2Kings 5:1-3,7-15 & 2Timothy 2:8-15
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
October 9, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about the presence of God.
Back in August while I was in Minnesota I went to Sunday Mass at Saint Joseph’s University. Now I have never been to a regular Mass, the only Masses I have attended have either been weddings or funerals. As the service goes on the scripture is read from the Gospel of Luke and then the Priest comes to the pulpit to give his homily.
When he begins he states, “when there is a long scripture passage I think it is fitting to have a short homily.” Sounds good to me so I grab my black notebook out of my bag as he begins. He says “where your treasure is, there your heart will also be, which is the opposite of follow your heart.” He continues “find what is truly important to you and follow that.” As I write these few sentences down, I look up to continue listening and to my surprise he is heading to his seat! That was it, a one paragraph homily.
Well, I am sorry my friends my sermon is not that short today.
As hurricane Matthew hit the Caribbean islands and the US this week some might wonder, why is God allowing this to happen? Allowing this massive storm to ride over Haiti taking the lives a several hundred. A country still in disarray from the earthquake that struck there 6 years ago. As the flood waters rose and people’s homes and lives were destroyed, the question remains where is God?
We are not the first generation to wonder about God and search for God. Our story today from 2 Kings is a story about God’s presence.
Here we are with Naaman, commander in the army, he led a battle and “because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram” -- pretty cocky if you ask me. As we just mentioned in the Message for All Ages, even though he was a strong warrior and leader he suffers from leprosy.
When Naaman reaches Elisha he is told to “Go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” Notice, not healed, clean. Naaman is furious, he is a man of prestige and honor, and he thought Elisha would come out to greet him and even place his hand on Naaman and call upon his God to cure the leprosy.
After some complaining and coaxing by his men, Naaman finally flows Elisha’s simple instruction and goes into the Jordan. Voila his flesh was restored and he was clean.
Clean, Naaman was made clean, not healed or cured. To be made clean, to wash away is to make clean or to be made clean could mean a new attitude or mental outlook toward our conditions and diseases. We remember the healing stories of Jesus, like the woman who had been hemorrhaging for years and Lazarus being raised from the dead. There are stories of healing but not everyone was healed and even Naaman was not healed but rather made clean. We are even told in the Gospel of Luke that “There were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:27). Maybe the point of this story is not the physical healing or how special a particular person is but rather is about God being present and helping these individuals through spiritual and mental healing. The cleansing of our attitudes.
Naaman, like us at times, was resistant to accepting God at first but:
God did not move away from Naaman when he got upset when Elisha did not come out to greet him.
God did not move away from Naaman when he argued and went away in rage over washing in the dirty Jordan river and;
God did not turn away from Naaman when he reluctantly came back and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan.
The miracle is not Naaman being made clean but rather God’s willingness and faithfulness to be there when Naaman finally returned. Naaman was spiritually cleansed, or purified by God. God was there and Naaman was made clean.
God was there.
I wonder if Paul ever questioned God’s presence as he sat in prison. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul’s core message is that Jesus is the Gospel, that Jesus is the Good News. It is not about him asking God to remove his suffering or to appear and release him from prison, no it is about the gospel being rooted in Jesus Christ.
Paul sat in prison with chains around his arms and legs among the criminals just before his martyrdom and yet he is confident in his assertion that the word of God is not bound, that it is not limited. He is certain God was there. Paul even writes “if we are faithless, he (God) remains faithful (2Timothy 5:13). God is faithful to us. God will never leave us.
It is hard to believe this at times when the waves are crashing down and the flood waters of life are rising, but if we look back to our ancestors we can be reassured that they knew God was there with them and would continue to be here with us.
And how do we know God is here? We have to be open to the unexpected. To receiving advice from a servant girl, to hear a foreign prophet and dip into the Jordan river, to accept that we are limited and cannot win field hockey games all on our own.
And do not fear my friends when we forget and become stubborn like Naaman, God is still there waiting for us to open up and experience the unexpected.
While my sermon was not as brief as the Priest, I can sum it up for you in three words: God is here. God did not cause the hurricane rather, God is walking with God’s people through the storm, disaster and recovery. God is here with the survivors of hurricane Matthew, God is here mourning with those who lost loved ones and those who lost their homes. Just as Jesus Christ, our God incarnate walked this earth, God is here.
I wish I could cure you of all your aliments, wipe away all your suffering and worry, wash away whatever is keeping you bound up inside. Unfortunately, I do not have a curing touch but Jesus has given us cleansings rituals in baptism and communion. As you take communion this morning and you drink of the cup of blessings feel the juice flow into your body as if you were dipping into the Jordan River and know that God is here just as God was there. Amen.