February 28, 2021 Sunday Service Message: Lenten Series – Safe Keeping

Peace Begins within Every Human Heart

As we enter into the second week of Lent, Rev. Joanne continues her series of talks about healing.  Having discussed physical healing of our bodies last week, and what we can do to facilitate such healing, this week she looks at healing within community.

The Oxford Dictionary of the English language has ten entries for the word community.  To help outline what we mean when we are discussing community, here are two of those definitions:

  • the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society.
  • a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Not limiting her discussion of healing in community to only these two definitions, Rev. Joanne reminds us that when we talk about community we can be referring to many different relationships ranging from our nuclear family to the largest community, all of humanity.

Humans are social creatures.  Since before the time our ancestors walked upright, we have gathered in community.  Conforming to in-group associations, such as within a troop of monkeys or a band of gorillas, was essential to survival.  As humans evolved we carried with us such associations.  We did so not just as a vestige of our ancestral past, but as effective and essential strategies for survival.

Of course, we are much more complex than our primate cousins.  As the size of the human population increased our need, and even desire, to segment ourselves into competing groups also increased.  From troop and band we moved to clan and tribe; from clan and tribe to village and town; from village and town to kingdom and nation.  Well before the time Jesus lived competing nation-states were seeking to dominate, exploit, and oppress others in order to gain access to resources.  In such situations, the sense of in-group association becomes a source of animosity and hostility on the one hand, and condescension and domination on the other.  It was in just such a situation that Jesus lived two thousand years ago.  The Roman empire was expanding its power, and the people of Palestine were just one of many peoples to come under its control. 

Last week we looked at Jesus’s healing ministry at the individual level with the story in Matthew chapter 8 with his healing of a leper.  This week, we continue looking at that chapter with the story of Jesus and the healing of the centurion’s servant.  We read:

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.  “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  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.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”  And his servant was healed at that moment.  Matthew 8:5-13

Upon first reading, this appears to be just another story of physical healing.  The centurion’s servant was sick and Jesus healed him.  But as Rev. Joanne points out this also was an example of healing of community.  To allow for the physical healing to occur both sides, Jesus and the Roman, had to move out of the mindset that of what they thought the other was.  They both demonstrated a humility and a willingness to see beyond their own societal bounds.  Those who were on Jesus’s “side” may have expressed outrage at his willingness to help an oppressor.  Romans observing the behavior of the centurion may have been indignant that a Roman soldier would lower himself by seeking help from a Jew.

We learn from Rev. Joanne that metaphysically the centurion represents a will that is outside the alignment of divine Will.  Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore tells us in Revealing Word that Will is “the directive power that determines character formation.  When man wills to do the will of God, he exercises his individual will in wisdom, love, and spiritual understanding; he builds spiritual character.”1

But the behavior of the centurion transcends the mere metaphor he represents.  He came to Jesus, Rev. Joanne tells us, as we are each invited to do, to move outside of our own will and come and lay it upon the heart of Christ, to help with the healing that is needed.  Jesus demonstrated this also.  He met the centurion there and did not say “you must first do this or that before I do the healing.”  He affirmed that his faith was so strong that his servant was healed.

Rev. Joanne says that our “servant” is the collection of ideas we hold that are out of alignment with Divine Will.  But how do we know what is truly Divine Will?  So much violence and strife has occurred because one group of people felt that they knew God’s mind and others who disagreed did not.  When we discuss Will in this context it does not mean acting upon or conforming to the edicts of a capricious celestial deity, rather following the immutable laws of the universe.  Again from Revealing Word - Divine law cannot be broken.  It holds man responsible for the result of his labors.  It is revealed to the mind of man through his consciously thinking on spiritual ideas.2,3

In seeking healing in community there is a clue in how to work toward this in the etymology of the word itself.  According to the Random House College Dictionary, the prefix com means “with,” “together,” “in association.”  The root word unity means “the state of being one single entity; oneness.  The use of the prefix with this root is almost redundant, that is, saying the same thing twice.

The name of the movement of which we are a part, Unity, was chosen carefully.  The co-founders sought to create an environment of loving acceptance for all.  It has been said by many that “home is where the heart is.”  A recent online posting from a Unity member sums up this idea beautifully, “Unity is not a place we go to, it is something we carry with us.”  This is a wonderful sentiment.  If we work to live into our highest ideals, exemplified by our Wayshower Jesus Christ, healing of community will be facilitated.  And when we are successful in doing so on a daily basis as second nature, or rather as our first nature, the actual need for healing will disappear.  This is a lofty goal, to be sure.  Aim high.  It’s worth it.

Now Go and Be the Light.

Scripture

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  Romans 12:4-5

Spiritual Practice

The words of Jesus we heard in this week’s story were, “I will come . . .”  When faced with a request, Jesus makes a move to seek out, to come to help one who was previously seen to be outside of help’s embrace.  He moves outward to gather in and heal someone unlikely to have crossed his path otherwise.

All are within God’s circle of Safe Keeping.  Consider people in the community of your life (family, co-workers, friends, etc.) who are suffering from lack of support.  How can you say, “I will come?”  What support can you offer to bring a senses of healing to your community?  What can you do to help them feel safe?  How can you support them in feeling connected?  Take action this week, no matter how small, to support healing in your community.

Greg Skuderin

1Fillmore, Charles, Revealing Word, Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO, 1931.  For free online access to the full text, click here:  https://www.truthunity.net/rw

2Ibid.

3When Fillmore uses the term man, he is not referring to males but the collective of all humans, as in mankind.  Likewise, when he uses the term race, he refers not to the distinctions made by physical appearance, but the human race as a whole.