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Sunday Service 3rd March

Lent 3: Acts of compassion



Call to worship

Hymn 169(JP): My God is so big 


Time for all


Hymn 351: Jesus hands were kind hands


Reading:    Luke 7: 1-17 Elaine



Hymn 187: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy



Prayer of Dedication


Hymn 724: Christ’s is the world in which we move




Welcome to our meditation for 3rd February.

WE are now in the third week of Lent, the preparation time for Easter.

And this week we are asked to reflect on how our faith is not just a faith of words, but also of actions

We will think about that after our reading and prayer from Elaine.

















Who is worthy of God’s blessings?


This is a strange passage today.

It is strange because Jesus isn’t in conflict with anyone.

Often in the Gospels Jesus does something and there are Pharisees and Sadducees about complaining that Jesus shouldn’t have done this or done that.

But in this passage Jesus doesn’t need to deal with conflict at all.

In fact in the first part of the reading we get the opposite.


In the first half of the reading we have Jesus healing a Roman centurions slave,

and we don’t get anyone complaining that Jesus should have been healing a Jewish person,

or that Jesus shouldn’t have been healing a Gentile,

in fact we get the religious leaders asking Jesus to help the man and his slave.

In the second reading Jesus touches a coffin,

that would instantly make him unclean and people should have been instantly attacking him for deliberately desecrating himself, but it goes by without anyone saying a word.


Part of the reason for this is that Capernaum was like a home base for Jesus; all his disciples were picked from there and he would be a ‘well kent face’ by everyone there.


So two miracles happen.

The first is that Jesus enters Capernaum and is met by Jewish elders who ask Jesus to follow them to heal a slave of a Roman centurion.

Here’s the thing; the centurion doesn’t think he is good enough to get Jesus to help him, if the centurion really thinks that then he will truly believe that a slave isn’t good enough to be healed by Jesus.

So the centurion sends some religious leaders, maybe they are good enough to ask for help and receive help.


And the passage just tells us that Jesus went with them.



Because he wanted to help the Jewish leaders?

Because he wanted to help the centurion?

Because he wanted to help the slave?

Which one did Jesus think was worthy enough that he went with the group?


As it turns out Jesus never meets the centurion or the slave.

But the healing takes place.





And the next miracle is even weirder, because no one asks Jesus for his help.

No one stands up for the widow and asks Jesus if he can intervene,

the widow herself never pleads with Jesus to help; presumably because she thinks no one can help her.

Jesus just happens to come across the scene, and decides to get involved.


Here’s the theology.

If people are healed by Jesus, that means that Jesus thinks they must be worthy of being healed by Jesus.

A slave that he has never met,

a centurion that might not even believe in his faith,

a widow who feels beyond help...they are all people that Jesus feels worthy of helping.


This is where it gets interesting, well to me anyway.

None of these healings are conditional on the faith of the person.

None of these healings are conditional on the status of the person.

None of these healings are conditional on the response to the healing.

These are just actions of care that are given, irrespective of the people receiving the care.

It shows a pattern that we miss, and therefore often fail to follow.


The pattern is action first, care first.


The thing is, that is often the exact opposite of what we do.


I am interested in this because there has been a huge debate going on in the Church of England just now about same sex blessings. It seems that there is a lot of debate about whether it is allowed or not and a lot of confusion as to what is actually going on. People are resigning here, there and everywhere over it.

I am also aware that there has been a huge split in United Methodist Church in America that has caused a lot of pain, and that is over LBGQ+ stuff.


And the problem is a split that many see between the words and the actions of the church.

You see the hierarchies of churches want to make sure that everything is right. And they get themselves into theological knots over it.

And the whole LBGQ+ response is a perfect example of this.

You see it in their words...they will say things like;

‘We love people who are different...’

And then they will add a ‘but’ and the ‘but’ bit is the reason that they don’t do the actions.

We can’t do blessings because it doesn’t fit in with our theology, because it isn’t biblical, because it validates something that we don’t think should be validated.


If this passage is anything to go by, I wonder of Jesus would have agreed?


With Jesus words and actions go together.

Or rather maybe it was the other way round, the actions and words went together, because with Jesus more often than not the actions came first,

Jesus showed love, Jesus showed respect, Jesus showed compassion, and then he gave his words of theology.

So people felt Jesus love before they were told what that meant in their life.


Whereas Church hierarchy often wants to do it the other way round, ‘Let’s see what is right first, and when we have worked that out then we will know what to do and how to act.’

The only trouble with that is that our lack of action is often taken as a lack of love.

Or, even worse, in some cases our lack of action is taken as an act of rejection.


Now I use the LBGQ+ group as an example, but the truth is that there are so many groups out there that we as individuals could help, but often don’t.


I am wondering whether too often we, like our church hierarchies, get things the wrong way round.

That maybe we wonder too much if people are worthy to be helped before we help them.

That we are so scared of doing the wrong thing, that we sit and wait until it is very clear who we should help.


I ask again...did Jesus follow the religious leaders in Capernaum because he wanted to help out the religious leaders, or the centurion or the slave?

If we don’t know then maybe we can take from that that Jesus didn’t think it was important who felt he was helping, it was more important that he helped.

The actions came first, then the theology.


It was good to see the faith of the centurion.

But it was not the centurion that he cured.

Maybe Jesus just acted.

And he hoped his actions might inspire theological thought.


So Jesus helped the slave, and maybe, as a side effect, there would be now religious elders who would think about how they could have helped,

there would be a slave who was thinking of his place in the world and his worthiness before God?


So Jesus just helped a dead man, and now there was a whole crowd of villagers asking the questions of how special that man was that he was raised from the dead.

And if God felt he was special then maybe they should treat him special.

Or a widow was more thankful for a gift she never saw coming.

Or a man who was given a second chance was wondering what he could do with that second chance.


The thing is, the words didn’t come first; the actions of love came first.


I recently came across something that I found very disturbing.

It was a conversation about computer products like Facebook and Intsagram and stuff like that, and how we get them all for free.

And this expert was saying something like, ‘There is nothing for free. If we think that the product seems to be free, then we are the product.’


It’s all in the terms and conditions that we sign to get the product. We basically sell our rights and selves to the company in exchange for getting the product. So they can then sell our information on to others, they can sell our likes and dislikes, they can sell our information on to others.

And if we don’t agree to the terms and conditions then we don’t get the product.


And I found that disturbing because we have gotten used to that way of thinking in our ordinary life.

We have terms and conditions that we put out there at a subconscious level and if those terms and conditions aren’t agree to them we will withdraw our product, us.


‘If you don’t agree with me on this, then I will refuse to do that...’

That is the way of the world.

And sometimes, subconsciously, that is our way as well.

There are people we feel we should help, and people that we feel uncomfortable helping, because they don’t fit our terms and conditions.


Why are we helping people with a food larder when they may be using the money to buy drugs? Isn’t that a waste of the limited resources we have?

Should we have drug tests before they get any food to see if they are worthy of our help?

The trouble is how far should we go in this?

What if they are alcoholics, should we be helping them then?

Or what if they have a gambling problem?

What if they are an unmarried couple, should we help them?

What if they are Mormons, or Zoroastrians, should we help them?


And maybe the problem is that deep down, we are not Christ-like.

And it is because we aren’t confident enough in our faith to be Christ-like.


I honestly believe that we give from what we have.

Jesus could be so generous with what he had because he believed that everything he had was given by his Father, and what his Father had was abundance.





Maybe we struggle to be generous with our love and our love shown in actions because we are not that sure of God’s love for us.

So the problem isn’t that we don’t think others are worthy of our help, our problem is that we are not sure if we are worthy of God’s help.


Maybe our generosity of action is a true sign of our spiritual maturity.

For those that feel God is generous to them will find it easy to be generous to others.

You see people like that; they are generous people who have generous hearts.

Even if they don’t have money they are generous with their time and their patience and their skills.

They don’t wait to be asked, they can feel the needs of others and they offer their help.


They act first; they let the theology deals with itself...

if people feel closer to God because of what they have done, great,

if people don’t click that it is a God inspired thing that has happened to them, well that’s fine too.


So what do we do if we don’t feel generous?

Well that’s a gift too, because it is a barometer on our faith.

No one is always going to get it right all the time. And sometimes we need signs to warn us that we need to look after our spirituality.


So are we tired, are we overworking, are we sleeping right?

For there is nothing that affects our spirituality more than tiredness.

Maybe all we need to do is rest and remind ourselves that God loves us for who we are, not what we do.

Once we have returned to the grounding that we are truly loved by God, then we will find it easier to love others.


Or maybe it is the opposite, are we avoiding situations where we can help, are we overprotecting ourselves.

Are we protecting what we have because we have a heart of fear and uncertainty?

If that is the case then there is nothing that is more transformational than putting ourselves in a place where we are dependent on God.

I found that out going to India to help in an orphanage; that changed me more than I changed them.

So putting ourselves in a volunteer position, or just offering to help someone that you know is struggling will not only change their life, it will also change ours.


Jesus just helped.

If we are his followers then we follow his example.

If we are not doing that, then we need to reflect on why.




Let us pray



what a world we dwell in.

A world of disparate parts.

The haves and the have-nots.

The powerful and the powerless.

Those we include and those we exclude.

None of this speaks of your Kingdom where all are loved, valued and treasured.


Dare we imagine a better world when the scales of justice are more balanced?

Or better still tilted in favour of those in greatest need?

Dare we speak out more loudly for those who have no voice?

Dare we act without care for the cost of bringing your Kingdom closer in the here and now?

Dare we?


And yet there you are, showing us the example to follow


You hear the words “Do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”

And yet there you go, making him worthy of a healing, a blessing, being a sign that God saw all his household as worthy.


A widow, by contrast, full of grief with no power, no demands. a chance encounter.

Yet without asking, without expecting, you show your love, a sign that they were not forgotten, that they were always under your watchful care.


Father, your Son, treated all involved with both with compassion and love.

He touched their lives, transformed both them, and those who were important to them,

restoring life, and hope and joy.


When we feel lost, forsaken, unworthy.

Remind us that you seek to do to us, what you did to them.

That in our relationship with you, you seek to offer us life, hope, joy.

And in turn, as devoted followers of you, you seek our lives to reflect yours, that in all our actions with others, that we may bring your life, hope and joy to others.





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