Pentescost 4C - 2 Kings 51-14

2 Kings 5:1-14 (NIV)

5 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. 

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Legend has it that there was once a little Dutch boy who discovered a leak in the sea wall which stopped the North Sea from flooding the land of Holland.

What could he do? From a single small leak, a terrible breach might grow and the whole country could be flooded. If that happened everyone he knew would drown.

So he did the only thing he could think of. He stuck his finger in the leak, and the flow of water stopped.” He had saved his homeland, his family and friends – in fact the whole country.

What, you may ask, has this to do with the story of Naaman, from the country of Aram, the General of the Syrian army from 2nd Kings?

Well, it has to do with a small seemingly insignificant child whose simple small action saves both those he loves and those he doesn’t just as the story of Naaman is about a small seemingly insignificant slave girl who saves her mistress’ husband from his leprosy. She does this with her knowledge of how God was working in Israel.

The Israelites and Syrians were traditional enemies and yet here we have a young Israelite slave wanting to help the one who had persecuted her people and had brought her into his home as a slave captured by a raiding party from Syria.

This girl shared with her mistress the knowledge that there was a man who had the power of God to heal. We’re not told, but it is implied in the text, that the young captive servant girl's loving concern and firm faith led her to make known to Naaman, via his wife, that there was a prophet, Elisha, in Israel who with God’s power can help and heal Naaman of his leprosy.

There is a bit of politics and bit of a drama after the sharing of this news. International protocols (because of the strained relationship between Syria and Israel) required that enquiries and access to the prophet Elisha should go through Israel's king.

The un-named king of Israel interprets the request as a political ploy to disadvantage and perhaps trick him in some way.

After all, no one wants an enemy military commander let loose in their country.

Elisha doesn't let a slight on his king’s dignity stop him from offering his help, requesting Naaman to come and see that the true God often works through humble and even despised means and even through the mistrust of His people to achieve His mysterious but gracious plans.

Nor does the afront of Elisha to Naaman that he doesn’t even come out to see Naaman in person but sends a servant with a command for Naaman to go and bathe in the Jordan river – not once but seven times – a process which  Naaman considers below his dignity.

It takes further intervention from Naaman’s own respectful servants to induce Naaman to do what the prophet Elisha had commanded him.

Naaman is cured when he submits to the word from God’s prophet, Elisha. 2nd King chapter five goes on to tell us that Elisha refused the reward from Naaman in order to allow this unbeliever to see that God gives His gift of healing for free.

What then does this all mean for us today? God has blessed us, a small somewhat insignificant congregation with the knowledge of another prophet of God – Jesus, whom we also know to be more than a prophet – He is God incarnate –  who lived, died and rose from the dead to ascend into heaven.

It is this Jesus who has sent us His Holy Spirit to equip us to do just what the slave girl in Naaman’s household did – to share that knowledge we have of how God works,  and how God can save the ones we love and even save our enemies from the corruption and leprosy of “original sin” – thus improving life here on earth and giving eternal life.

Those who are free of the burdens of life, with clean consciences are able to contribute to the wellbeing of the community more so than those who are battling with heavy burdens and distracted by guilt, anger and frustration.

We were all born with this “original sin” which cripples us and those around us. But Jesus has cleansed us of original sin when we were baptised and first believed. He continues to give those who will receive them the spiritual resources to be resilient and generous in helping others.

This help is always needed as “original sin” still inflicts its corruption on those who neglect their spiritual growth and those who have not been baptised and believed. God wants all to be saved and live their life here on earth in the same manner as His Son, Jesus did, in faithful service to Him and to each other. Jesus extends His invitation to everyone to come to Him for this cleansing.

          God says we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest for workers so that the cleansing can continue to happen. It only happens when people hear the Gospel message as the Scripture says, “Faith comes by hearing”.

          But how can they hear if no one goes into the harvest field and speaks the message of hope to those who need to hear?

          God calls all of us, like the young slave girl, to speak into the lives of those who need God’s salvation. Like the little Dutch boy who plugged the sea wall with his finger at the right time we are to speak timely messages of hope when we see the need and have the opportunity.

          We all have these opportunities because we all know someone who is hurting, grieving and or sinning. We all have family, friends, neighbours, employers or employees who share their hurt and pain with us, Do we take the opportunity to offer them the same hope we ourselves have already received from our Lord Jesus?

          Sometimes in sharing our faith the road to healing may take a convoluted route, as it did for Naaman. Family, community or workplace politics may try and obstruct our encouraging and healing words from God. But God’s Holy Spirit is bigger than those obstructions.

          God has more than one messenger too. It doesn’t just depend on us. When we look at the story of Naaman we see the slave girl, her mistress, the Prophet Elisha, his servant and Naaman’s own servants – all messengers of God.

          You are but one, I another, and so is the person sitting next to you in the pew on your left and right, in front of and behind you. You may be surprised who the other allies are in encouraging someone to faith and healing when you offer your words of hope from Jesus.

          Pride may get in the way too – but God’s Holy Spirit can shift that aside – especially when you pray for the barriers to faith to be taken down.

The servant girl brought glory to God through the healing of Naaman. Imagine what you can do to bring about glory to God by simply speaking of what God has done and is doing for you and what He can and will do for your listeners?

          Small and insignificant as each of us is, God brings His Holy Spirit to bare in building a network of encouragement and hope, conquering obstacles and healing hearts, souls and bodies. Miracles do happen. Each of you are examples of such miracles of faith and hope. 

Amen.