God Heals Naamanís Leprosy

 

The text for todayís sermon is 2 Kings 5:1-14.Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on February 15, 2009, the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

The appointed Old Testament lesson for today seemed so long that I decided to simply tell you the story as part of my sermon. Confirmation students, the Bible verses for this sermon are 2 Kings: 5:1-14.

 

This story is a healing story.It took place about 800 years before Jesusí life on earth.Naaman, the principle character of our story, had a bad illness.It was leprosy.Today we call it Hansenís Disease and it can be mostly controlled by medicine.But back in Bibleís days it was bad in so many ways.It led to physical deformity and fingers and toes eventually withering away.But worse was how you were treated by others.It was assumed that God was mad at you and so had sent this curse upon you.People stayed away from you, you were declared ritually unclean, and you were excluded from all religious services.In other words, you were treated as if you didnít exist.

 

Naaman didnít live in Israel.He lived in the country just to the north that today is Syria. Back then it was called Aram.He wasnít a believer in the God of Israel.He was a man of prestige and honor.He was a government official, the commander of the armies.He was used to getting his way.When he barked orders, others jumped to make him happy.But now he is facing something that is out of his control.He is desperate.He is open to trying anything.

 

In his household is a servant girl who had been captured in a raid upon Israel.She told Naamanís wife about the God of Israel and about his prophet Elisha who could cure him.So Naaman and his retinue of family and servants set off for Israel.He took lots of money with him and expected to come back in a short time, cured of his disease.

 

He is told by the king in Israel to go to Elishaís house.The real surprise comes when he gets to Elishaís house and Elisha does not come out to meet him.Instead Elisha sends this message to him: ďGo, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.Ē

 

Naamanís reaction?He was incensed.How dare this prophet not come out and speak to me directly?Why is he asking me to wash in that dirty river?The rivers back home are cleaner and bigger.

 

Fortunately, there was a trusted servant in his retinue who gave him some advice: ďMy 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, Ďwash and be cleansed.íThe Bible tells us that Naaman went down and dipped himself seven times in the River Jordan and he was healed completely.

 

Friends in Christ, Naamanís story is a good story for us to hear today at Resurrection, when we offer the opportunity to come to the altar rail for healing prayer and anointing with oil.Some in our midst have Naaman-like tendencies.We donít like to admit our need for Godís help, we think we will look silly doing something in public that might seem silly, and we need also to learn to trust in Godís promises.

 

There are some Bible Study Principles that we highlight today from hearing the Story of Naaman.Youíll be hearing more about these principles during Lent when we as a congregation get serious about reading our Bibles.The first principle we encounter today is that Godís grace and good news are found in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.Some churches are very proud so say that they only read from the New Testament in their worship services.But Lutherans historically have read from both the Old and the New Testaments to emphasize this continuity of Godís work and purpose throughout the ages.

 

Another principle of Bible study we encounter today is this: the Old Testament points to Jesus.The power of Jesus to heal the leper is the same power of God that cured Naaman.

 

The third principle of Bible study I would lift up is the principle of expectancy.When we read the Bible we expect to encounter God.We expect the Bible to reveal Christ to us.By extension, when Godís people come together in worship, we expect to meet Jesus here, we expect to be encountered by Jesus in Holy Communion and in the Reading of Scripture and in the Sermons and in the Prayers and in the Hymns and at Altar Rail.

 

I have an encouragement for all of us today at worship.It has to do with what we will do when we leave this place.It is what Naaman and the leper healed by Jesus did.They each went out and proclaimed it freely that Godís power had healed them.Today, please, tell someone the good news that you have received this day.

 

In Jesusí name.Amen.