Our world believes in what it sees feels and touches and can be spoken of rationally.
SCIENTIFIC RATIONAL ERA
Personally I am happy to listen to John Faine on the ABC. He’s a smart man and generally leads a most informative discussion. Except when the notion of the religious or spiritual or worse still, something psychic arises, he is inclined to lose the plot. He has his moments when his aggression boils over. Our society has elevated reason and materialism to the top of the means of determining reality so that secular or humanism is the primary approach to life now.
Is such a view of life sustainable?
We have just read a fascinating story that challenges the world of understanding and turns it upside down. We can focus our attention on two pictures it presents.
The Jewish people of Palestine were a simple group of peasants clustered in small local communities. The primary fear was the overbearing Roman soldiers, who were inclined to occasionally display their authority and taunt or terrorize the locals. Our story paints a very different picture.
The Roman power was represented by a particular Centurion who was like no other. Instead of ruling the small settlement of people with a heavy hand he was intent on becoming one of them and bringing all his personal resources to help them build their village life. We learn he is a man of compassion and has greatly contributed to the spirit of the community. We have a picture of a very harmonious and caring community.
The second picture arises out of the centurion’s relationship with his slave servant. Whereas the Romans were inclined to gather slaves, this centurion’s regard for life bucks the trend and values his servant. Rather than discard and replace the servant he is deeply fond of him and concerned for his welfare.
He sends some fellow villagers to go and implore Jesus to come and attend to him. As any family or friend would they willingly hasten to beckon Jesus help. But as Jesus and the crowd near the village we are presented with an even more insightful picture of the nature of the centurion. This insight is highly significant for not only this event but it leaves a resounding message for humanity. And Jesus highlights it.
We learn that the centurion is a deeply reflective man. He lives in the context of one of the most highly structured and effective institutions of the pre modern world. He has both observed and experienced the nature of this great institution. The important point that has impacted upon him is what lies at the heart of making this large organization work.
It is a simple command of the head honcho. The system is such that his word is sacrosanct and everyone pulls together and you could say magnifies its command so that by the time it reaches its destination great action follows.
The unseen word is powerful even though you cannot easily see the channels that relay the message. The centurion has reflected upon this phenomena and correlated it to the unseen reality of the infinite mind, which religiously we more familiarly call spirit. He has learnt of Jesus and reflected upon his reputation for doing great things and has little difficulty in identify the power of Jesus authority in the deeper world of life. He sends a message to Jesus as he approaches the village to say. Hey, you don’t need to come to my home because as a member of the great Roman machinery I’m not worthy of your presence.
I know how the word of the authority works, just say the word and it will happen. Jesus is impressed, and declares he has not seen such faith before.
THE UNSEEN WORLD OF THE SPIRIT
Secular society has lost respect for this unseen world. It has found ways of dismissing it’s reality. This passage revealed a picture of the deeper world and highlighted the importance of the interior world for shaping the exterior world. The complete opposite of what has become the common in our day.
A loving community, caring attitudes, respectful conversation, personal honesty, the life of prayer, are all simple examples of the way humans engage with and activate ever deeper realms of the infinite mind.
So here are our two primary approaches to life. The commonly accepted material reductionism built around the contemporary scientific paradigm argues for a simple secular world. The vision presented by the centurion and Jesus is far broader. It is built around a view of reality that believes in the infinite nature of the mind that ultimately we know as spirit.
There is a danger in embracing one vision exclusively of the other. All is the creative handiwork of God. The integration of both is the ultimate challenge of the twenty first century