Read Luke 7:1–10.
“A centurion there had a slave…”
People of the United States* reading this passage need to stutter at the word slave, a reminder of our own horrific national history. The purpose of this story in Luke seems to be the “interfaith” nature of the interaction between Jesus, a faithful Jew, and the Gentile centurion who has faith that Jesus’ word alone will heal the servant. Already we see that the Gospel is good news for all the world, Gentiles included.
But…“slave”? For those of us who live on U.S. soil, who benefit daily from an economy built originally on the backs of human beings bought and sold in the Atlantic slave trade, we need to see this word and read this story as a reminder that we have unfinished business. Surely Lent is a good season to reflect on unfinished business.
Lent is a time to confess—not only the sins of the past, but also the benefits of the present and the continued inequality of opportunity and results among us. It will take hard, hard work to make the necessary confession and restitution. But it surely begins within each one of us during this Lenten season as we reflect on what it means to live and work and go to school and read the news and vote in our communities. It surely begins with each of us becoming aware and beginning our confession.
Dear God, lover of all your children of every faith and race, forgive me if I do not stumble over “slave.” Amen.
*With apologies to our Canadian brothers and sisters. This one is for your neighbors to the south.