“Healing Begins with Acceptance”
2 Kings 5:1-14, November 4th, 2018
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now a reading from the Old Testament, found in the second book of Kings, chapter five, verses one through fourteen.”
2 Kings 5:1-14
5 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. 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. 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.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.
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. 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.” 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.” 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.”
9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 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.” 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! 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. 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’?” 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.
“Having heard this accounting of the healing of Naaman, a great commander of an army, open your hearts to accept the message contained within it.”
“Healing Begins with Acceptance”
A week ago, Saturday, was a bitter sweet day. As volunteers set up for our third annual “Trunk or Treat” in our church parking lot – in another community – a place of worship was turned upside down! Woefully, tragedy struck at the heart of a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Our “Trunk or Treat” was a joyful event attracting several hundred children and their parents.
In contrast, a prayer vigil was set up in the community where the synagogue tragedy occurred. The vigil was supported by a community which came together contrasting the appalling tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families and the greater community of those struck down by an act of hatred. Sanctuaries are not meant to be a place where the innocent are slaughtered. Rather a place of sanctity and worship, where thoughts of reaching out to neighborhood children is cultivated… not decimated.
We find ourselves asking “Where do we go from here?” We pray. We show respect for the fallen. We mourn for the loss of life. We struggle with the conflicting hatred… verses the love of God taught at churches, synagogues and mosques. The violence, hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitic plague that hangs over our great nation, it hurts. We strive to teach the love and salvation of Christ to those we serve, and we make every effort to live in the light and example of Christ in the communities where we reside.
Jesus is our example of God’s unconditional love. In the short earthly ministry of Jesus, he crossed many social barriers extending the love of his Father in Heaven to all the children of the world! It is in and through his teachings by which we are called to minister. Let us pray we all turn to the ‘God of our understanding’ as we seek out the answers to overcoming this current struggle in our society.
This morning our reading has thrust us into the human riddle of healing which only begins with acceptance. Naaman the commander of an army came down with leprosy, something he was forced to accept. Acceptance is the first step toward healing. As we look to the larger question here in our own time, we also must first accept the truth of what is happening in our society. At the same time, we must condemn these acts of violence, which are played out upon the innocent! Once we acknowledge things for what they are – we can then begin working together, to make real changes to curb this epidemic which has spread within our communities!
Looking back, many can remember seeing the plume from the 911 attacks in New York City. We will never forget! As the weeks went by, together, with my colleagues, we continued to teach the truths that our faith traditions taught. We looked to the examples and teachings of Jesus, the very heart of the Christian movement! Jesus did not allow persecution or hatred, to stop him from proclaiming the love of God to everyone, no matter who they were or where they came from! To this end, we vowed to encourage others to walk the walk of a faithful people, always putting God and the teachings of God first in our lives, in our churches, in our homes and in our communities. We were reminded, God walks with us, feeling our pain and will always be with us, now and forever more. With this said, we learned that life must continue to go on. We encouraged folks to move through their pain, carry it even, and get back to living.
When I first preached on today’s lesson, a few years back, we were led to see, Naaman’s struggle, his learned humility. We came to understand how this mighty warrior, was humbled into accepting the instructions of the Prophet Elishia. Today, we need to focus more on his act of acceptance as we seek to learn all that we can from this account. Becoming humble was a major event for Naaman, yet, he first was forced to accept a few things before he could move forward.
Let us consider our plight. How can we, a people of faith, come to accept that there are confused souls, complicated misguided folks, who could come to believe and think that a group of elderly worshippers – were their enemies? Who can help us grasp this dilemma? Naaman, he had not been accustomed to turning to others for personal help. Because of his competency and skills as a warrior and leader, he was unaccustomed to having a lowly servant give him advice. Naaman simply didn’t understand… he needed to be guided. Likewise, many of us have never looked into the eyes of another, seeing the hatred there, nor have we understood how it came to be. Even if we have, we may not understand what has brought them to their current state of rage. We may never know. Yet, there are trained professionals whom have studied human nature and worked with people who have lost their way. In our society we call them phycologists and mental health workers and such. Back in the time of Naaman prophets like Elisha were ultimately the social workers, the case workers whom people turned to when political power and influence was not working. Let us be reminded that it was Naaman’s wife’s maid servant that suggested Elisha could help him.
Naaman needed to travel across and beyond the borders of his influence, and he needed permission from his king. After receiving it he put together some of his wealth to pay for the healing he so desperately needed. He had not yet, come to understand that the price he would need to pay would be a radical transformation of his understanding of the order of things, as he understood them to be. In a parallel plane, we whom live in this modern society need to find radically different methods of understanding the order of our society. To do so, we will need to look differently upon human nature and how it is nourished and cultivated. Naaman saw the world from the eyes of a conquering warrior.
Elisha saw the world as the dominion of the Divine and he understood the need for a transformation in nature of Naaman’s being. Who among us is ready to be made over in the image God has envisioned for us? This is not as easy as it may seem to some; nor as insurmountable as others may try to make it appear. Naaman made the first step when he traveled over the borders of Israel. Elisha then pushed him to yet another level of acceptance and change.
As we consider how hard it was for Naaman to accept the words of the Prophet Elishia, we must prepare ourselves to begin accepting the changes that seem to be needed in our lives and in our society. We need to begin to try to understand how we got to where we are. We need to look to the other side of every argument and principle which we grasp as holy, seeing why others view things so differently. Naaman was a warrior and he had fought his way through many violent battles to get his standing, his place in society. To seek healing, he had to take off his armor and set it aside to follow the pathway which Elishia directed him to take. When he did so, he was transformed and was healed! We need to look to the root of the current wave of violence, hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitic attitudes which are now blotting out the light of God! We need to be willing to set aside our current biases to see more deeply! We need to look for the answers and recognize that broken systems and misguided beliefs, at many levels of our society, need to be transformed. And most importantly, we need to accept our role in it!
We represent the likes of Elisha in the time-period of Naaman. We need to see the world order through the eyes of God! We are called to accept our role, our place in the transformation that needs to occur. We do not support one side verses another, we support the vision, the transforming power of God’s unconditional love and compassion, fueled by God’s grace and mercy.
Let us be reminded, as a church, we have a shared Vision: “We exist to experience and share Christ’s unconditional love by Thinking Openly, Believing Passionately and Serving Boldly.” Our Mission and Ministry statement begins by proclaiming we are: “To spread the good news through word and deed that God loves us and calls us to love one another.”