Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara Woods-Washington 2014

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“As he entered Caper’na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man 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 he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

“Not even in Israel have I seen such faith!” There was something about this centurion— his attitude? His disposition? His spirit, maybe? His outlook?

His humility? His heart, maybe? (I have been told on numerous occasions across the years after proclaiming The Word that I had touched their heart! It is so easy for me to tell when ‘your heart ain’t in it!’ I know that it is true— what comes from the heart, reaches the heart!.) Perhaps Jesus saw this centurion’s heart? But, something about this centurion places him first in the New Testament’s model for faith.

“Not even in Israel…”. Jesus boldly compares this centurion’s faith to the lineage of such a great nation, and so that no mistake is made here, the founding fathers, the patriarchs are named! What is this faith that Jesus saw in just this small encounter with this centurion that he had not seen “even in Israel”?

Key, for me, in this faith event is the fact that so many of the persons of the centurion station’s thoughts, words and deeds towards the personhood of Jesus was to destroy him. Jesus had no money. He had no property. He had no concern for or pursuit of food, shelter or clothing! He had no participation in the national life. He built no house(s) of worship! His ‘homelessness’ was by design! All Jesus had was ‘His Word’ which as he spoke it to persons of sufferance, they began to follow him around. And yet, he never used the means of those who followed him to alter his ‘homeless existence’; which, I think, is a very vital part of the power of ‘His Word’! He never took anything from his followers! To be sure, he charged his disciples to “take nothing…”

Rev. Dr. William Barber, II caught my attention in 2012 when, as President of North Carolina’s NAACP he started “The Moral Monday Movement”. Every Monday, sitting in at The State Legislature in Raleigh. I have been following him ever since as “Moral Mondays” grew into “Repairers of the Breach“. And now into “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival”.

In his own words: “Drawing on the unfinished work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “1967/68 Poor People’s Campaign”, which called for a “moral revolution of values,” Repairers of the Breach is working in partnership with the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, the Popular Education Project, and over 40 local and national partners, to lead the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival.” I watched the entire Service Monday night from Birmingham, streaming LIVE on FaceBook. The closing refrain of his Message to Alabama the night before this historic Election was simple: “Break-through!”

Jesus had already begun to identify in his ‘Word’ to the disciples that those of the extreme opposite (the centurion kind) would— (and to be sure did) come to take his life. Enter a centurion who came taking thought for the wellness of his slave. (Suspect in my small modern mind of course, as a descendent of slaves— he needed him well to continue the servitude.) But Jesus saw something else! “Not even in Israel have I seen such faith!”

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