I’m getting emails most days from Pastors regarding their plans for returning back to normal. Yesterday one Pastor wrote that he couldn’t wait! He said that he was excited because there are a significant amount of people coming back to in-person services who had never been to the church building before! They entered lockdown as a small church and are returning back to their building as a larger community of people. How good is that?!!
My prayer is that churches returning remain in alignment with what God is doing. We have learnt over the last year that God does work outside of what we view as normal. When we don’t limit our circumstances and when we are flexible to embrace the new then anything can happen. As we see in these 2 verses.
“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” (Matthew 8 v 5-6)
“Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” (NKJV)
The centurion was a Roman army officer who was in charge of 100 soldiers. A Gentile, outside of the community of the chosen people and he is before Jesus.
Since his sermon Jesus has met the man on the edge of society, the leper. Now he has this important man but an outcast nevertheless because of the Roman oppression in front of him. (Luke’s version describes him as having Jewish sympathisers but I’ll say more of the differences tomorrow.)
It is interesting that all the centurions mentioned in the New Testament are seen in a positive way. A quick look shows us:
The centurion at the cross; Cornelius; the centurion appealing for Paul’s citizenship; 2 centurions protecting Paul’s journey to Caesarea; a centurion guarding Paul; Julius who spares Paul’s life in the sea journey and here the centurion in our story.
There are opportunities for the gospel when we allow ourselves to engage with people outside of what is the norm for us; outside of our culture perhaps; usually these are places of fear because of our lack of understanding or because of their aggressiveness.
Let me caveat what I am thinking by saying this: Jesus didn’t start a ministry to reaching all the centurions. I am not advocating that we narrow our focus to people outside of our norm so we ‘specialise’. I am saying miracles happen when we align ourselves to opportunities that come our way which can include people we would not normally connect with.
This centurion was different to what was expected.
It was known that under the Roman law a master who saw his slave as useless for whatever reason had the right to kill him.
But not this man. We see him pleading on behalf of his servant. We don’t know what the problem really is but it is a terrible, tormenting paralysis. All we see is his heart of compassion for his servant. We see his grief, the trauma of watching someone else suffer.
Every month, I bring a professional Counsellor and Psychiatric Therapist into my regions to hold a workshop seminar with the ministers. This week my friend will speak on vicarious trauma. I had never heard of the term though I have experienced it often. It is the impact that people such as ministers can experience when they have become witnesses to hearing so many traumatic stories of pain, suffering and grief. I believe I have suffered from vicarious trauma on a few occasions as I have sat with rescued child soldiers, the restored trafficked girl, the cries of ISIS victims etc.
Here is a very important man, full of authority suffering because he is watching someone suffer. There is always something you cannot fix. Everyone needs a Saviour at some point in life.
Outside of what we view as our normal life there are people who will approach us.
- They will be people we may not normally associate with, the centurion.
- They will be respectful, notice the centurion uses the title, ‘Lord’.
- They will reveal their humanity is kinder than perhaps we would expect revealing how they have needs not for themselves but for others.
- They will reveal their own groaning for a fallen world that comes under the terror of disease and pain.
- They will reveal that no matter how important they are everyone needs a Saviour.
If we can be ready for such opportunities then we perhaps will discover miracles happen within alignment to where God is.