Sermon Proper 9C, 2019 Deacon Otto Anderson

From 2 Kings 5:1-14. Galatians 6:7-16 and the Gospel of Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

2 Kings 5:1-14

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. 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. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy. So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 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. 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.” 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.”

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.” 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.

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Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. special orders don’t upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way!

How many of you recognize that Burger King Jingle?

Now, if you are too young for that, think about the current advertising messages coming from the local health networks as they try to get you and your insurance dollars. Come to hospital X for your knee replacement; we’ll have you up and winning at tennis in just 6 months. Or maybe it’s: use the birthing center at hospital Y for a beautiful birthing experience for you and your baby.

We like these advertisements because they promise that we can have it our way. But the question is, and pardon me Frank Sinatra; Is life really better when we live it our way instead of God’s way?

In 2nd Kings, Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army has the disease – leprosy. The Hebrew word for leprosy was used to identify a variety of diseases affecting the skin. The condition visibly marked him as different from those around him. Naaman was a great and wealthy man. He was in high favor with the king. Because, by him, the Lord had given victory to Aram. I read that to mean, Naaman’s victories over Aram’s enemies were “God” assisted. So, what Naaman and King Ben-Hadad II of Aram held as their victories were really God’s victories. They just didn’t recognize it.

There was an Israeli slave girl in Naaman’s household. She had been captured in a border raid. If you were taken from your home and made to serve the spouse of the conquering general, how would you feel? Would you help? But here this girl is not only serving the enemy but helping heal her captor.

What was her motivation? That question will be left for another sermon.

This young girl sees the pain of her mistress. Even at her young age in the land of Israel, she had probably seen leprosy, its effect on the one afflicted and, also, on those who live with the person. So, she suggests something to her mistress. She shares the information, the experience she has had, with the prophet in the Israeli city of Samaria. She speculates that this prophet has the capacity or the connections to heal Naaman.

Naaman listens to his spouse, talks to the king and sets out to Israel, Aram’s neighbor to the south and west, loaded with treasure, to meet and ask King Joram for help. The king of Israel was not thinking about healing or about God when he received Naaman and read the letter, but saw written between the lines, the promise of war because he was being asked the impossible. He was focusing on what he was not capable of doing and forgot what was possible with God.

Fortunately for the king, Elisha heard about the Naaman’s problem and the king’s predicament. The solution was simple Naaman needed to wash in the Jordan river 7 times, and he would be healed. Naaman’s ego could not accept such a simple solution. Naaman was ready to leave in rage, fulfilling the Israeli king’s fear of war.

It took several servants pleading to Naaman to bring him to his senses, just enough for him to try the simple solution. With that, he was cleared of leprosy. His skin was like a young boy’s.

Naaman returned to Elisha with lavish gifts, which Elisha flatly refused to accept. Naaman also renounced his former god Rimmon after being cured by Elisha and accepted the God of Israel. He did, however, ask that the God of Israel pardon him when he enters the temple of Rimmon as part of his obligations to the king of Aram.

Naaman’s healing came from God. Maybe that’s how true healing happens; put aside your expectations and let God in.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians we hear about the fruits of what we sow. The church at Galatia, was plagued by division over the question of circumcision and whether it was required for the Gentiles, the non-Jewish believers. Members of the church were literally and figuratively more interested in things of the flesh than of the spirit as they fought over how to accept the Gentile into their community. Paul saw the hypocrisy in their claiming Jewish Law required the Gentiles to be circumcised while, at the same time, they ignored other parts of Jewish Law.  Paul saw it was about control, not about faith.

Paul told them: You reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, if you focus on things of the world, you will harvest the corruption of this world; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will harvest eternal life from the Spirit.  He’s telling them: Have it your way, or have it, Gods’ way.

In these, the closing words to his letter to the Galatians, Paul encourages them as he encourages us, to always continue doing what is right and to work for the good of everyone.

To a community divided over the question of Gentile circumcision, or over the many issues of the world that divide us today, Paul emphasizes the cross of Christ as the core of the Christian faith when he says  “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. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!”

Paul tells them to focus on what unites them as  – Christians -Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.  I wish leaders and followers today would take that message to heart.

Continuing with the sowing and harvesting theme, in Luke’s Gospel we experience the fruits of the harvest when we follow God’s way versus our way.

Jesus had more than just the twelve apostles to carry the message. In today’s Gospel he appoints seventy others to go out into every town and place he had planned to go. He was sending them out to help with the harvest. But he doesn’t want them to prepare, like we would for vacation or a business trip; make reservations for an inn that has a free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and a pool; near the beach would be ideal. Plan your route. Make sure you have enough cash for meals, gas and souvenirs. Pack clothes sufficient for a major expedition into the unknown.

Jesus doesn’t want them to focus on those earthly concerns, to get themselves bogged down by the-planning.  He simply tells them “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” Jesus makes it clear that they are being sent out into potentially hostile territory, yet he demands that they take nothing with them, not even the most basic of supplies.

Instead, they are told to depend on the hospitality of strangers. In their travels, they are to accept lodging, food, and drink wherever they can find it. If they are not welcomed in one place, they are simply to wipe the dust from that place off their feet and move on to the next one.

Jesus’ instructions to these seventy people remind us that the Christian life is not always one of comfort and stability. It’s not about our precise planning or our desires and expectations for the mission trip. As Christians, we are sent out to face the unknown.

Yet, we know that God goes with us and will provide all that we really need. We will serve God and we will serve it Gods’ way.

Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap the good things at harvest-time, if we do not give up; if we live life God’s way, not chained to having it our way. Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and those of the family of faith.

We still can have it our way when we order that hamburger without pickles or lettuce and maybe with extra onions, as long as we understand, for the things of this life that count, its Gods way. Amen