I am fascinated by the sections of Scripture where Jesus interacts with non-Jews. In the lectionary reading this week one of the really great passages comes up. Jesus has just wrapped up one of his marathon preaching sessions outdoors in Galilee with a big crowd. He is headed home, probably get some food and rest. As he is headed back into town, he gets stopped. A Roman military officer’s servant is ill. But the sick servant doesn’t come to ask for help. The Roman military officer doesn’t come to ask for help. A group of Jewish leaders comes to ask Jesus for help for the officer’s servant. The Jewish leaders in Capernaum are already sideways with Jesus. They haven’t been happy with him for several chapters now in Luke. What could convince them to swallow their pride and go ask Jesus for help on someone else’s behalf? Jesus’ own experience with these folks has been less than stellar, and now they stop him when he is hungry and tired to plead for help for a true outsider, an imperialistic Roman. They explain it to Jesus in two parts. “He loves our people and he built our synagogue.” Later on, yet another group of friends of the officer show up carrying a message and request for Jesus to help. The Roman officer is a popular guy. He could have sent soldiers or servants to speak with Jesus, but he has a community that is watching out for him. Ultimately Jesus is impressed with the officer’s faith and heals the servant. We all need to have places in our lives where we care for others and places where others care for us. Even the most powerful (in the eyes of the world at the time) man in town understood this lesson. I encourage you to find those places in your life. Care for others and allow them to care for you.
We also do this on an organizational level, partly to model this practice for individuals, but mainly because we know that like the Roman officer we need to care for and be cared for. This week we are participating in the Kansas East Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Once a year all of the United Methodist Churches in eastern Kansas send delegates and pastors to gather at this event. We share the in the work of the Church together, making disciples. Berryton UMC is cared for by the other churches in our connection and we care for the other churches in the connection. I invite you to be in prayer this week as we share in this important work.