Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Feb, 12, 2006

In the name of the God the Creator, Jesus the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. AMEN.

The story today in Second Kings is one of my favorites. It is a story of healing, power, faith, pride, prejudice, and fear all wrapped up in one gripping story.

Naaman has a serious problem – leprosy. Not a good thing to have. Sort of the equivalent of AIDS and HIV when it first struck and no one was sure how to protect themselves against it, but knew that getting it was fatal. People suffering from it were shunned and feared by most. So it was with leprosy. Naaman must suffer the fear and prejudice of others as a result of his infirmity.

Naaman and his family and friends must have all been in great distress over this turn of events in his health. But out of the blue hope and healing is offered. The little servant girl from Israel know of someone who could cure him! This was a very, very lucky break for Naaman.

So Naaman heads over to see the King of Israel. Of course this is not the person the servant was talking about, but political courtesy’s must be respected. Naaman’s own ruler is very excited about the possibility of his best general being healed so he also sends a letter to the King of Israel asking for him to heal Naaman. Now relations have not been the best between these nations and Israel is definitely the underdog. It is sort of like the president of the United States sending a letter to a very weak country, but one he would like to pick a fight with asking for the impossible. Perhaps like the president sending a letter to prime minister of Luxemburg telling him to cure Colin Powel. When the King of Israel gets this letter he is sure that he is being set up.

Fortunately Elisha got word of the goings on at the palace and of the King of Israel’s great distress and tells him to send Naaman right over.

Now when Naaman traveled it was not like you or I getting in our car and driving off. Naaman traveled in style. Sort of like a presidential motorcade. So Naaman arrives at Elisha’s humble abode with all the trappings of power and pride.

But that insufferable Elisha didn’t even have the common courtesy to go out and greet such an exalted guest such as Naaman in person. Instead he sends a servant with a simple message: go and dip in the Jordan seven times and you will be healed.” Naaman is incensed with this answer, perhaps even more so since Elisha didn’t even have the courtesy to greet him at the door.

Naaman wanted to be healed by he wanted it done his way. Naaman wanted to do what he wanted to do not what God wanted to do. Naaman wanted Elisha to make a big show of it all. Something spectacular and flashy for an important guy like me he must have been thinking. Something worth of Naaman’s exalted and high status. But not only did Naaman not get what he wanted, on top of that slight he was told to go wash in the Jordan. This was just too much. The Jordan was a rather dirty river, nothing nice about it at all. Naaman knew that he had much better rivers than this back at home. Why did he have to go to all this trouble only to be told to wash in the Jordan, barely a river by comparison to the wonderful rivers at home. Naaman was not a happy camper.

Naaman was willing to call it quits and give up. His anger eclipsed his desire for healing and wholeness. IN the end a cooler head prevailed and pointed out to Naaman how foolish he was acting.

I wonder how often in our own lives we act like Naaman. We want God to ask on our terms. We want God to act like we expect her to act. Naaman wanted a showy God. Naaman wanted a God which would actually draw attention to himself.

What are our own ideas of God? When you pray to God do you clearly know how you want her to respond to your needs? Naaman though he had God all figured out. But Naaman got the unexpected. When he was truly open to the work of God his response was “now I know that there is no God in all the earth except Israel.” Had Naaman not been willing to change his life and his attitude he would have missed the healing and new life possible through God. When Naaman actually allowed God to work in his life, it changed him forever.

God is in the business of changing lives. But our God is not a pushy God. Naaman could have stormed off and he would have never had the opportunity to see God working so powerfully in his life. All because Naaman expected God to work in a certain way.

Is that the case in our own lives? Do we expect God to work in a particular way? Do we walk away just when God is ready to transform our life because it is not what we want or expect?

We live our lives in the face of a simple choice. Do we want God to be God or do we want God to be the God we expect. Will we try to limit God’s ability to touch our lives by refusing him like Naaman almost did?

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