Sunday, May 29, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
When we hear the word ordinary, what do we usually think? Plain, simple, common, normal. The dictionary describes ordinary as “of no special quality or interest, commonplace, unexceptional, and somewhat inferior.” Ordinary is therefore a word that doesn’t leave us feeling great. We don’t want to be just ordinary and we don’t want our time to be ordinary. Our calendars are highlighted with days that are extraordinary – holidays, vacations, and celebrations.
The Christian church’s calendar, called the liturgical calendar, highlights special seasons of the church year – Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and other church festivals – and each has colors associated with them. After Pentecost now, and Trinity Sunday, we now are in the season of the church year after Pentecost known as Ordinary Time. This ordinary time will extend all the way through to the season of Advent. The color associated with it is green to symbolize new life and growth. It’s the time that we as a church devote to growing in our faith. But you might wonder why on earth we call it ordinary time? Couldn’t we have come up with a better name than that? But rather than meaning common or mundane, the word ordinary in the church calendar comes from the Latin word ordinal or counted time – the first Sunday after Pentecost, the second Sunday after Pentecost, etc., all the way to the 26th Sunday after Pentecost and then Christ the King Sunday, and the beginning of Advent in November. Ordinary time in the church is a different way to count time. It’s a period where we have an opportunity to focus on growing in our faith and looking at things differently than we ordinarily do. It’s a time of renewal, which we as a congregation have committed to do.
The story from our gospel reading today is a perfect example of what happens on an ordinary day. Jesus had just finished a time of preaching to the crowds. More and more people were hearing about Jesus. They were talking about what he was saying. They were telling their friends the healings that happened because of him. Everyone was talking about Jesus. By the time he got to the town of Capernaum, a beautiful fishing village on the north shore of the sea of Galilee even the people there had heard of Jesus. So this ordinary walk of traveling to Capernaum was anything but ordinary for Jesus. The words he spoke were touching people’s hearts in profound ways. His words were making them think about life differently. They were thinking about people differently. Jesus told people that God’s kingdom was for everyone. He said everyone was our neighbor. He told them love was greater than the law; love was the greatest commandment. Jesus’ words and Jesus’ touch healed people. His words and his touch were anything but ordinary.
And that’s what one Roman centurion soldier realized when he heard about Jesus. This soldier was an important figure in the Roman military. He was responsible for the training and discipline of many men under his command. He gave out orders and expected them carried out. This centurion set the standard for worthiness. It would seem then that this centurion was quite worthy of respect. He was different than a lot of the soldiers. He valued the servant he had. This centurion cared about this individual, and now the servant was gravely sick and needed healing. The servant, to him, seemed worthy of healing.
So the centurion told the Jewish elders to speak to Jesus on his behalf and they did. They respected this centurion because they were allowed to practice their religion and he even built their synagogue. These elders went to Jesus and spoke up for the centurion saying he was worthy of having Jesus heal his servant.And Jesus went to the centurion’s house. But when the centurion saw him he asked his friends to deliver a message to Jesus. Only the message was not that he was worthy, but that he was unworthy. “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 only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.” The centurion who commanded authority heard the kind of authority and power Jesus had and recognized his own unworthiness compared to Jesus.
It was the hearing of the Jesus’ words that changed the centurion’s heart to recognize Jesus and it was hearing the centurion’s faith that amazed Jesus. That’s what faith does. It changes, it amazes, it transforms.It doesn’t merely believe based on what we see, but on the hearing of God’s word. Words when mixed with the divine heal people and they are no longer ordinary. Water when mixed with God’s word is anything but ordinary water. Bread and wine mixed with God’s word is anything but ordinary bread and wine. The words of forgiveness and love we speak to each other when mixed with the power of the Holy Spirit are anything but ordinary words. They are the words of faith that give hope and healing.
Standing in the place where your home once stood, but is now destroyed from a tornado and saying “only say the word and I shall be healed” is a living faith. Watching fire destroy your house or your loved ones and saying, “only say the word and I shall be healed” is a living faith. Losing your job yet believing that God will provide a way and saying, “only say the word and I shall be healed” is a living faith. Experiencing any kind of loss or disappointment and saying, “only say the word and I shall be healed” is a living faith.
We see devastation around us and hear the voices of fear and we are tempted to fall into despair, but hearing the word of God we see the promises of God instead of the hopelessness. Faith allows us to see the sun that is above the clouds. Faith allows us to see the joy that will spring forth from our tears. Faith allows us to see that though we are under siege from all kinds of suffering, we have a God who walks with us and will not abandon us. Despite what things look like now, faith keeps our eyes on the Source of our life, our hope and our joy in Jesus Christ.
We have a priceless gift from God. When we gather together in worship we hear God’s holy words in the Scriptures and are healed. When we celebrate Holy Communion, we are given the very gift of Jesus – the Word made flesh – to come inside us and transform us. The Word now living inside us heals us from the inside and transforms us into the body of Christ for the world.
No matter what the storms of life may bring we are not alone. The wings of the Holy Spirit surround us and guide us to Christ. They guide us to the Word that breathes new life into our troubled souls. None of us are worthy to receive Him, but we are all invited to this table of grace anyway, and we are made worthy because of Christ. It is God’s gift to us. God speaks to us and comes to us through this gift of love and grace and Jesus only has to say the word and we are healed.
During this ordinary time may we grow in our faith, renew ourselves and our congregation through studying Scripture, listening to what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do, praying constantly, speaking Jesus’ words of love and peace, and being the healing instruments of Christ here on earth. During this ordinary time – this season of counting time – may we count it differently and make it count by keeping our focus on Jesus knowing when we do our time is anything but ordinary. Amen.