Our Scripture reading for this morning might not be very familiar to you. It's a rather obscure story and has several parts to it. We are only going to read a small portion of it. After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom he ruled split into south and north. The southern portion is called Judah, and the northern portion retains the name Israel. The main action of today's story takes place in Israel. But it starts in far away. It starts in the country of Aram, the city of Damascus, which is modern-day Syria. Because this story is backwards from what we think should happen. In this story, the weakest person has the answer. In this story, God is good to a foreigner, to an enemy of Israel. In this story, money and grand gestures are rejected, and healing comes only through humility.
Scripture Reading 2 Kings 5:1-15
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his king and highly regarded, because through Naaman 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 Naaman would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
So Naaman left, taking with him 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and ten sets of clothing. He went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 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.”
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. Are not 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.
Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “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’!”
So Naaman 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.
Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. Naaman stood before Elisha and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
This is the Word of God for all people. Thanks be to God.
There are so many things we could draw out of this text, and so I hope that you will come to Bible Study tomorrow at 6 p.m. and pick it all apart.
We have more yet to celebrate this morning, so I just want to point out a few things here.
The day when we welcome in a dozen new members is a good day to ask ourselves who we are as the gathered people of God at Zion United Church of Christ. Our model for faith in this story is not Elisha the prophet. And it's not Naaman the rich and powerful man. It's the little servant girl that I want us to pay attention to.
First point: This little girl is a daughter of Israel, one who has inherited the promise of Abraham. She is blessed to be a blessing, and apparently she knows it. Because she is living out her calling even while she is enslaved. To the enemy of her people.
I don't think this text is a good commentary on modern-day slavery, so let's not go down that trail. Here's the point. As we think about who we are called to be, in a culture increasingly obsessed with taking sides, can we be people who are eager to bless? Instead of villainizing the other, the ones who don't agree with us, can we find some spark of human compassion and heed the call of Jesus to love our enemies? Can we do good to those who don't do good to us? Can we pay back evil with blessing? Together, Zion, can we be those kind of people?
Second point: This girl is the weakest, smallest, poorest, youngest person in the story. And she's the one with the answer. Her compassion and desire to bless moves her to speak up and share what she knows to be true. And here I do want to say a little about Naaman. He is a powerful general and he listens to her. Can we be the kind of people who are courageous enough to speak our truth and humble enough to listen to those whose life experiences are different from ours?
We are blessed with diverse perspectives, opinions, and experiences, and if we are going to be who God is calling us to be, we have to speak and we have to listen. We have to be courageous and we have to be humble. We cannot deprive others of our wisdom, regardless of our age, or our physical abilities, or our income, or our gender, or our race. We all have wisdom that is needed. And we cannot stifle God's voice by refusing to listen to each other. We must be courageous enough to speak our truth, and we must be humble enough to listen to each other. That is what God calls us to in community, especially as we welcome new members. Together, Zion, can we be those kind of people?