5 Naaman, a general for the king of Aram, was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. This man was a mighty warrior, but he had a skin disease. 2 Now Aramean raiding parties had gone out and captured a young girl from the land of Israel. She served Naaman’s wife.
3 She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master could come before the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his skin disease.” 4 So Naaman went and told his master what the young girl from the land of Israel had said.
5 Then Aram’s king said, “Go ahead. I will send a letter to Israel’s king.”
So Naaman left. He took along ten kikkars of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 He brought the letter to Israel’s king. It read, “Along with this letter I’m sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his skin disease.”
7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes. He said, “What? Am I God to hand out death and life? But this king writes me, asking me to cure someone of his skin disease! You must realize that he wants to start a fight with me.”
8 When Elisha the man of God heard that Israel’s king had ripped his clothes, he sent word to the king: “Why did you rip your clothes? Let the man come to me. Then he’ll know that there’s a prophet in Israel.”
9 Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots. He stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.”
11 But Naaman went away in anger. He said, “I thought for sure that he’d come out, stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the bad spot, and cure the skin disease. 12 Aren’t the rivers in Damascus, the Abana[b] and the Pharpar, better than all Israel’s waters? Couldn’t I wash in them and get clean?” So he turned away and proceeded to leave in anger.
13 Naaman’s servants came up to him and spoke to him: “Our father, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? All he said to you was, ‘Wash and become clean.’” 14 So Naaman went down and bathed in the Jordan seven times, just as the man of God had said. His skin was restored like that of a young boy, and he became clean.
(2 Kings 5:1-14)
11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Romans 8:31, 38-39)
So far, 2020 has been quite the roller-coaster ride for my family. The year started off well enough. At the end of January came the arrival of a new member of our family. Sydney’s birth, like it is for most of us, was a time of great joy for Cindy and me. We love being grandparents and were so excited, we had to make a quick trip to Tyler to check out that new little girl.
Our excitement was short-lived. Soon we learned of dangerously low blood sugar numbers followed by seizures followed after that by a helicopter ride from Tyler to Dallas. That is something that doesn’t happen unless it is really serious.
And it was. For 42 of Sydney’s first 45 days she was in NICU at Children’s Hospital in Dallas. She was a very sick little girl. She still has some problems to overcome but in comparison to where she was, the youngest Broyles is so much better and we are truly grateful, giving thanks and praise to God at every opportunity.
So, we went from the high that was Sydney’s birth, to a scary low, to a joyous high when she came home and now it would seem we are back down toward the low part of the ride with the scare we have all experience with the Corona Virus also known as Covid19 that has spread all over the world.
It has a few things in common with a different bug, the common cold. Both, usually impact the respiratory system. Neither of these two viruses have a cure. They can treat symptoms but both must run their course and that can be pretty scary.
And, people are scared. Some are displaying behavior they otherwise may never have done. Some people are stockpiling far more than they need of various things because they don’t want to be caught lacking. In the process of doing so, they have left others in the position of doing without. It is unfortunate but not surprising.
More surprising, at least to me, are the lengths some people have gone to in order secure their supplies don’t run out. I think we have all heard some of the stories. In the course of some of our conversations with people, the empty shelves may remind us of people stocking up on supplies in anticipation of a hurricane or, Cindy said, the day before Thanksgiving when everyone hits the stores grabbing whatever they need amongst the madhouse. But then again, the craziness, to the point where people have gotten injuries might remind us more of the day after Thanksgiving.
We are also all dealing with the unknown right now. That can be frightening too.
These last few days I have wanted to holler, “Stop, I want off this ride.” In so many ways, it has pushed us to the enough line.
Our lesson this morning from 2 Kings 5 is one of my favorite Old Testament stories. Naaman was THE general, numero uno when it came to the army of the King of Haran. This guy was a really big deal.
Naaman contracted leprosy. In the Biblical era leprosy was any one of several skin conditions that, early on looked much the same. Some were dangerous, others were not. We don’t know beyond the word leprosy exactly what Naaman had or what his prognosis would have been had he lived in a different era of history.
Though it was not fatal immediately, leprosy was an immediate life sentence. You lost your family, your friends, your livelihood. You had to leave your home and go live outside of town. You were dependent on your family bringing out support and if they couldn’t or wouldn’t, you became dependent on the kindness of others outside your family. Worst of all, if visitors approached you, while they were still a distance away you were to yell, “Unclean, unclean.”
After Naaman’s diagnosis and exile, an Israelite slave girl, in the service of Naaman’s wife hears the wife speaking with someone about Naaman’s condition. The slave tells Naaman’s wife that she wished he could go to see the prophet, Elisha, because she knows Elisha could cure Naaman. Hearing this the wife starts to do everything she can to get her husband to this prophet. She is successful and Naaman soon finds himself on the road to see Elisha.
First there was a stop and a scared king but we’ll set that aside for now. Naaman finally finds himself at Elisha’s home but Elisha won’t come out to see Naaman. Naaman, we see, is not in a good mood. Elisha sends out a message to Naaman to go wash seven times in the Jordan. After a fair amount of complaining, Naaman does as he is told.
A big part of the reason I like this story so much is, I can see it play out in my mind. Naaman strips down and walks into the water. There likely wasn’t much water in the Jordan at the time. There are stretches of time that the Jordan is almost empty. Still, we also know that Naaman was able to find at least a pool of water to bathe in.
As I see the story unfold, Naaman dives into the water and comes back up, looks at his arms and nothing about the leprosy has changed. He’s frustrated because he expected to see some change and there is none.
He dives back in the water again. He comes up and looks at his arms again and again there is no change. Now he is upset. He dives a third time. When he comes back up and look there is still no change. He didn’t expect to be fully healed at this point but he certainly expected improvement.
He dives in a fourth time. He comes up and there still no change and he has had enough. First that ridiculous prophet won’t come out of the house. I am not sure I blame Elisha for that. After all, the man had leprosy. Elisha seems quite willing to self-exile. Angry and frustrated, he stomps from the water headed toward his clothes.
As he heads for his clothes he is saying he will go home. This was a huge waste of time. His men, however, start reminding him that the prophet said seven times. Naaman had stopped after four. In my version of the story Naaman refuses to go back into the water. He orders his men to mount up while he gets dressed. The men refused. “You refuse to obey the order of your general?
The men say, but “If are not well, you are no longer our general and no longer have the authorization to order us around.”
Naaman turns and heads back to the water. He dives in and comes up, doesn’t look at his body but yells five and dives back in again. Again he doesn’t look he just yells six and dives in for the seventh time. When he comes up, again he doesn’t look. The men are pointing and whispering. “What?” Naaman yells.
“Sir, look at your body.” When Naaman looked, suddenly the sores are gone. He is healed and nothing is said about whether or not his men suffered any consequences for their disobedience.
Though he didn’t realize it until late in the story, God was with him and God saw him through the crisis. God took care of business.
I love what Jamie put in the announcement that we would not be holding in-person worship today. She said, and this is my paraphrase, “We don’t know where this thing is going to lead us, but we do know, we can take comfort in the fact that God is already there. Jamie is right. God is there and God is preparing a way for us.
God spoke to another prophet when God spoke to Jeremiah saying, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”
Let’s slow down and take a breath. Let it out slowly. Do it again. Again, and again. God has plans for us. God has plans, not to destroy us but plans of peace and hope.
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, tells us, not to be anxious for anything. That is a big pill to swallow. I was anxious many times during that six weeks Sydney was in the hospital. This verse about being anxious for nothing. And you know this, if we live Jamie’s thoughts on this, that God is already at work around the next bend in our road, if we really believe that, we have no need for being anxious.
Paul tells us to pray about it. I understand that God already knows the nature of our needs before we say them. Well preacher, if God knows what we want or what we need, why do we need to pray? Why doesn’t God just take care of it?
I can’t answer that question. I just don’t know. What I do know is this. I believe the Bible and the Bible, specifically Paul, tells to pray. Make your needs known to God. You’ve got to pray. Doing that isn’t easy. It is a big pill to swallow. But, I also know this, when I bow my head and pray, my prayer time takes concerns away. They may not be gone completely, but I’m not wringing my hands and chanting “Woe is me” either.
We need to live our lives in times of crisis that says to those in our path that I am a guide sent to help you to know where the bridge might be.
One of the questions some have asked is, “Where does love my neighbor end and self-care begin. That is a good question. It is also a loaded question. Jesus never gives any indication that the commandment ever stops. We are supposed to keep loving neighbor. And we need to know where that balance might be problematic.
When I was in youth ministry I told the kids I only had five rules and if they would follow those rules, I wouldn’t have to make any new ones. That rule? God gave you a brain, use it. If you think you needed to be gone, go. But if you don’t go, the game will change again and the responsibilities change too. Eventually all but one team in the card games do.
There is one thing I think we should remember too. Sometimes, our neighbors need a ride. Sometimes they need help somewhere. Go help if you can. But if your neighbor sounds like they are sounding we can still help. If they are sick, take them what they need, but leave it on the porch then call them and tell them what you left on the porch.
The sermon title, “No Separation” comes from these verses. 31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” No separation, God is with us. Nothing we do, nothing anyone else either. God will not separate you and me. God just want to have a talk sometimes. We may not always be the best listeners, but God loves us still.
No matter which candidate, no separation.
No body and nothing get in the way. No separation.
Whether life or death occur, God is analyzed.
That is really good news. God is with us and will always be with us. No Separation!
copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved