Readings for the day (Lectionary 9 – Sunday, May 29, 2016):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
So how much are you worth? Are you worth a lot, worth a little, worth just the right amount? But how do you determine how much you are worth? Because there are different ways of determining how much you are worth. Some of you might be thinking of how much you are worth to your employer or to what you contribute to society as a whole, such as the crops you grow, the pigs you raise, the money you donate, the time you volunteer in the community. We could label this type of worth as how much of value you are to someone else.
My financial management software tells me of another way in how much I’m worth. The software adds up all of my assets and subtracts my liabilities, the debts that I owe, and it will tell me what my net worth is – financially how much of value I am. We all have a financial net worth. How much is your net worth? Is it a positive one; meaning if you added up the value of everything that you have and minus everything that you owe someone else, do you still come out ahead with a positive balance? Or are you like me and have a negative net worth? By adding in my student loans, my financial software reminds me every month that I have a negative net worth; meaning I owe more than I have. So according to this world’s standards, I’m not worth very much.
Do you feel like you have a negative net worth or maybe that you are not worth much? If so, you’re not alone. There are a lot of people in our world today that feel this way. They feel like they aren’t worth much – that they aren’t worthy. In Luke’s Gospel today we hear of this centurion (who is a Roman officer). One of his slaves has become deathly ill. The centurion considered this slave of high value, the slave was worth a lot to him. So he seeks out the one person that he has heard who has the ability to save his worthy slave. And yet, he sends Jewish elders to go talk to Jesus because he himself doesn’t feel like he is worthy enough to stand in the presence of Jesus.
Are you worthy enough to stand in the presence of Jesus? We may tally up how many times we have come to church (especially on a holiday weekend) and say, “I’m worthy.” Or count up all of the good things that we have done from helping others, to donating our money, to how involved we have been in the church and we say, “Yes, I’m worthy; and especially more worthy than my neighbor.” Mentally this becomes a numbers game. As if to say that the ones who say the most prayers, the ones who help the most people, and the ones who give the most money to the church, are worthier than all the others, at least before the eyes of God.
We like to keep score. We like to know where we are and how we compare to each other. Maybe it is a numbers game and the score is being kept; that our total net worth does matter. If that is the case, then I’m not the only one here that has a negative net worth (and now I’m not talking about my student loans). I’m talking about your sins. The gossiping that you do. The rumors that you start (or spread). The manipulation that you cause. The selfish decisions that you make. The spiritual score that you try to keep amongst each other. God is keeping score, and he is adding up all of your sins. The game’s not over yet, and currently your spiritual net worth is so far in the red that you will never be able to get yourself in the black. It will be impossible.
We don’t know exactly why the centurion felt unworthy of standing in the presence of Jesus, but maybe he felt that since he wasn’t a Jew, part of the house of Israel, that he must have a negative net worth – that he is unworthy of being near Jesus because he was an outsider, a foreigner. Sometimes I think that this centurion is more faithful than I am. He knew who he was and figured that he wasn’t worthy. I know who I am and figure that I must be worthy of something. But the truth is, is that we all are in the red, sitting here with a negative net worth. Because of our sins, we aren’t worthy of anything. And yet, the blood of Christ has turned your red to black, your negative balance to a positive one.
In God’s eyes, you are seen as worthy. Worthy of saving. Worthy of forgiveness. Worthy of love. When the centurion sends some Jewish elders to plead with Jesus to come and heal the centurion’s servant, he does so because he feels unworthy. Unworthy of saving. Unworthy of forgiveness. Unworthy of love. And yet, it is this unworthy, Roman, foreign, outsider that Jesus marvels at, who he is amazed by the faith that this man has. This is the only time in all of the Gospels that Jesus is astonished by something a human being does. All other times that this word appears is in reference to humans being amazed. But here, God is the one who is amazed. Amazed by the faith of this centurion. Amazed that he didn’t believe that he was worthy of anything. And yet through the work that Jesus did on the cross, this centurion’s unworthiness is now worth something. His spiritual net worth was in the red, but through the blood of Christ, the red has turned to black. Our sins have been washed away. Our unworthiness has been forgotten. You are worthy of something. You are worthy of being saved, of being forgiven, of being loved. Certainly not because of anything that you have done, but solely because of what Jesus has done for you.
This world may indeed remind you over and over again that you are worth very little. But no matter how we are keeping score, God is keeping score in another way – by counting your sins. Except the tallies go on Jesus rather than you. You are saved. You are forgiven. You are loved, by God. Amen.
© 2016 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.