Worship Helps for Pentecost 2

Artwork: Healing the Centurion’s Servant
Artist: Paolo Veronese

Worship Theme: Faith trusts in God’s power completely.  No matter how impossible the problem, faith believes that God can and will help.  Faith like that, given by the Holy Spirit, is not reserved exclusively for the direct descendants of Abraham. Rather, the gift of faith comes to every heart in the spiritual House of Israel. 

Old Testament: Joshua 5:13-6:5, 20 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" 14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" 15 The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so. 1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in." … 20 When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

1. Whom did Joshua meet before the massive walls of Jericho? (See 5:13-15 and 6:2.)

2. The Commander of the LORD’s army gave Joshua a plan that might have seemed silly. How did Joshua respond?

3. Did part of Jericho’s wall collapse from an earthquake?

Epistle: James 1:2-12 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

4. Often we wonder why trials come to us. In short, what is God’s purpose for trials?

5. Whether we have lots of money or little, who is truly blessed, according to God? (See 1:12.)

Gospel: Luke 7:1-10 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." 6 So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

6. For what reasons did the elders of the Jews in Capernaum figure that the centurion deserved to have Jesus come and heal his servant? (See 4–5.)

7. How did the centurion feel by contrast? (See 6–7.)

8. How could Jesus be amazed at faith that he himself had created? Even if the centurion’s faith was greater than other faith in Israel, can the One who knows all things really be amazed (verse 9)?

1. Joshua met the Commander of the LORD’s army. He met God the Son, before whom Joshua fell down. (An angel would have forbidden Joshua to do this.)

2. Joshua trusted what the LORD told him. He told all Israel to believe too: March around the walls of Jericho, men!

3. No, no ordinary earthquake hit Jericho. It must have been a miracle. All the walls collapsed. The men all rushed straight in. (Upshot: Trust all God tells you.)

4. God tests our faith in him and his Word to develop perseverance in us. God wants us to become mature in our faith. He uses trials as one of his tools for this.

5. The person is truly blessed who keeps persevering under trial. Once that person has passed God’s test, James says, he or she will receive the crown of life that God has promise to those who love him.

6. The elders of the Jews figured that the centurion deserved to have Jesus come and heal his servant because a) he loved the Jewish nation, and b) he had built the synagogue in their town. (Visitors to Capernaum today can still see the foundation of that synagogue.)

7. The centurion did not feel he deserved to have Jesus come under his roof or was worthy to approach Jesus. “But say the word,” he said, “and my servant will be healed.”

8. Jesus could be amazed at faith he himself had created because a) as true man, purposely limiting his divine knowledge of all things, he could feel true surprise, and b) as true God, he delights in what he creates. He loves to see us sinners come to him in humble faith.

Putting your faith into action
What do you have that has the greatest value? In our society this question often results in choosing from among the many things we own. It’s just the way we are conditioned to think through our sinful nature. Perhaps some people will answer that question with an intangible, such as health, happiness, or contentment. In this lesson, the centurion valued his servant very highly. The centurion did not want to lose the servant. Jesus understood. Jesus also holds individual people as a most valuable commodity. He went to the cross for everyone. If people are of value to us, we will give them priority—especially those who do not know their value in the eyes of Jesus, their Savior. And we will give all our attention, our resources, and our efforts to get that message out to every man, woman, and child.

A reading from the Book of Concord for Pentecost 2
Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on Him, and have Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel…

The Spirit has His own congregation in the world, which is the mother that conceives and bears every Christian through God's Word. Through the Word He reveals and preaches, He illumines and enkindles hearts, so that they understand, accept, cling to, and persevere in the Word.

Where the Spirit does not cause the Word to be preached and roused in the heart so that it is understood, it is lost. This was the case under the papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench. No one recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Spirit as his Sanctifier. That is, no one believed that Christ is our Lord in the sense that He has gained this treasure for us, without our works and merit, and made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? This: the Holy Spirit was not there to reveal it and cause it to be preached. But men and evil spirits were there. They taught us to obtain grace and be saved by our works. There is no Christian Church in that. For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord. – Large Catechism, Article III, The Holy Spirit (paragraphs 38, 42-45)

Hymns for this Sunday: 403; 404; 312; 316; 756

1  Faith is a living pow’r from heav’n
That grasps the promise God has giv’n,
A trust that cannot be o’erthrown,
Fixed heartily on Christ alone.

2  Faith finds in Christ whate’er we need
To save or strengthen us indeed,
Receiving grace from heaven’s throne
And humbly sharing cross and crown.

3  Faith in the Savior brings us peace
And bids the mourner’s weeping cease;
By faith the children’s place we claim
And give all honor to one name.

4  We thank you, then, O God of heav’n,
That you to us this faith have giv’n
Through mighty Word and sacrament
To trust the one whom you have sent.

5  As you have promised, grant each soul
Its holy faith’s true end and goal:
The blessedness no foes destroy,
Eternal love and light and joy.

Text: Petrus Herbert, d. 1571, abr.; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1827–78, alt.


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