May 26 Sermon "Feeling Unworthy"

Bible readings accompanying it are... 1st Kings 8:41-43,...Galatians 1:1-12,....Luke 7: 1-10

In the Gospel reading from Luke, today, we hear an interesting story.
It’s about a Roman high commander of armed forces in occupied Jewish land.

He has a very sick servant whom he really values (probably a common law wife).
And so he tells his Jewish friends that he wants Jesus to come and heal them.

As Jesus is on the way there, the Roman Commander sends word to not bother.
He has concluded that he’s not worthy for the holy man to be under his roof.
Even though he has been supportive of the Jewish faith and his Jewish friends,…
and even though he wants the gifts of God,…he doesn’t feel he deserves it.

When he says he is not worthy, he is thinking of the fact that he is an outsider.
Being a pagan, Gentile, he knows that any interaction with him will defile Jews.
Then he says, though he’s a man of much authority, he’ll defer to Jesus’ authority
Jesus marvels at this man’s faith, saying its greater than any he’s seen in Israel.

After this,… the Commander’s servant is miraculously healed by Jesus.
So then gifts of God in Christ, are received, through faith, by an outsider.
They are received because the man wanted and trusted in God’s power and,…
because he believed that Jesus cared enough about him to come to him.

You know, there are so many people who feel unworthy in the world.
Unworthy in relation to others and unworthy in relation to God.
People can feel unworthy in church for various reasons.
Because they have been divorced or due to certain sins they’ve committed.
Because they have not been church goers and don’t know the teachings.
Because they are not nor have been raised in a certain denomination.

And in regular life we can feel unworthy lots of times for similar things.
Have you ever felt like the Roman Commander, that is, like an outsider?
It may be because of our looks, or our background or education or lack of that.
It may be because of how we view ourselves to be of less value than others.
You may even have been like the Commander and in a very responsible position,
but socially,…at work,…or even in church,…you feel like an unworthy outsider?

How do churches today deal with people feeling like unworthy outsiders?
In our readings today we have three models of what church can be like.
They can be described as,…’bad’……’good’…and ‘best’.

The first is in the book of Galatians where the apostle Paul writes to the church.
He finds that there they have been preached to with a false gospel.
That is,…the wrong idea of what God in Jesus Christ is all about.

The second model comes from the book of 1st Kings.
There we heard King Solomon invoking a prayer that says how great God is.
Then, he prays that even the foreigner who comes to find God at the Temple,…will be welcomed and have their prayers answered by God.

But the third model for the church is given in Luke’s Gospel.
In that story there is actually no mention of a church at all.
What we hear about is Jesus doing a typical days work in his ministry.

In that story Jesus takes the grace of God to others, as he did that all the time.
Jesus went to others to preach and heal and help wherever they were.
He did not just sit back and wait and hope that they would come to him.
Instead,… he went to outsiders, especially those who felt they were not worthy.

We don’t know what false gospel the church in Galatia was receiving.
Unfortunately, many times its the church itself that makes people feel unworthy.
When a church makes people feel unworthy, its a Christian Church in name only.

And while Solomon’s words sound like a good model for churches to follow;…
that is, to welcome outsiders who venture in to received the love and gifts of God.
A church that welcomes the outsider, including those who feel unworthy, is good. But that model is a passive one that mostly hopes the outsider will come to God.

Yet a church who reaches out to outsiders and those who feel unworthy,…THAT,
then, truly is Jesus Christ visible in the world and THAT is church at its best.
The best model for what a church could/should be,….is Jesus himself!

Imagine that you are the unworthy non-church going person.
Wouldn’t it be nice if a church reached out to you personally and offered grace?
That wouldn’t be a passive practice of Christianity, but active use of the Gospel.

The truth is, but for Jesus Christ, we are all unworthy to receive what God gives.
We are all outsiders except that the grace of God has made us welcome.
Yet, the whole story of Jesus Christ is the story about God coming to us.
He came down to be with us where we are, no matter how unworthy we were.
And he still does come to us in hardship and heartache, distress and death.
He comes to bring us forgiveness and reconciliation and resurrection.
In all of our unworthiness,….God in Christ, comes to us.