When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him (centurion), and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Luke 7:9 (NRSV)
Every summer a number of youth groups stay overnight at Trinity, either on their way to or from an Indian reservation. Just this week I received another request from a group from Minnesota heading out to a reservation in Wyoming. Most of these are groups intend to do some sort of service project. But there are other groups that come who’s main purpose is to “save the Indian”. They have the preconceived idea that the Native Americans are heathens in need of saving. The fact is that the majority of Native Americans have been Christians for many generations. In the gospel reading for this coming Sunday (Luke 7:1-10) a Roman centurion sends a request for Jesus to heal a slave he valued highly. When Jesus decides to go to the centurion’s home he sends a second message to Jesus to simply say the word and his slave would be healed. Jesus was amazed at this foreigner’s faith. If more people would take the time to simply listen to our Native American brothers and sister they too would be amazed at their faith. I have had the opportunity to do just that in my work as hospice chaplain. I remember the first time being amazed when visiting a Native American woman. The Episcopal priest was out of town and she wanted the Eucharist. I grabbed my Book of Common Prayer and traveled to the reservation to give her communion. I was amazed when she said the entire liturgy, including prayers with me. I wondered if she had memorized the entire Book of Common Prayer. I remember asking another Native woman what brought her hope and comfort. She talked about the statues of Jesus and Mary in her home. She then asked if I could get her a rosary, since hers was in her home on the reservation. I remember anther Native woman whose face would light up when I came to see her and who looked forward to hearing scripture read. Sometimes we have a mistaken notion that faith in Jesus Christ can only be found in our own church and among our own people. Jesus reminds us to open our ears and take time to listen to other people. You might be amazed to find that faith in Jesus Christ does exist outside the walls of our own church, denomination and ethnic group.