Crossing Boulevard

with Rev. Rachel


“Just give the order.” That’s how Clarence Jordan translates it.

This centurion knows about orders. He points that much out as a way of explaining how he, an officer in Rome’s armed forces, has a reference point for what Jesus is able to do simply by speaking the word.

Officer has a sick servant. Officer has heard about the traveling healer. Officer asks to be on the receiving end of that healing. Jesus goes. On the way, he receives word that the officer is sure that Jesus can give the word from afar, which ought to be plenty. Jesus says, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith (v.9).”

Now the preacher says we ought to aim for that kind of faith. Fair enough. It’s not a feather rufflin’ proposition.

That, right there, ought to signal a time out. Jesus didn’t get the death penalty for sharing a few good lessons for us to maybe get behind since they might fit with what we already think. What more is there to this story?

Let’s say an occupying force is patrolling our city. The soldier saying that he is out on Broad Street to keep the peace (“peace” sounds better than “forced compliance”) -- Jesus is affirming that guy’s faith. Oh, so you see something in him that you’re not seeing in us, Jesus? I can imagine a whole host of stink-eyes.

What the centurion offers is subtle yet tremendous. The centurion goes into the conversation recognizing that Jesus is authorized to be Jesus. While many work to delegitimize his ministry, the fodder these others employ to justify their undermining behavior (Lk 6:1-11) is one non-issue after another for this Gentile.

Friends, we are surrounded by voices that tell us that the doctor doesn’t know what she is talking about, all civil servants are incompetent, our barista cannot make a proper espresso, the mailman cuts corners, that teenager bagging our groceries won’t put the eggs in right, the technician on the other end of the line is a joke...Oh my. The centurion’s posture must amaze God now as much as it did back then (v.9).

Bless another this week, if you can. Ask them to do what they do as though they spent for the schooling, they made sacrifices to be trained, they are giving what they have to give to work that is often more complex than we imagine. Access the grace within you to authorize somebody. And a centurion’s faith you’ll have.