LUKE: The Gospel For Rebels & Outsiders: Week 2

A Gospel for Foreigners

Week of February 13, 2022

Story from the Outside:
I am an immigrant from Malaysia, who came to the United States to go to college.  I became a U.S. citizen 30 years ago to work for the federal government.  I have many painful stories of feeling like an outsider, but two that come to mind are specific to the Church.
 
It was an evening lecture by a very famous bishop and theologian, in the award-winning new chapel at my work.  Every seat was taken, and people stood three deep in the back.  Everyone was white except an Asian colleague sitting across the room and me.   The audience was enjoying the bishop’s denunciation of a literal approach to Scripture.  “But my family and church believe in this approach,” I mused uneasily. You see, the Christianity I was raised in was conservative evangelical.  Then the bishop made a joke about evangelicals being ignorant, and people laughed.  It felt like a silent tornado had torn off the roof to the sanctuary, exposing us to the night outside, and I was the only one not laughing.
 
A few years later, on Pentecost Sunday, I went to church for the first time in over a year, curious to see how it would be in the newly renovated building.  Old friends greeted one another in the lobby.  Families and couples drifted into the sanctuary, chatting.  Everyone was white.  There was an air of expectancy as the new pastor introduced himself.  Afterwards, people milled around, some conversing with the pastor, some rounding up their children.  Finding no one to talk to, I left and went home.
 
Even after 30 years in the United States I still feel like a foreigner, even in church.  

-- Sharon

Reflection Questions:
  1. Put yourself in Sharon’s shoes in these situations; taking part in activities to better yourself and grow but in the end feeling like an outsider. What are some action steps we can take inside our churches to support all people and make everyone feel united? 
  2. Sharon says “even after 30 years in the United States I still feel like a foreigner, even in church.” How could we act more like Jesus and support “outsiders”? How would Jesus act towards an outsider? 
  3. Have you ever visited a foreign country? How did that experience make you feel? What were some of the challenges that came with navigating a culture, language, and norms that are different from that of your country of origin?

Opening Prayer:
O Divine Creator, remind us that we are all created in your image and that the Body of Christ is made up of rebels, outsiders, and sinners. Help us face our fears and biases that lead us to exclude or dismiss others. And, give us the courage to face our own sin and feelings of unworthiness. Thank you for Chris, for his willingness to share, and for the work you are doing in his life. Amen

Read Aloud:
Luke 7:1-10
After Jesus finished presenting all his words among the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion had a servant who was very important to him, but the servant was ill and about to die. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly pleaded with Jesus. “He deserves to have you do this for him,” they said. “He loves our people and he built our synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He had almost reached the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Jesus, “Lord, don’t be bothered. I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. In fact, I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. I’m also a man appointed under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”

When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this.” When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health.

Engaging Scripture:  
Let’s pause before we think about how this passage makes us feel or how it applies to our context. This section can help ground your group in talking about what is written and consider its impact on the original audience.
 
Centurions were career soldiers who kept the Roman military strong. They were usually put in charge of 100 soldiers. This centurion probably served with the forces of Herod Antipas. He had wealth, as well as character and integrity, and he had heard of Jesus. He was a compassionate man, expressing concern for his gravely ill servant.

  1. Why do you think it’s important to note that the centurion is a powerful Roman? 
  2. What impresses Jesus about the centurion? What is the result?
  3. Now, with those thoughts in mind, how do you think the crowd following Jesus (mostly Jews who were under the oppressive rule of Rome) reacted to Jesus’ complement of the Centurion's faith?  How does this interaction between Jesus and the Centurion resonate with those who have continued to read it for 2000 years? 
 
Application Questions:
  1. Go around the group and list one quality that is unique to you, something that others in the group do not possess as a trait. Now, reflect out loud or silently on how your life would be different if that trait was one that marked you as an outsider.
  2. The centurion and Jesus did not let societal rules dictate their interaction. Do you have any internal rules that keep you from approaching Jesus? If so, reflect on where these rules came from. How can you begin to “break the rules” and believe that you have full access to Jesus’ love?
  3. In this week’s message, Matt shares a story about the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in which the Dalai Lama invites Archbishop Tutu into his inner sanctum, a deeply holy and private space, and there Tutu serves the Dalai Lama communion. This was significant because communion, Jesus’ table, has historically been reserved for believers. Each week we practice open communion. How has this practice been significant in your own life?

Closing Prayer:  
Holy God, you made all nations to inhabit the earth. Forgive us for the personal borders we have built that keep us from diverse relationships. Give us the courage to tear down those borders so that we can begin to experience the richness and fullness of all of your creation. Thank you for Jesus and his love for all people. As followers of Jesus, may we do the same. Amen

Taking it Further (Challenge for Rebels):
Check these out to take the heart of the sermon and our discussion further this week. 

Look into ways you might be of service to St. Louis’ immigrant community. Two organizations to consider becoming involved with are International Institute STL, and LifeWise STL.

Read “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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