This past weekend I preached at my internship site on Luke 7:1-10. Here’s what I said:
Grace and peace to you from our savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
It’s a weird time to be a pastoral intern. I mean that in my calendar here – we’re less than three month away until my internship is complete. I wrote in my personal calendar a couple weeks ago all the preaching and worship assisting weekends I have left and got to see what Sunday will be my last one where I preach (I won’t spoil it for you, you’ll have to wait and see).
The thought crossed my mind, “Wow, that’ll be fun, I’ll preach what’s on my heart and what I feel God really wants me to say, and I’ll put it all out there.”
But that’s not really a way to preach on a last Sunday. That’s how you preach every time.
So here we go:
Today’s Gospel story is all about speaking the word.
Because that’s what this centurion, a Roman officer, asks Jesus to do so his servant can be healed. He says speak the word and heal my servant.
Like Ezekiel speaks and dry bones get up and walk like we read in the Old Testament.
Jesus here speaks and heals a man, and he’s not even near him.
Speaking changes things. Speaking changes people.
Speak the word.
Like the apostles dared to speak as they felt a spark of fire on top of their heads after Jesus ascended into heaven.
Speak the word – not knowing what exactly you’ll say, but trusting beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will speak through you – Christ will bring new life through you – and the Holy Spirit will unite people through you, speak the word.
And yes, I am playing with words here. We use words to write and speak, and Jesus is also the word in the beginning with God (John 1). Jesus found a home here in our skin to know our ups and downs, our emotions and experiences all the way to death on a cross; so that he might give us abundant life…so that we might rise in a resurrection and new life with him. We have the privilege of speaking words and the word.
Now, you might be thinking, that since I’m a pastoral intern and Kathy and Peter are your pastors, that we speak the word, that’s our job, but I have bad news for you: you are called to as well. In Acts 2 it says, “for the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”– a promise that holds you and calls you to speak.
“Speak the word and let my servant be healed”—for Jesus speaks through you for the sake of someone’s life.
This looks like Moses when God spoke to him and called him through the burning bush.
This looks like the women at the tomb who first witnessed the resurrection.
This looks like the Samariatan woman at the at the well in the gospel of John, who for all intensive purposes should not have been talking to Jesus, a single man, in broad day light, but nonetheless went back to her town praising God and calling her people to join in this movement of Jesus.
This year Pastor Peter and I taught “A Year of Living Luke” and together we dove into the book of Luke and had some fun and good questions along the way. During the Spring at the end of every class I asked two questions: now that we’ve read this Bible story, what have we learned about who Jesus is, and who we are? Who is Jesus? Who are we?
I took notes, and over the weeks this is who we discovered Jesus is to us:
Caretaker, healer, truth-teller, and yes, at times you can see “frustrated” on the right side.
This is who we are:
Seeker, blessed, learners, afraid, filled, wanting, self-centered.
Today we hear this Roman officer strongly encouraging Jesus – speak the word, and let my servant be healed. Let one of my people be healed.
Jesus, let us be healed.
Because at the root of this, and I think you know this, Jesus speaks through you. The Spirit of Jesus continues to soar in our lives, calling us to moments where we can lend a hand, help a stranger, and serve those who are struggling. I think you know this, but Jesus continues to redeem this world, to heal this world, and to bring love to this world, still today, through you. Jesus speaks through you.
You might be wondering though, like I do: What if we don’t speak the word? Sometimes I think speaking the word or a word of love, peace, or hope can be left to the experts; I’d rather not get into that business. Maybe you’re thinking that too.
So what if we don’t speak?
I’m willing to bet that God will find a way to bring about hope and love in this world. It’s not up to us to save the world or heal the world. We just trust God is working through us in some capacity – but what if we don’t. What if we don’t speak the word?
My question back to you: Why does that matter?
Are you asking because you don’t have enough time—time that God gave you?
You don’t have enough money/resources—money/resources that God gave you?
You don’t have enough brain-space—a beautiful intelligent brain that God gave you?
I don’t mean to guilt-trip anyone here. But we’re sounding an awful lot like Moses.
Because Moses was also:
Confused. Grateful. Wanting. Filled. Blessed. Afraid.
Wherever Moses was, and wherever you are, the words you speak–of love, forgiveness or healing–matter. Speak the word.
I wonder, do you know why we say the words of institution every week, the words before communion, “In the night in which he was betrayed…this cup…shed for all people… do this in remembrance of me?”
Because you heard these words last week. You heard those words 5 weeks ago. Maybe you heard those words last week on this same fourth weekend in May. Maybe your parents heard those words the weekend they knew they were driving the family to their new home, or the weekend after one of their parents’ passed away. Your pastors heard those words when they were kids. The people who built this sanctuary, this church, heard those words. The people gathered to ordain the first woman in our Lutheran church in 1971 heard those words. This church’s grandparents and great-grandparents. A skeptical yet faithful Catholic priest in 1517 said these words. At the risk of death by their colonizers, the first followers of Jesus said these words behind closed doors. Jesus said these words to help his closest friends know that they are and will not be alone, because his story of abundant love and everlasting salvation holds them.
Because words make dry bones walk.
They help us understand that my story is your story, and your story is our story.
And like the women at the tomb, they remind us with new eyes and new ears that Christ has risen from the dead.
That is not something that you keep in! Speak the word!
I’ll end with two stories.
In New Jersey, a Jewish rabbi heard a window crack and fire filled his room. Someone threw something like a firebomb into their home, which is the second floor of their synagogue. He was targeted in a hate crime because he was Jewish. Days later he was talking with other religious leaders in the area, and the mail started pouring in. Letters of love and support came to their synagogue from all over the country, from leaders of Jewish, Christian, and Lutheran faith communities, colleges and organizations. Those written words were spoken so that this faith community heard loud and clear: fear and death do not have the final word.
At the Spring commencement this year for the Harvard Graduate School of Education, graduate Donovan Livingston shared the wisdom and observation of his 7th grade teacher: “let’s put all your energy to good use.”
In Donovan’s speech and spoken word poem, he then shares what she once spoke to him: “Let me introduce you to the sound of your own voice.”
Let me introduce you to the sound of your own voice–a voice that, in all your imperfections and “not good enoughs,” can speak a word of love and new life.
Speak the word.
A new word is here. What is it saying to you?