Thursday April 23, 2020
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.2 Kings 5:9-14 (NRSV)
Naaman was considered a great man who was the commander of the King of Aram’s Army [Aram would have been located in modern day Syria] – The Lord even gave the King victory in battle because of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1). But Naaman developed leprosy, which was a physical and cultural death sentence because of its deteriorating effects on the body, and because of its contagion.
Naaman’s wife had a servant from the land of Israel, and the servant told his wife of a prophet in Israel who could heal him. Naaman was desperate to be healed, so he traveled with some of his men to this prophets house.
The text that we read today shows the prophet telling Naaman to do something so seemingly meaningless to address the severity of his disease that he thought it was a joke of some sort; that this prophet was really just a Crazy man.
Naaman’s servants wore him down to just trying it out, and he was healed. The story from 2 Kings 5 ends with Naaman proclaiming that surely there must be no other God than the God of Israel, for he had never experienced his previous gods power in that way.
The Bible is full of interesting stories such as this one where an outsider to Israel is spoken well of, and even aided by our God. In this instance, 2 Kings communicates that Naaman was helped by the Lord before he even met Elisha through his victory in battles, and then He was healed by a Hebrew prophet, and was then welcomed as a religious convert. Elisha even understood the fears of Naaman of going public about his faith in the God of Israel when he went back to serve his King who worshipped other Gods.
It is a story that speaks to the heart of what our faith was always intended to be – a light to the nations through the God who rescues.
Right now, the medical experts are telling all of us to stay home, to wear gloves, and to wear face-masks. A lot of us may have felt like Naaman at first – we may have seen these precautionary statements as either an over-simplification of addressing the problem, or perhaps we saw it as ridiculous when compared to the earlier advice we heard of “just wash your hands”.
But eventually, most of us have adopted these precautions either by choice, or because it has now been mandated. More people are taking steps to heal and protect our communities through working together, even if initially, we didn’t understand it.
We can view these masks as symbols of fear, or as symbols of light that speak to our mutual care and concern for one another.
The Church around the globe has responded to this crisis in many ways. Many Pastors, church staff, and church leadership are putting in more hours than normal, churches are getting more and more familiar with technology and social media outlets, and phone calls and cards are being made. The Global Church is working hard to provide hope to our world.
Individual churches are seeing more engagement with their online services than they had typically seen on a Sunday Morning before all of this happened. Simple videos or posts that are made throughout the week are getting more responses than previously seen as well.
And why? Because the Church is seeking to be a light in the darkness, the church is seeking to bring light, and the church is seeking to bring healing to all people, whether they were members of churches before, or not.
This time, I believe, will show us the value of what Christianity offers our world – a welcome and a hope that extends past those who were already Christians – just like how the Bible extended blessing, hope, and healing to Naaman who worshipped other gods.
The Christian Churches around the globe are highlighting the Gospel right now through their messages that our God understands suffering, through the messages of Hope that we can have amidst calamity, and through the met needs of people who are longing for the kind of hope, community, and meaningful connection that the Christian Church provides.
I don’t know when churches will begin to meet in their buildings again, but I believe that when we do, we will begin to see new faces as more people are reflecting on their need for healing, and on the call of God to bring light to the world.