The following is a reflection on Luke 7:1-10 and Galatians 1:1-12, the gospel and epistle lessons properly appointed for Proper 4C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
The epistle and gospel lessons this week deal with two very different and very similar forms of faith, and approaches to worthiness.
Jesus is visited by the friends and neighbors of a faithful centurion, who wanted his slave—whom he cared deeply for—healed. When Jesus starts heading in his direction to provide the healing, the centurion sends another party to tell Jesus to turn back around.
Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.
“I am not worthy.”
Ok, maybe there’s some hardcore humility going on here here, but…he is worthy. Obviously, because Jesus offers his healing. He asks for the healing and Jesus provides.
Jesus doesn’t look at him and see an unworthy piece of scum. He sees someone he loves, is willing to die for, and who is very willing to listen to.
We also have the opening verses of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. In this letter Paul dismisses with all the platitudes and niceties of his letters to other congregations and he gets right to the point.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.
The Galatians have heard from other preachers who have come through their area, and who were convincing the Galatians that if they were circumcised they could gain God’s favor. Salvation. Worth.
And, apparently, some had started up the practice—a practice that, quite obviously, caused adult men much pain. How much more would God admire them for their sacrifice?— they thought.
Here’s the thing: these Galatians think that they were unworthy too. But, they also think that they can somehow make themselves worthy.
A little surgery. A few weeks of pain. Then they’d be worthy. Then, who could question them standing before God?
But, God’s favor and love is not up for sale. Our worthiness cannot be bought, and our unworthiness cannot be shed by our own efforts, no matter how costly and painful.
The thing is…I get it. I’m profoundly aware of my unworthiness, my shortcomings, and my failures. If I let the demons loose, I can get overcome with my own disappointments with myself.
And…I can also fall into the trap of trying to somehow overcome it all. Pray more. Longer. In Latin. A few more hospital visits. A few more early mornings. A few more late nights. As if doing any of that will take away my own brokenness.
As if I can crawl out of the hole that is my own unworthiness by myself.
I can’t. And neither can you.
But, we don’t need to, because in God’s eyes we are precious.
It is God who makes us worthy. Our worth comes from being God’s own children. And God shows us how much we are worth by giving us the gift of His own son. And Jesus shows us how much we are worth by dying for us.