We’re going to start with seems like a happy little story about great faith, and we’re going to make it really complicated.
But we’re going to make it complicated because that is what we have to do to be faithful to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s review what happens in our gospel story today. A centurion has a slave that becomes very ill. He sends Jewish elders to Jesus to testify to his good character, that he is in fact a significant financial benefactor of the Jewish community, and ask that Jesus heal his slave.
He says that he is unworthy for Jesus to come under his roof, and that he understands how power works.
Jesus is amazed at his faith and heals the slave.
Hooray, everyone lives happily ever after!
Well, everyone lives happily ever after if we ignore the elephant in the room. The man who was healed is still enslaved!
Luke doesn’t seem to care that slavery is a basic fact of life in his society, in fact, it was so normal that it wouldn’t have occurred to him to care.
But we have to care. We have a moral responsibility to care.
We have to care because it is not normal in our country today, because we have a deep and twisted past in this nation around slavery, and because it is still an all too regular fact of life in other countries around the world.
In fact, I can’t really say that slavery is not normal in America today, because the commercial lanes of human trafficking are alive and humming right here in Indiana.
As strange as it is to have to stand here in a pulpit in 2016 and say slavery is a problem that we need to deal with, it is.
And here we have a Biblical text in which Jesus seems to offer no protest to the institution of slavery.
He heals the enslaved man, but he does not free the enslaved man.
What do we do with that? Continue reading