In the gospel reading Luke 7:1-10 the phrase “say the word” certainly stands out. Jesus marveled at the Centurion’s faith demonstrated by this phrase. Say the word and my servant will be healed. Say the word and all will be well. Not only does Jesus marvel at these words spoken by a gentile, but we marvel as well. Would that our faith were as simple as this where we could tell Jesus to speak his Word and we would have perfect certainty over God’s work of deliverance in our lives! Nothing to worry about or agonize about in life again. How easy and carefree our lives could be! If only we could like the centurion boldly exclaim “say the word.”
But perhaps we shouldn’t marvel too much at these words of the centurion. A case could be made that we as God’s people actually ask and invite God to speak his Word into our lives in many ways and circumstances. Let’s turn our attention back to our gospel reading to help answer that question of what it meant that the Centurion said, say the Word, and what it means for us to invite Jesus to speak into our lives as well.
We learn from the gospel of Luke that this centurion had previously paid to support the building of the local synagogue. It seems he was a man of some means and wealth, and recognized the worthiness of those who sought to worship God in that place. The people who approach Jesus offer this reason for Jesus to help him. They put in a good word for him. In contrast the centurion makes the case for his unworthiness. Putting in a good word for himself is the last thing on his mind. I am not worthy to have you come under my house, he tells Jesus. His faith in Jesus is not about his past generosity to others, but simply about his recognition that Jesus is in control.
Not only does he convey to Jesus that he is not worthy to have Jesus come into his house, he even demonstrates his awareness of unworthiness to speak to Jesus. He arranged for some of the Jewish elders of Capernaum to give Jesus the message. If he were counting on his own reputation as the reason why Jesus would help him, then he would have come himself. Instead he shows remarkable faith in Jesus to the point of not even needing to hear first hand from Jesus about his servant’s well being. He doesn’t need to hear the word right from Jesus’ mouth in order to be assured.
A little later in the gospel of Luke in the account of the healing of Jairus’s daughter there is a contrast between the centurion’s confidence and trust in troubling Jesus and the words of someone from Jairus’s house. This person spoke to Jairus: “Your daughter is dead: do not trouble the teacher anymore.” This person doesn’t think Jesus has the power to heal the dead, and makes the plea to Jairus to leave Jesus alone.
God’s people know better. Jesus is more than able to pay the cost for us to bring healing. There is no question of whether he is able or willing, because of the cross. On the cross Jesus paid the full cost for our salvation. He troubled himself with our needs all the way to the point of laying his life down on the cross. Risen from the dead he is without doubt in perfect position to answer our needs. Philippians 2:10 “So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In light of this state of exultation, there is little we need to say about whether we are troubling Jesus with our asking for help. Jesus needs only say the word and we are healed with his gifts of life. Because of the cross we know that we will never present a need for love, understanding , and forgiveness that is too great a cost to Jesus. Say the word Lord, and we shall be healed.
God’s people know the blessing of Jesus speaking his words of life to them from the moment of baptism. Ever since that time when God placed his name on you in baptism His Word has been bringing a work of healing and rejuvenation to your life.
During Confession and Absolution we hear from the pastor words that are from Jesus, “I forgive you all of your sins.” During the Lord’s Supper we hear again the words of Jesus, this is my body, broken for you- this is my blood, shed for you. Just by hearing these words we know in faith that we are forgiven and renewed in the promise of our baptism of life eternal with God.
When we come to worship week after week, year after year, we are troubling Jesus with our need for His Words of life. Time after time we come to him and ask in faith for Him to only say the word and we will be healed and renewed. There may be those times when we feel less motivated to come to worship. Summer is symbolically here at Memorial Day weekend. There are generally less Bible study options and school year related events at the church in the summer.
In worship the season of Pentecost continues through the summer and Fall with thematic emphasis on growth. The summer does not have the high points of celebration that come with Christmas and Easter. Just plain ole ordinary focus on growing in faith. For some of us it is a time that is more tempting to put off worship. The weather is nice, vacation and travel opportunities abound. But despite all these changes, Jesus comes to us with his powerful life giving word just as much in the summer as the rest of the year. Even in the summer, it is a time to invite Jesus to speak His word into our lives.
It’s not just in the sacraments and the words of gospel in the divine service where we are called to trouble Jesus with our needs, but also in the living of our everyday vocations in life. We are called to recognize that Jesus has authority over every aspect of our lives.
We can see Jesus working in our lives through the order of creation. Whether it is government, school teachers, or parents, God provides us with structures by which we can be protected and guided. We ask Jesus to just say the word so that we will have those who protect our land in government. The same can be said about God fearing professional counselors. Through the order of creation Jesus provides those counselors who can help those in need navigate through the rough waters of life in our fallen world.
We ask for those who train and prepare our children for future service in society in the form of teachers. And those who show us God’s love and lead us to know God’s truth in parents, grandparents, Godparents, and in pastors. When we recognize that God gives order to creation in these ways, we can in confidence ask for his Godly order to be a part of our lives as well.
Jesus just say the word, and I will find a way to live out all my vocations in life faithfully. Just say the word so that I can be the encouraging and loving husband and father you purposed me to be. Say the word so that I can be the obedient and respectful son you purposed me to be. Or the faithful brother, or friend, or teacher, pastor, counselor, teammate, or co-worker. Say your word of freedom and new life, so that I may live as your own.
In this day and age it is easy to get distracted about who is and who is not representing us in government in some of the highest offices. It is easy to get discouraged about policies or talk of policies that resemble an apostasy from the values of the Christian faith. It’s easy to become angry at what a retail giant may be saying about who is welcome to enter a woman’s restroom.
But this does not mean Jesus is not in control or is not ordering creation for our benefit. No government policy can take away the foundations of perfect love in Christ by which we are free to live out our vocations in life. Nothing can take away our freedom to invite Jesus to say the word in our lives.