The Third Sunday a. the Epiphany of our Lord (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
January 26, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 8:1-14

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The common theme, if you will, between today’s readings is humility. Those who seek the favor of the Lord put themselves under the reign of the Lord. In other words, they submit to His rule and authority. This is what it means to be humble.

This is at the same time the greatness of faith, as the Centurion shows, and the greatness of pride and self-worship, as Naaman showed.

Naaman was too proud to do as the man of God had directed. By bathing in the Jordan Naaman was doing several things that would have humbled him. He would have to wade in a river belonging to the Hebrews and not to his own people, the Syrians. He would have had to strip from himself all his military regalia of status and power. And most of all, he would have had to obey a Hebrew, Elisha, the man of God.

Naaman is the embodiment of the old Adam who wants God to meet him on his terms. We want God to heal our diseases, to heal and do away with out troubles, but we want Him to do so on our terms. Because our terms won’t involve being humiliated. And that’s what being “humble” really means. It means to be humiliated. We see this word as a negative thing, an ugly thing. No one wants to be humiliated. But in the kingdom of heaven, it is a word of faith.

For the Son of God humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death. He was humiliated before God and man in order that He might obey the will of God, His heavenly Father. The Lord Jesus trusted His heavenly Father. He had faith. And His faith, like our faith, caused His humiliation. He did not repay evil with evil. He was not haughty, but associated with the lowly, with sinners. And He did not avenge Himself. He left His vindication to His heavenly Father. He waited for God to have revenge on His enemies. He still waits. So do we.

We, like Jesus, trust in our heavenly Father. No perfectly, not at all. We hem and haw over our Father’s will. We rebel and writhe around trying to get out from under it. We happily and often eagerly repay evil with evil; slandering not just our enemies but even one another because of slight offenses. We hardly think twice at avenging ourselves when we think we’ve been wronged or sinned against; especially if we have had to suffer some measure of eating crow. But because we are His, because He has written His name on our foreheads and on our hearts and has claimed us as His own children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Son of God, He gives us His Spirit. And by His Spirit we believe the promises of our heavenly Father.

And in so believing, in having the Holy Spirit, we are humbled and submit ourselves to the reign of God.

So the Lord says that Baptism is how we cleansed from sin and death and made co-heirs with Christ, so we are baptized and honor Baptism as God’s work of salvation and mercy among us. The Lord says to eat and drink His body and blood in the form of bread and wine, and we eat and drink, trusting in His word that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has life in them. He says to teach our children so we teach them the ways of the Lord, bringing them to our Father’s house – to Sunday school, to midweek, and around our kitchen tables – teaching them to eat from His table and listen to His word and rejoice in His provisions for this life and the life to come.

That is the faith of the Centurion, the faith praised by Jesus. It is not simply faith that Jesus can heal with a word, though of course He can. It is faith that your heavenly Father has in mind for you all that is good and right and holy; all that is pure. For now, like the Centurion, we are humble, we are humiliated by our lack of control over this sinful life and the terrors that attack us and leave us gasping for air, even as our Lord gasped for air on the cross and terror surrounded Him on every side. Like the Centurion, we know that a simple word from the Lord fells our enemies and that our heavenly Father has sent His only begotten Son to save us not only from cancers, leprosy, addictions, diseases, and mental disorders, but He has come to rescue us from hell itself. To raise us from the grave and breath eternal life into our lungs. He comes to seat us at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that we would feast in His Father’s kingdom and rejoice in His salvation. He comes to make all things new.

+ In Nomine Iesu +