Gratitude for a Soldier's Faith
Sermon: Gratitude for a Soldier’s Faith
About a month ago I went to visit one of our shut ins and he had a beautiful painting hanging on the
wall, with a signature on it that read Dick Winters. I asked about it and was told about Major Dick Winters and
the HBO special, A Band of Brothers. As a family we watched the series and we learned so much. Not just
about Major Winters, but to be honest I had never realized that the men who fought at D-Day would be the
same men who had to continue to do the fighting in places like Holland, Bastogne, and the Battle of the Bulge.
And of course, the story goes it is the band of brotherhood that kept them going. Major Dick Winters was a big
part of that. And if you read his autobiography, Beyond Band of Brothers, you would know that his trust in God
and God’s calling for him in the military, were essential for the faith that kept him going. A faith he shared with
the men who served with him.
In our lesson today, we meet a centurion who cared for his soldiers and staff; and who finds faith in
Jesus and what God can do through him. Here’s the background. A centurion was a military leader in the
Roman army. The Greek word for “centurion” means “commander of one hundred.” Although often times they
commanded more than a hundred. And while they served the Roman Empire being present in Israel, they were
often times mentioned in the New Testament in a favorable light. When Jesus died on the cross it was a
centurion who said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54). The first Gentile convert mentioned
by name in the scriptures was a Centurion by the name of Cornelius. (Acts 10:1). And in Acts 27, when Paul
and a group of prisoners were being taken to Rome their shipwrecked on the Isle of Malta. The soldiers who
were escorting the prisoners wanted to kill all of them to keep them from escaping, but a Centurion aboard the
ship convinced them not to do it because he wanted to spare Paul’s life. (Acts 27:39-43).
In today’s scripture we meet another Centurion who had come to Jesus because he had a servant who
had some sort of paralysis and was in terrible suffering. The Greek word Matthew used in VERSE 6 for
“servant” means, “boy,” or “one who is loved like a son.” The man feels compassion for someone else who
depends on him. Jesus, seeing the love and compassion this military veteran had for his suffering servant said,
“I will come and heal him.” But then notice the great honor this military veteran gives to JESUS in verse 8,
8The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and
my servant will be healed. 9For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one,
“Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does
it.’ Here Matthew wants us to understand that the centurion could have commanded that his soldiers bring
JESUS to him, but he didn’t. He sought out JESUS because the Centurion believed Christ could heal, even
without going to his house. Jesus recognizes this centurion has faith,
10When Jesus heard him, he was amazed
and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
Up to this point in the gospel of Matthew, the writer is teaching us how Jesus believed he was sent to
save the lost sheep of Israel. But with time, Jesus is recognizing how his own people are not necessarily
receiving him, nor believing him. He had performed miracles in their towns and villages. He had taught in their
synagogues. And yet the Jewish people still rejected Jesus. It was this Gentile military veteran, this Roman
centurion, who demonstrated a faith in Jesus, so much so that Jesus was “amazed” as the text says. So, Jesus
blessed such belief. The text ends with, to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your
faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.
I read this story, and I think about Major Winters and his band of brothers. I also think about all soldiers
and veterans because as a military vet paid honor to Jesus, Jesus paid honor to him, for his faith and
understanding, and the extent he would go to, to help someone get better. Remember the centurion was a
gentile, a non-Israelite who did not worship the same God as Jesus and his disciples. But as any good soldier
will do, he will do whatever is needed to make a situation right. The focus is not on the healing, but the belief,
the faith of the veteran to do for another, to help another.
To be a soldier, to be a veteran, men and women follow a way of thinking that should be inspiring for
the rest of us and that is: it takes courage and strength to help others, but it also takes faith that others can be
helped. Do you recognize how important and needed that is? So many times, we as civilians get caught up in
the woes of the community and the world that we feel like we can’t make a difference. Not a soldier, not a
veteran. They have faith that people, and situations can change They have faith that all people deserve to be
helped. And they will do what they have to, to see a mission through. That’s why Jesus praised the centurion,
because he would not give up on another, he would not rest until that boy was healed. He believed everyone
deserves to be helped and healed, and for that faith, Jesus praises him. May we be so inspired too. There is not a
person in this world who God does not want to help. There is not an individual that God does not love. A soldier
gets that. This is why today we should give thanks for the faith of a soldier.
As Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-4, 2 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is
in Christ Jesus, 2
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful
people who will be able to teach others also. 3
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No
soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
In this month of gratitude may we give thanks for the faith of a soldier who will give of themselves to do
whatever they have to for our well-being and God’s world.
I want to close with a prayer titled, A Soldier’s Prayer, written during the Civil War.
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey....
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things....
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise....
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God....
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things....
I got nothing that I asked for -
but everything that I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all most richly blessed.
Amen and Amen.