He promises to give us Himself – His life – His healing – His forgiveness – His kingdom.  The Centurion does help direct our attention with certainty to where God would anchor our hearts in faith.


A centurion was a career soldier who had demonstrated virtuous character along with skill and bravery in battle.  He was the commander of 80-100 soldiers.  He was the backbone of the Roman army - well paid and respected in Roman society.  In Jewish society, however, he would have been an outsider – a Gentile – a stranger. 


In the New Testament - these foreign military rulers – these soldiers skilled in arms and experienced in bloody combat - are typically portrayed in a favorable manner.  The centurion at the cross declared that Jesus is a righteous man (Luke 23:47) – even the Son of God (Mark 15:39).  The centurion Cornelius is instrumental at the beginning of the Gentile mission in Acts (10 & 11).  Then there is this centurion – a man of significant wealth and influence.  The elders of the Jews kept on urgently pleading for him before Jesus with these words – “he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”  The word they used for “love” is agape love.  This indicates habitual generosity and concrete acts of kindness on the centurion’s part.  He didn’t just talk a good game.  He acted with care and commitment in supporting the religion of Israel. 


Archaeologists started digging in 1969 under a synagogue in Capernaum.  Over a 12 year period they patiently uncovered an earlier era synagogue believed to be the one built by this Roman centurion (see CC Luke - Vol. 1 – Just – p. 304).   Perhaps he was a God fearer who had not formally converted as a proselyte.  In close contact and communication with the Jewish elders – it is hard to imagine that he did not hear of the Old Testament promises of a Messiah – a Healer – a Savior.  In fact his first request through the elders was that Jesus save (diasozo – v.3) his slave – not just heal him (as our translation read). 


The plea of the Jewish elders was vigorous in asserting his worthiness.  They aggressively emphasize law – he scratched our backs – one good turn deserves another.  “He is worthy to have you do this for him…for he…built us our synagogue.  Jesus went with these urgently pleading elders.  When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.  Therefore I did not presume to come to you.  But say the word, and let my servant be healed.  Generous and respected man that he is - military and community leader that he is - the centurion sees absolutely no credentials in himself that would merit the healing and saving help of Jesus!  Rather, his request confesses his unworthiness – I am not worthy to have you come under my roof…


This self-evaluation was not due to low self-esteem!  This was a confident man!  This was a man who knew his business and knew how to use command and control.  For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.


Dear Christians what follows next is a real – “GOD MOMENT!”  What follows next is certain and sure – an unshakable moment of God’s presence and God’s pleasure in a sinful human being!  What follows next tells you where to look for precise and positive proof that God is present “for you” – indeed that He is marveling at you!  When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him…  God marveled at a human being!  The Son of God marveled at a soldier of Caesar who was giving no orders and fighting no battles.  When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and…said “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”


The Church Fathers marveled at what Jesus marveled at!  So did Luther!  St. Augustine said that we also must marvel at what Jesus marvels at.  Does it merit your admiration – your amazement?  You see, the centurion had been given stunning insight into the extent and purpose of Jesus’ authority!  He was well aware of how real authority works!  He believed that Jesus possessed real authority to save and to heal.  “Say the word, and let my servant be healed.”  This soldier of Caesar becomes a soldier of peace for Jesus.  When those…sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.


Christ exalts this man holding to God’s Word and grace in faith.  The centurion walked by faith, not by sight!  His faith seems to be in inverse proportion to the amount of tangible evidence supplied. He required no display of power – no hocus pocus – no razzle dazzle – no special sign of any kind.  He simply trusted the authority of Jesus’ Word!  Say the word, and let my servant be healed.  The centurion believed that what Jesus said would of necessity take place.


Beloved – you have come here on this day in the role of the centurion – or so you say.  In the corporate confession your lips admitted that you are an outsider – estranged from God and worthy of nothing except wrath - temporal and eternal.  You also voiced your confidence that the only kind of worth that counts toward your salvation is Jesus’ worth – I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious to me, a poor sinful being.  In other words - I am not worthy Jesus – but by Your word – heal me – save me – forgive me! 


The nature of true faith is that it does not look within itself for any worthiness!  The nature of true faith is that it offers nothing but trusts in the authoritative word of Jesus to bring healing!  It is this at which the Son of God marvels!  Scripture does not record Jesus marveling at wonders of nature or the power of money or at human wisdom or success.  He marvels at the heart which trusts His word.  He marvels at unworthy ones – like you – depending on His worthiness.  Say the word, Jesus, and let my sin be forgiven!  Say the word, Jesus and let death give way to life for me!


Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord at the temple dedication and spoke of foreigners praying toward God’s house!  God located His presence in that temple in anticipation of Christ’s miraculous incarnation.  The centurion recognized God’s presence in the body of Jesus Christ.  He would not have approached Jesus as “Lord” in this way unless He bore Him in his heart.  This foreigner – this stranger – received in faith the authority of Jesus.


That was a real GOD MOMENT!  So was the moment when Jesus, with all authority in heaven and earth said to you – I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  He hasn’t withdrawn one micro-unit of cleansing authority from that gift for you His baptized child.  What a marvelous treasure of certainty and confidence – He named you as His own!


Whenever a sinful and unworthy heart seeks God’s saving help in the presence and promises of Jesus – it is a real GOD MOMENT!  It is a God-given moment – by His desire and design – God is concretely present “for you” – according to His word – not according to your imaginings!  Such a moment is at work when Jesus comes among His gathered people with this authoritative word – Take eat, this is my body given for you!  Drink of it, all of you – this is the New Testament in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  With the centurion you are right to say I am not worthy to have you come under my roof (the roof of my mouth) – but say the word.  You are also right to open your mouth and receive in faith the heavenly food given by His words.  These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament.  Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say; “forgiveness of sins.”


Everything depends on Jesus and the authority of His words!  He shatters all our schemes and replaces them with free and full salvation – as a gift!  You are not half free in Christ – half a saint because sin still clings to you!  No, you are dead and alive at once in Him – saint and sinner!  Everything depends on Jesus and the authority of His words! 


As centurions would often fight shoulder to shoulder with their soldiers when the battle was joined – so the warrior King – Jesus joined in our battle directly – in the flesh!  As we sing in the Sanctus, He is Lord of Sabaoth (of angel armies) – yet He came down as man to fight for mankind!  In that battle, there came the GOD MOMENT supreme when all deserted the field but one.  In that battle the man who fought wore no helmet or armor, carried no shield, and swung no sword except the word of God.  In physical nakedness and humiliation and God forsakenness He fought alone and He fought to the death!


Unlike in earthly battles – His death did not mean defeat!  Indeed it is what all heaven marvels at – the Lamb who was slain whose blood sets us free!  While the centurion’s servant would again be at the point of death and die – so also you and I will soon be at the point of death and die.  There is no social, no educational, no political, no relational, no medical marvel that can turn it aside or get us through it!  But Jesus can and Jesus does.  It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.  Pilate’s seal on His tomb represented the full authority of Caesar and the Roman army.  But all the centurions in all the legions of all of Rome’s armies through all the centuries of Rome’s history could not have kept that tomb closed and full!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  And He is present here now to serve you!  Clothed in Christ it is also impossible for death to keep its hold on you!  Jesus has already said that Word – I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live (John 11:25)!  Dear child of God – your faith also is a marvel to the Lord – for the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel.  There is no other Gospel! 


Grace to you a peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a