Can We Serve Two Masters?

Sermon 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Rom 6:18–23, Matt 8:5–13, 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST !!

   Jesus  reminded us last week: No man can serve two masters. This week St. Paul reminds us the same thing thing. We must choose what we will serve. We can be estranged from righteousness and subject to our passions, or we can bring ourselves to God and work with Him to free us from our passions and live a righteous life. And when we say “righteous life” we don’t mean that we don’t do this sin or that sin, Paul means that we are in a covenant relationship with God. 

   As both Jesus and Paul tell us, we must choose our slavery . . . We can be enslaved to sin, passions. . . or we can choose to be a slave to righteousness, doing things God’s way. . . One way leads to death.. .the other to life.  God can free us from our slavery to the passions if we will work with Him in our relationship with Him, and with others. The result, the wages of sin is death. Notice that Life eternal is not a result of working, but is a free gift of God. God wants us to stop working for death. 

   And how can we labour to heal both ourselves and the others we meet? . . . with Love. It is God’s Love that heals us. And we are commanded to give Love of God both directly to Him, and through those we meet who are created in His Image, and love for ourselves who are also created in God’s Image. Most of us love parts of ourselves, and we loathe other parts of ourselves, just as we find certain people easy to love, and others difficult. 

   The Centurion comes to Jesus in humility. His house servant is very sick — too sick for him to bring to Jesus. This Centurion loves his servant, using terms of endearment for him. He also loves the Jewish faith; even though he is a gentile — we read in St. Luke’s account of this that he had contributed to the building of a Synagogue. 

   Jesus does something that He did not do for the others He met who were paralyzed; He volunteers to come to the Centurion’s house (a gentile) to heal his servant. Jews, especially rabbis did not generally go into the dwellings of gentiles. The Centurion, in humility, objects . . .I am not worthy that you should enter the roof of my house. . . say the word and my servant will be healed. 

   This is alluded to in St. John Chrysostom’s pre-communion prayer. “I am not worthy, Master and Lord that Thou shouldst enter under the roof of my soul; yet in-as-much as Thou desirest to live in me as the Lover of mankind, I approach with boldness. Thou hast commanded: Let the doors be opened which Thou alone hast made and Thou shalt enter with Thy love for mankind just as Thou art. . . .  

   The Centurion shows true humility — and in his humility shows faith greater than any in Israel. By his confession he recognizes that Jesus’ authority comes from the Father. It is likely that he did not appreciate the full implications of his request and certainty that Jesus could heal by His Word since He had such authority. And as a man who is both under authority and wields authority, the centurion understands obedience. 

   Humility is key. . . . The way is wide that leads to destruction. Enter the narrow way.

   In our country today we are working hard for death. We have many “other masters” screaming for our attention. We want to be comfortable — we want the latest toys. We want to be secure — we don’t like it when the order gets challenged. And sometimes the Order needs to be challenged, for the Order has a way of participating in the “principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual corruption” that St. Paul warns us against — for even if it is not killing us, it is killing others. On top of this, Abominations are happening daily: Abominations of abortion, abominations of forcibly removing children from their parents, of putting women, men, and children in dangerous conditions, ignoring our stewardship for the Planet God has given us; our cities are being damaged by those who love chaos; racism is actually popular among some, and those who justify racism are screaming their obscenities; desecration of holy places are being done by more than one flavour of extremists. All of these are abominations. One group seeks to justify the one sort of abominations; another group seeks to justify still another sort of  the abominations. All of them are abominations. Our nation is filled with hatred: hatred for the other, whether the other is someone from the other political camp, another race, or our own poor and hungry and homeless, or the stranger who comes to us. We are instructed to love all of these with a love that heals both them and ourselves. 

   Loving requires us to get to know the stranger; loving ourselves requires us to get to know ourselves. Both of these require us to look past our fears. To look past our fear means we must confront them in ourselves. We must move past our fears in order to love. We must move past our egos and conceits in order to love. The Centurion modeled humility, obedience, and love. 

Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas, of blessed memory, summarized it this way:

   The Christ preached by the Apostles was the Christ who gave Himself out of love for mankind. He is the One who receives all who come to Him in faith and humility, those who love Him. He is not moved to respond to our petitions because of some supposed worthiness on our part. Our accomplishments, position, wealth, and fame do not commend us to Him. Neither does our belonging to a particular race or nation, and neither does membership in His Church, if we make no effort to live in accordance with His will, have no faith or humility, think of ourselves as deserving His salvation, or think only of ourselves and never earnestly desire the well-being of others. 

   Christ is not impressed by our egos. He is impressed by humility, and faith, and love. And He bids us to labour to love our world as He loved it.

   Love is not always easy; but St. Paul said: it is a more excellent way. 

   To Him Who loved us, and gave Himself for us and our salvation be all glory honour and worship, together with His Father Who is without beginning, and His All-holy glorious and Life-Creating Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.