St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-07-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 07-07-2019

Wise Counsel from Simple People

2 Kings 5:1-14, Psalm 30, Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

There are at least nine characters in today’s Old Testament reading from 2 Kings (there could be more but Naaman’s servants are mentioned in the plural but not numbered), yet only three of the 9 are named, Naaman, Elisha, and, indirectly, God.

Even though we get the impression that the other six (or more) aren’t important characters in the story and thus don’t warrant being mentioned by name, thoughtful study of the text reveals that the opposite is true.

In order of appearance we first see Naaman who, besides being named, is also described as the commander of his kings army, a great man, a mighty warrior, and one who suffers with the painful, shameful, and isolating disease of leprosy.

His king is not named, nor is the captured, enslaved girl, nor his wife. And the king of Israel is only introduced by his title.

Then comes Elisha; named and described as “the man of God” who, when Naaman arrives at his house, sends a “messenger” who is not named and not even described as male or female. And, finally, the servants of Naaman who are also not named, numbered, or identified by gender.

In the unraveling of the story it is the captured slave girl who sets off the chain of events by telling her mistress about a Prophet in Samaria who could cure her husband’s disease.

Then Naaman’s king authorizes him to go to this Prophet and sends him with an authoritative letter of referral, not written to the Prophet but to the king of Israel, as if that will get him cured; and Naaman takes a lot of money and some fine suites thinking that they will buy his cure.

Neither of these work with the king of Israel; he can’t see past the struggles of power between two nations and perceives a trap. It is probably the revelation of his own deceptive way of dealing with others, flexing his power, and his inability to stop and think if there is anyone else in Israel who could help Naaman.

The king of Israel would have the story end here but, mysteriously, Elisha learns of Naaman’s visit and sends word to the king “Let him come to me, that he [and you] may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”

Naaman goes to Elisha but this time it’s not the king of Israel that might get in the way of the healing he seeks, rather it’s his own ego. He expects to be personally greeted by the great Prophet. “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!” But instead of a greeting worthy of a great man like himself he gets word from a mere messenger who tells him… he needs a bath!

He’s furious! What an insult; and a what a waste of time this great Prophet turned out to be! He whips his horses and tears off in a cloud of dust!

But now another group of nameless characters step up, his servants who, with carefully spoken words, bring him down from his high horse and convince him that, even though it might not seem like the way to receive a divine cure, it will cost him little effort and no wealth to give it a try.

Of course it works! We are talking about the merciful power of God here and we would expect no less than a miraculous healing. And, as the story continues beyond today’s reading Naaman returns to Elisha, meets him face to face, and offers him the treasures he brought, this time not as payment for services, but as gifts of gratitude. But, perhaps the most important thing that happens is that Naaman is converted, declaring ““Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel… …[I] will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the LORD.” (2 Kings 5:15-17)

In this story we see the power of God, there’s no doubt about that! We see the limitations of human power and wealth as the great general could not fight his way nor buy is way to a cure for his miserable disease. And we also see the power of compassion!

The young girl who, through a raid on her village, was stolen from her land, yanked away from her family, and stifled in practicing her faith is showing compassion for the commander of the very army that brought her into this horror. This nameless girl has morally risen far above the rich and powerful.

More expectedly, Naaman’s wife places compassion above religious and national loyalty in transmitting the hopeful message of her servant.

Though confused about who could perform the needed healing, Naaman’s king shows compassion in allowing him to leave his post and his country to seek that healing.

The messenger, who faces Naaman in his masters name, through compassion stands alone before this great fighter and his entourage.

And in the servants who, through compassion, talk their master into giving the unexpected prescription a try, we see compassion.

Only the king of Israel, the leader of God’s nation, lacks in showing compassion.

Though some think they are great, all of these are small people, yet it is through them that human interference is thwarted and the pathway for the healing power of God to flow is cleared! Through the compassion of these small people the glory of God is revealed!

 

I will not say it is impossible, but as far as I know we have no Prophets worshiping with us today. And I am fairly sure we have no great generals, no kings, and no one of great wealth; we’re just a bunch of little people. But that does not mean we are too small to be a part of healing in our world today. It also does not mean that, in our smallness, we are exempt from doing what we can to open the pathway for the power of God to flow.

It is with compassion that we open the path. By offering a word of kindness, a few words of encouragement, pointing the way for the lost without regard for our own gain we can restore the cleansing flow that will restore bodies and souls in unexpected places, by unforeseeable means.

If a nameless slave-girl can set off a chain of events that brings healing to bodies and salvation to souls, so can we!

Amen

 

2 Kings 5:1-14
5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.
5:2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.
5:3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
5:4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.
5:5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.
5:6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
5:7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
5:8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”
5:9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.
5:10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”
5:11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!
5:12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.
5:13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
5:14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30
30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.
30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication:
30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

 

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
6:1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.
6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
6:3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.
6:4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride.
6:5 For all must carry their own loads.
6:6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
6:7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.
6:8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
6:9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.
6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
6:11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!
6:12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised–only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
6:13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.
6:14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
6:15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!
6:16 As for those who will follow this rule–peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.
10:2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
10:3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
10:5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’
10:6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
10:7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.
10:8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;
10:9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say,
10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
10:16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
10:17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”
10:18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.
10:19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.
10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”