"My faith looks up to thee." That’s a classic line from a great hymn, and it’s a great sentiment. Too bad, all too often it’s a lie. As much as we might say it and pretend like it is true — all too often, our sinful pride gets our faith to look in to me instead of up to thee.
Let me explain. Look up Luke 7:1-10 and we get a great lesson in what faith is all about, from a guy you’d least expect. There we find a Roman centurion (a foreigner) and a bunch of church people. The centurion had heard of Jesus. He knew that Jesus was the only one who could help (his servant was deathly ill). He knew he needed Jesus’ help. And so this centurion sends the "church people" to go to present the request. Notice how they asked: "This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."
Those "church people" had fallen into the trap so many have before and since. They figured the centurion had been good enough so God should help him. And whether you say it out loud or not, the sinful side of you thinks the same thing. It tries to convince you that God should love you because of what you’ve done — or the flipside of that: God couldn’t love you because of what you’ve done. In other words, it tries to get your faith to look in to me instead of up to thee. And that’s a problem, because, plain and simple, "me" fails.
But look at the solution. That centurion realized that he could never be good enough to deserve anything from a perfect God — so he sends more messengers — this time with a very specific message: "I do not deserve to have you come under my roof… just say the word, and my servant will be healed." You see, he realized the hopelessness of looking to me and the absolute power of looking to thee. So he said, "Just say the word."
Think about the power of that word. In Genesis, we heard that Word say, "Let there be…" and our universe came to be. The Psalmist writes: "By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made; their starry host by the breath of his mouth." Then, in Eden, God gave his word to send one to defeat Satan, to crush Satan’s head, to win our victory. The word of God through Elijah shut the heavens and brought drought; through Moses it split the sea and brought water from the rock. Through Joshua, the word brought Jericho’s walls a-tumblin’ down. Through Ezekiel it made those dry bones live, and through his priests at the temple it brought forgiveness and new life.
And then… then, the Gospel of John tells us: the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Jesus came, as the ultimate communication from God. His word never failed, but defeated every temptation in the desert of this life, brought health to the leper and sight to the blind, hope to the helpless and life to the dead. And then with that single word as his blood poured into the puddle at the foot of the cross where our sins used to be, he declared it all "Finished." One word, and God had kept his word — perfectly, and put into his word for all time — power. And now our faith has something to look up to.
So look up… to God’s promises. Look up to His help. Get to church this Sunday and train yourself in God’s Word to sing it honestly: "My faith looks up to Thee!"
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.