Healing Change, Sermon from 10/13/19
by The Rev. Tracy Dugger
2 Kings 5:1-15c *Psalm 111
*2 Timothy 2:8-15 *Luke 17:11-19
Last week I brought you the gift of a superhero cape, and we decided we didn’t really need it. This week I bring another gift, a paper cutter, and you can decide whether we need this one or not.
Now you may be asking, “What does a paper cutter have to do with the gospel?” Absolutely nothing! But it has everything to do with the story of Naaman this morning…Do you see how? No, well let’s look closer.
Naaman was living the good life, commander of an army, competent, a man with political capitol, power, and agency…There was just one problem, Naaman had an incurable skin disease that caused him pain and shame…But this is life, right? A mixed bag of good, bad, happy and tragic…And Naaman did what most of us do…He just lived with it.
But the good news here is we don’t have to just live with it. So, grace enters the story in the form of an outsider, a nameless, seemingly unimportant young girl. A war captive, who had been enslaved into the household of Naaman. But God was at work even in the midst of this injustice and the slave girl, rather than gleefully going “heh, heh, heh, serves that jerk right! He’s got leprosy…” she instead offers mercy. Perhaps we can speculate that Naaman was a just master in an unjust world, perhaps he protected her and brought her into his household to save her from an even worse fate. But for whatever the reason, this girl says, “I wish Naaman wouldn’t settle. I wish he wouldn’t be hopeless…but instead would go to the prophet of Samaria because he could cure him.” The girl wants Naaman to get better.
How many of us want to get better? Want our lives to run a little more smoothly? Wouldn’t it be great if life could be just a little bit easier?
So Naaman hearing this bit of advice does what most of us do when we get advice. He goes and he talks to someone else about it…maybe someone he trusts a bit more.
He goes to the King of Aram and says, “So what do you think about this?” …And the King says, “All right, Good idea!” So, the King of Aram sends Naaman to the prophet, but no he’s got to go by way of the King of Israel and now he’s got to bring 900 pounds of gold and silver with him. Have you ever noticed the more people you talk to about a problem, the more expensive and complex it gets?
It also gets more time consuming and the original clarity of the solution gets lost. Because by the time Naaman actually gets to the King of Israel the message now is: “I present my servant Naaman, heal him!”
And the King of Israel, justifiably so, freaks out…” Am I God? Why is this guy here?” The leader of the King of Aram’s army is here with this lavish gift, and a need the King of Israel couldn’t possibly meet…This could end very badly for Israel…and I see myself in the King. Not because I’m all that regal, but because when I’m faced with needs that are beyond me…When I feel like I’m being asked to do the impossible…I get defensive!
Have you ever experienced this? Because we’re afraid of letting people down, or of failing them, we begin to question others’ motives, and we bluster, and the temptation is to shift the blame…But Elisha pipes up and says, “Chill!” I’ve got this, this wasn’t your work anyway!” And so, Elisha cuts through the pomp and the ceremony and the money…all of the build up that surrounds the need for healing, and he says to Naaman, “Go take a bath! Go wash in the river.” And Naaman gets mad, “I came all this way, lugging all this stuff, for this! A bath in your crummy River.”
You see when we’ve built up a problem to be insurmountable, we expect a complex, and befitting solution. But when we take stock, and really listen, and are obedient, then we find restoration, healing and transformation. Naaman is healed. And he’s so happy about that he says let me repay you, only to find that grace is a gift freely given, and Elisha wants nothing in return.
So, what do we as a church have to learn from this story, and what for the love of all that is holy does and of this have to do with a paper cutter?
Well, sometimes like Naaman, we ignore our problems. We assume they’re insolvable, or
we just stop seeing them, they become part of the landscape. Or we’ve talked to a lot of people about them, but we’re convinced they’re going to be incredibly expensive, time consuming, or we know that the solutions that have been proposed “just won’t work!”
And I wonder how often are we like Naaman…Do we disdain or discount the Lord’s provision for us because it doesn’t seem special enough, or “Holy” enough?
I’ve learned in my life it is a greater act of faith to trust in the ordinary means of grace, than in the extraordinary…
The lepers we heard, this morning, are told by Jesus “Go present yourselves to the priests.” Oh, thank you so very much Jesus! I’m coming to you with my problems and you’re saying, “take a walk!” But what do we hear? The lepers went, they obeyed, and they found healing along the way in faithfulness. Transformation is a journey worked out in small steps of obedience…
Ok…that’s a great message, but still what is the deal with the paper cutter…In my first week, I discovered we had a bizarre and ancient relic. A paper cutter that I was informed by Carol, “No one knows my paper cutter like I do…it cuts no more than 3 sheets at a time and you have to bring the handle up, in and down quickly and firmly…” I can tell you, I tried, and I don’t have the knack…but like the young girl in our story today, I think I have a solution. This problem…It’s not insolvable, and I can see it, and it’s not really that expensive, and yah know what? I didn’t even have to go to Israel to get it!
So we have a new paper cutter, I’m going to leave it in the box with the receipt until Carol can see it and let me know if this meets our needs…
Because that’s the other thing about solving problems, you have to talk to the people most effected, like Naaman, or in this case Carol.
So, we have a new paper cutter, but I hope we have more than that. I hope from the oldest to the youngest, from the powerful to the plain, I hope we have a willingness to see our blemishes, but not to see them as incurable, or just part of the landscape…and once we see them let’s do more than just talk about them. Let’s do something about them!
If the problem’s you see are a sin within yourself or a spiritual wound, come present yourself to your priest as Jesus said. If it’s a physical ailment, come present yourself for healing, to be prayed over and anointed with oil. And if it’s a problem within the church that makes the life and work of ministry harder…let’s solve it…believe it or not, this call you’ve extended for transformation was already made possible by Jesus Christ who transformed death into life and is making all things new. But sometimes the renewal comes through ordinary means like a bath in the River, a walk to your priest, or a trip to Staples.