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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 7:1–10

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say 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 only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. (NRSV)

This centurion is an unlikely example of someone of great faith in Jesus Christ. He’s a man of power, an officer in the Roman army. He’s an enemy, part of the occupying force in Judea and Galilee during the first century.

Yet the centurion exhibits as much faith in Jesus’ power as he does in his own abilities. He sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his dying servant, clearly believing that Jesus can heal the servant from afar: “Merely speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”

It’s an example of such great faith from such an unexpected person that it surprises even Jesus.

What if we were to open ourselves up to see examples of faith in unlikely people or places? ’What if we looked past our differences and saw people not as a label but as who they really are?

I traveled with our Fourth Church youth to Asheville, North Carolina, this summer, and there I met Richard during our work at Liberty Corner Enterprises, a community for people with disabilities. Life experience made us different: Richard was in a car accident when he was nineteen. His skull was crushed, and his neck was broken. Now sixty-one, he struggles to speak and make simple movements.

Richard told me that he believes he survived because Jesus loves him. What has stood out the most in the forty-two years since his surgery is the love of his family and friends. “That’s why I have survived,” he shared.

Richard and I looked past our differences and saw each other as individuals. In doing so, we had a profound experience that was life changing for both of us. It was one of my most profound memories from the trip.

God of love and God of all, open my eyes and my heart to examples of your love where I’m not expecting it. It’s a constant struggle, but let me to see those that are different as equals. Help me to look for the good in others. Help me love all your children. Amen.

Written by Mark Nelson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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