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In Him We Are Worthy
Matthew 8:1-13

In the NAME of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

AMEN.

Perhaps it is no surprise to you that polls show 79% of Americans agree that there are no moral absolutes. What is alarming is that 55% of those in this country who call themselves evangelical Christians also believe that there are no moral absolutes. In our society nothing is unanimously condemned or rejected, except perhaps one thing. It is still forbidden to have a bad self-image. The cardinal sin in our world is to think of yourself as bad or unworthy. Everyone has an inalienable right to a positive self-worth. In fact because of this many churches have stopped calling people "sinners" because they are afraid it may hurt their self-image!

The self has gone up on a pedestal in our age, and we are trained from little on up to do homage to it. This is one of the great idolatries of our time. St. Paul's words to Timothy ring true of our day too: "But know this, that in these last days perilous times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power." (2 Timothy 3:2-4) All of these describe the idolatry of the god of self!

God has words for idolatry and they are not pleasant words. They are judgment against pride and arrogance. "Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41) We have a problem, you see. Despite all our vanity and arrogance, despite all our idolatry of the self and our cult of self worth. The sad truth is we are not worthy to stand in the presence of the Holy Triune God. The Centurion confessed to Jesus, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof." That is true of us all! For we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God! Not one of us is worthy to stand in the presence of the Holy Triune God on our own because we worship each have created a false god: the god of self. Just think of some of the phrases that you hear today, "It's my body, therefore I can do with it as I please!" (Scripture says, "Before, I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you!") We are all guilty of electing ourselves gods! Because of our sin and unworthiness we deserve nothing but eternal punishment and death.

The Centurion was led by the power of the Holy Spirit to confess his unworthiness. He knew that He was a poor, miserable sinner unable to save Himself or anyone else including his paralytic servant. He needed someone greater and more powerful and worthy who would heal, forgive and save.

The Centurion was a very powerful man, himself. He could have turned to many others for help and healing. After all he did say, to Jesus, "I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, "Go" and he goes and to another, "Come" and he comes and to my servants, "Do this and He does it!" He was a very successful man in the eyes of the world! But he ultimately was led to believe by the power of the Holy Spirit that none of his status symbols or financial portfolios would ever help, heal or forgive or give eternal life. None of them made him worthy to stand in the presence of the Holy Triune God! And that is true of all of us too. We are not worthy by ourselves to stand in the presence of our God! When we enter into the presence of God we must cry out with Isaiah, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips!" Or with the Centurion, "Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof!" We truly are not worthy for we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against God by thought, word and deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve God's present and eternal punishment." There is nothing that we can do - no amount of prayers, or decisions, or promises, or offerings that can make us worthy to stand in the presence of the Holy Triune God!

There is One, however, who is worthy! His Name is Jesus - the Word made flesh! "I am the First and the Last. I am the living One", says Jesus. "I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!" "I hold the keys of Death and Hell" (Revelation 1:17-18). It is because that Jesus was slain of Calvary's Cross that He is the Worthy One. By His blood He has purchased for God. His blood has washed us from the leprosy of sin and freed us from the paralysis of death. And that blood continues to flow from the right hand of the Father's throne into the sacred Chalice in which our Lord Jesus continues to dispense to His church the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation which He once earned upon the cross. And wonder of wonders, the impossible happens. We cry out, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but just say the word and thy servant shall be healed." And He speaks His word - This is my body! This is my blood! And we who are so tainted and polluted by sin and guilt that we cannot possibly stand in the presence of God, are cleansed and healed in Jesus Christ! In Jesus and in Jesus alone are we made worthy - not in ourselves, but in Him!

Already here on earth in this sacred space, it is the high privilege of the church's liturgy to echo the angelic hymn of heaven: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive, power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Revelation 5:12) Ours is only a dim echo of that eternal hymn that now rings in the presence of our heavenly King. But one day we shall see Him face to face as He is and we will praise Him as we ought day and night, standing before His throne in heaven's glory."

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father - to Him be glory and power forever and ever!

AMEN.

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