See Sermon Transcript

Full Sermon Transcript

Pastor Chris Paavola:
Well, good morning everybody. Morning, you’re busy. I get it. You’re grabbing plates and stuff. Good morning. Much better, much, much, much better. Good to see you guys. Beautiful day out there. Hopefully you’re going to take advantage of that a little bit later on. Glad that you guys are here with us and worship today. It’s good to see some snowbirds coming back too. Just exciting to see. I mean, man, it’s just good. It’s a good day to be in God’s house. We are in a series called Prosper the City right now, but really it’s not even a series. It’s kind of a campaign that we’re in where we are going about and taking three weeks to plan a service project on the fourth, fourth week. Good job, both of you. That makes an immediate impact in our community, right? So three weeks to plan a service project in the fourth week, it makes an impact in our community.

And you guys, I’m just kind of hearing whispers about what your group might be doing and I’m pretty excited. We actually have 16 different pros for the city teams. Isn’t that awesome? Yeah. 16 different teams figuring out what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it and how they’re going to, I mean, just I love giving people the challenge, giving ’em the question, all right, what are you going to do? 16 of you guys go and all of ’em are going to be different. And I just think that’s a testament to God and his provision and everything like that. But each week in the series we’re also kind of just taking a few moments to look at God’s word and letting it speak to us about the project and whatever it might be. And we’re drawing principles from scripture to help us to speak to different projects.
But then these are principles also that we can apply to our daily lives, not just our prosper, the city project. So like last week we talked about how there is power in small things done with great love, whether it’s vacuuming or doing the dishes at your house or cutting the crust off of your kid’s sandwich or whatever it might be. There is power in small things done with great love. And so for our prosper, the city projects, don’t think that your project is going to be too small or don’t think that you got to do something grandiose to make a difference and prosper the city. There’s power and small things done with great love and that applies to as well our daily lives. And then this week we’re going to find another principle from principle from pull. I don’t know why that’s difficult for me to say this morning.

Another concept from scripture that we’re going to pull out and look, and it’s from this account that you actually heard, but to see this concept, we have to get a little bit more of the context of what is going on. And again, this will be something that you can apply to your daily lives and also to your prosper. The city project. And really it all starts with this idea of the centurion. The centurion soldier. And this is not like a normal Roman soldier. The centurion is like an alpha among the soldiers. He’s a dude. You can’t just become a centurion. To be a centurion, you have to be at least 30 years old, which in those days was a long time like you were a veteran, right? You had to have been a battle tested, battle hardened soldier, and just you had the respect of your peers and you worked your way up only through experience.

And we have a couple Roman documents actually that give us some insight into just how hardcore these Roman soldiers and centurions were. One of ’em is from this guy named Suetonius, after what’s called the Battle of Achim. We have this account, we’re talking about one Roman soldier, one centurion in particular, and he says this one, Centurion had one eye gone from battle, his thigh and shoulder wounded and his shield board through with arrows, yet he continued to guard the gate of the fortress, put in his charge. These dude are bad. And then another guy named ve, he writes actually one of the most important Roman documents that’s been discovered because it really helps us understand the military. It’s called concerning the military. He writes that the centurion is chosen for his size, strength, and dexterity and throwing missiles. And for his skill and the use of sword and shield and his expertise in all exercises, he’s to be vigilant, temperate, active and ready to execute the orders he receives strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers and obliging them to appear clean and well-dressed and to have their weapons constantly sharpened and bright.

These are dudes, man. These are men among men like John Wayne or John Wick, whichever reference works for you. That’s who these guys are. Alex Holloway, if you watched it last night, anyone? No one, okay, if you know anyway, so these are the Roman centurions. And by the way, the reason they’re called a centurion is that’s their responsibility. The word centurion is the same word, is century. So how many soldiers do you think he was in charge of? A hundred soldiers? There you go. So he is in charge of a hundred soldiers. And this guy in this account, we know that he’s risen up through the ranks enough that he becomes a centurion. And then he’s assigned to a region where he will enforce the rule of Rome and the order and law and be the occupying army in the occupied territory. So he is sent to Capernaum.

And this is not like being on the banks of the river Nile. This is not being on the shores of the Mediterranean. Somewhere in some ush assignment he’s sent to Capernaum, far, far away. We have a map actually, just to kind of give you an idea of the Roman. There you go. Thank you. He’s sent to Capernaum, dusty, arid, forgotten, backwoods village in hostile territory, Israel and Rome, the leaders had a pretty, they came to terms with one another and Herod was allowed to be a puppet king as long as they paid heavy taxes to Rome. That was their agreement. But the people of Israel did not comply very well. They were rebellious group coup coups were stages. Revolts and zealots were active. And so the Roman legions and the centurions and the army had to constantly quell and crush rebellions and insurrections violently. I mean a lot of people were killed to keep order in Israel.

And so there you go. And by the way, Jews themselves just didn’t like Gentiles being in their presence. A Jew wouldn’t allow a gentile into their home or vice versa. They would become ceremonial unclean, a point that becomes important. Later on in our story, Jews referred to Gentiles and Romans as dogs in their presence. That’s the mindset. So there you go. Now you have this context of Jewish and Roman relationship on a personal level, and then Roman and Israeli relationship on kind of a national level and then just the context of who the centurion is. All of this matters because all of a sudden brings out things that are in this text kind of lying fallow until we understand these things and we see it right away because this centurion, we know who he is. Battle hardened just earned his stripes through warfare and bloodshed.

And then Luke tells us what happens in Luke seven, starting in verse three, the centurion heard Jesus was near and sensed some elders of the Jews to him, and he asked him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him. This man deserves to have you do this. They’re pleading. They’re not just giving lip service. They’re like pleading with Jesus, please this man, this centurion deserves to have you do this because he loves our nation and he built our own synagogue. And I love this picture because this centurion who is assigned to Capernaum instead of subduing people, he subverts their expectations and he cares for them. And he demonstrates cultural sensitivity as we’ll see later on. And he shows compassion to them and he serves them and uses his own resources and his own influence to build a synagogue in their city.

In other words, he gets into Capernaum and decides that he is going to prosper the city. Fascinating. This is not unlike the people of Israel being carried off into exile, into Babylon, and they’re living as strangers in a strange land and they want to be a thorn in their side and they want to get back and fight at the Babylonians. And God goes, no, no, no, no, no, no. I want you to prosper the city and hear this Roman centurion though he has every right to do so, fight back, be a thorn in their side, oppress rule dominates he loves. And Jewish elders and friends and his servants plead their case for this guy. This is fascinating. And we start to see just this concept of prosper, the city that you can apply to your projects, but also that you can live out in your daily lives. Serve where you are while you wait for where you want and let that sit there because that’s big. You right now serve where you are while you wait for where you want.

I do this and I’m sure there’s people in the room who do this, but sometimes I look forward, I’m so much of a planner, I take the hill personality. I’m always looking ahead that I don’t appreciate the now, the present. And I start to treat the present with resentment like we will dream about the next chapter that we’ll miss the current chapter. We’ll be so worried and thinking about where is God sending us that we forget where God has sent us and we think where we want to be and we miss where we are and we aren’t presence with the people around us. This is parents wishing away if my kids were just self-sufficient and I just didn’t have to change their diapers. And if they could only then we would. Or if I finally got that promotion, we made a little bit more money, then we would finally do this thing. Or if I can only retire, if I just finally could retire, then I can do be free of this and finally do the thing. And we’re always looking ahead and wishing and pining and longing for the future that we don’t appreciate and live fullness in the moments. And when we look at the Romans centurion, sure he doesn’t want to be in Capernaum.

But he realizes you can serve where you are while you wait for where you want. And I know some of you guys are wishing things were different with your health, with your marriages, with your relationships, with your job. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t wish everything was different and somehow miss the presence. And you may not be able to do much, but you can at least serve where you are and you won’t regrets any of it. You will not regret any kind of the service that you do while you’re waiting for the future. So do the dishes, even if it’s not your job, take out the trash, even if it’s not your job. Organize the workroom at work right at the office, even if it’s not your job, do it. You won’t regret it. You can serve where you are while you wait for where you want. And then there’s good news in the very next verse for those of us who are in our own Capernaum, because it says in verse six, five words, I love him. So Jesus went with them. He was compelled. And there is people in this room and this is not a message for everybody, but somebody needs to hear this and this is why you’re here today or this is why you’re watching. I believe it. This is God’s word for you.

You are in your own Capernaum right now. It’s not where you want to be. You think you deserve better. You probably do. You feel forgotten and you feel unseen. But I’m here to tell you that the God of the universe sees you. He sees you and you are not forgotten. And who’s to say maybe your greatest moment is just ahead of you?

Maybe God is about to do something in your life as you serve in anonymity and as you sit there struggling with feeling forgotten and overlooked and anonymous, maybe your greatest moment is on its way. But I do know that God sees you because the greatest moment in this centurion’s life, hands down, I know he’s accomplished a lot and he’s won a lot of battles, but the greatest moment in his life is about to happen. So Jesus went with them and in the very next paragraph it says, Jesus was not far from the centurion’s house when he sent friends to say to Jesus, Lord, don’t trouble yourself. I do not deserve, we’re getting a glimpse into this guy’s character and we’re getting to an important concept. So lemme read through this and then I’ll kind of connect some dots here. But he says, I do not deserve to have you come to me.

And in the same way, I am unworthy to come to you. So don’t come to me and I’m not coming to you because I am not worthy, an incredible heart. Where does this come from? And again, I’m going to connect some dots. So this is what he says to him, don’t come to me and I’m not going to come to you, but instead say the word, just the word and my servant will be healed. I’ve heard what you can do and maybe he’s seen what he can do. Just say the word and my servant will be healed for I myself am a man. Notice he didn’t say it of authority. It’s interesting. He says, I’m a man under authority. Like he knows this authority, he has to govern and rule isn’t necessarily because who he is. It’s that he has the title Roman and Caesar over him.

And he looks at Jesus performing his miracles and he’s like, this man’s under some kind of authority, some kind of title that I have never seen before. This man has power because he says a word and he heals people. So just say the word and my servant will be healed. I tell this one, go and this one, and he goes, and that one come and he comes and I say to my servant, do this and he does it. So don’t even come under my roof. Whereas Grant says it rough. No, what’d you say? Rough. Yeah, roof. I thought that was, is that a Michigan thing? I don’t think that is. I think it’s just a grant thing.
I think he said rough anyway, like a dog. Anyway, what was I saying? Don’t come to me and I won’t come to you. I say to this one, go. And he goes, this one come and he comes. I say to my servant, do this and he does it. So he recognizes there’s just this performative power in what Jesus is doing. And then I love this response from Jesus because it says, when Jesus heard this, he was say it amazed. There’s only two times, Jesus is amazed in all of the biographies that the word amazed is used and it’s never with our wisdom. He’s never amazed by our power. He’s never amazed by our righteousness or what we think is our righteousness. He’s only amazed by our faith here, by the presence of faith. And one other time by the lack of faith, coincidentally also in Capernaum. But he’s amazed by this man’s faith and he turns the crowd following him and says, I tell you, you Jewish people following me, I have not found such great faith in all of Israel. Like, hey, you Jewish folks, this Roman guy that you guys called dogs, he has a faith unlike anything I’ve seen in this entire country in all my ministry. It’s a little demeaning, but he’s making a point be like this guy.

But in this whole interaction between the Roman and Jesus, we see why this Roman centurion has this humility, has this posture, has this demeanor to the people around him, why he serves where he is while he waits for where he wants. And it doesn’t come because he has a high regard of himself. People who only have a high regard of himself and high self-esteem. They treat other people like garbage and waiters like garbage. Don’t be that person. You’re only thinking about yourself. And then it’s not just because he has a high regard for the people around him, though that’s good that you should have a high regard for people around you, but there’s something else going on that makes this man stand out so much, so remarkable. It’s that he has a high regard for God.

That’s why it’s called faith. He looks at God and he sees who God is. He could just say a word and create the stars, say a word and call him a storm, say a word, and heal my servant. That’s power and authority that I have never seen in all of my conquests. I’ve never seen anything like this. And he has a high regard for God. And what it immediately does is it humbles him. Who am I in the presence of this? Who am I? And all these people around me, we are just somehow, we are just image bearers of this guy. This is different scripture. The Jewish scriptures would call this a phrase that we don’t like because it’s clunky and wooden and it gives us a weird reaction to who God is. But it’s used everywhere. The fear of the Lord. This guy has the fear of the Lord. He looks at him with awe, reverence, respect the fear. The Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That’s what scripture says. And it makes sense. The fear of the Lord changes the way you treat other people, changes the way you handle your finances, changes the way you spend your time because you have the fear of the Lord. And it’s not like he conjured it up and I’m going to care for people. I’m going to serve them. I’m going to be humble earth, right? It’s not willpower.

He just looked at God and he’s like, whoa. He dared to take the time to look at him and whoa. So the concept for us is so simple, my friends, do you want to be someone who prospers the city like this? Roman centurion. You want to be somebody who prospers your home, your workplace. You want to serve where you are while you wait for where you want. You want to be blessed by what you do. The little things you do in anonymity, fear the Lord, take time to consider him and hold him in high regard.

And that’s going to be what we do actually this message, we’re going to do a couple of things. It’s kind of a soft ending to the message. A couple of things I want to do that are a normal part of our worship flow, but I want to include it as a part of the message. So stay in this mindset. Don’t shift gears and all of a sudden we’re doing something else. Just stay with me, stay present, stay here. But we could. We can get a heart like the Roman centurion, if we pray the words of the Roman centurion, anytime someone’s talking to Jesus. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this. This is just one of those weird things that I think about. But anytime someone’s talking to Jesus, they’re praying, they’re talking to God, right? So any interaction with Jesus, good or bad, trivial or important, they’re praying. And I just think that’s such a cool picture of prayer just to read the scriptures and look at all the times people talk to him. And wow, we could pray to God about anything and we can use any language we want. And the centurion, as he sends his emissaries, as he sends this message to Jesus, he’s praying and his prayer starts out, “I don’t deserve to have you come” and we can pray that. And then he says, “I’m not worthy.” And we can pray that. And he says, “say the word and your servant will be healed” and we can pray that. And when we do, we gain this fear of the Lord, this high regard for God and a heart to serve our community. So don’t go to another part of brain where we’re shifting gears into another part of this sermon or something like that. This is just time with God. I want to move into a time of prayer, borrowing the words from the Roman centurion so that we can have hearts like him. So my friends, let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we do not deserve to have you come to us. You are high and mighty. You are matchless. Your holiness is terrifying, blinding, brilliant. You are all powerful, all wise and everlasting. Just for a moment, just in this time, would you help each one of us see you as you are? And we are unworthy to come to you because we are everything that you are not. We are wicked, sinful, selfish, idolatrous, petty, hateful. We’ve not done the good that you’ve asked us to do, and we’ve failed to do the good that you’ve asked us to do. And we’ve done wickedness.

So by what we’ve done and what we’ve left undone, we are unworthy. And yet God, if you say the word we, your servants will be healed. You’ll cast our sins from us as far as the east, as from the west. And though our sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow. And so Lord, forgive us that we may be healed and have a heart to serve others where we are while we wait for where we want to be faithful with little, that we may be faithful with much. And we thank you, God, that you are the God who sees us, that no one is anonymous to you. We are not unseen, we are not forgotten. Thank you coming to us in Jesus’ name, amen. Upon this, your confession of your sins. I as called and ordained servant of the word, your pastor, I forgive you all of your sins. You are absolved in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Another thing that we can do. And so it’s not like we’re into another part of the service, just stay in this mindset. But another thing we can do to recognize who God is, is to say the words of the creed. Because what a creed does is it describes who he is. And what I’d like to do is to read each petition of the creed or three articles of the creed, and then give ourselves just a brief moment. Just a brief moment to pause. And so the first article is this right here. We’re going to read this and just take a brief moment to pause as we say together, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And just stay there for a moment and consider the weight and gravity of those words, of who God is. Hold him in high regard and let it inform who you are because of who he is. We continue with the second petition. Then I also believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. And the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. Just let the weight of that, the gravity of that come over you consider and ponder these words.

And then we continue with the third petition, and I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. And take a few moments and consider that.