Proper 9 Year C
2 Kings 5:1-14, Galatians 6:1-16:
Have you ever had a boss who should have known how to do something but just couldn’t. There was a disconnect between the level of management and the people on the ground doing the work? This is exactly what we find in our Old Testament Passage. The slave girl knows the answer to where Naaman, the big shot general, can get healed. The King of Aram doesn’t realize he should be sending Naaman to the prophet of YHWH. Instead he sends him to the King of Israel. This accident or oversight causes the King of Israel great distress. Here in front of him stands the man who killed King Ahab, his father, and now the King of Israel believes he has been given an impossible task to perform, to cure Naaman of his leprosy. He feels this task is just a pretense, set up by the stronger king, so that the King of Aram has an excuse to attack Israel. Maybe it is because he is in the grips of fear or that he is like his father, and has very little faith in the God of Israel, but none-the-less he doesn’t think to call a prophet, he doesn’t think to turn to God.
As we travel through this story a bit further we find that Elisha knows about the task at hand and is willing to take it on. But then Naaman almost refuses to accept the terms of his healing because he wasn’t actually seen by the prophet of YHWH. He says, “I thought that for me he would surely come out” There was no big ceremony to be involved in; nor was there some great feat to be performed. Through Elisha’s messenger, Naaman was told simply to wash seven times in the “inferior” waters of the Jordan. Yet again it is a lowly servant, the man on the ground so to speak, who brings rational understanding to Naaman, who convinces him to give it a try anyway. Sometimes our egos get in the way of our ability to listen to the truth. Sometimes we expect something to happen one way, and when we are told it will be another way, we get anxious or upset. And some time we have to humble ourselves enough to hear the truth.
What is Naaman thinking as he works his way through the seven washings? One wash, two wash, and nothing happened. He continues with another and another washing and still no change. Would we feel that we were being made a fool of? Would we give up hope? Is this really what the prophets asked me to do or is this just some canned message being read off a scripted as if he just called customer support. But then, with the seventh washing he is cleansed. His skin is like that of a young boy. In the end we find that it is a small girl who tells the big man where he can get healed. It is the big man who can’t believe that God works in such small ways. And again it is a small man who convinces the big man to let go of his pride and ego and give it a try anyway. And the big man’s skin as well as his faith is restored like a child’s. It occurs to me that this is a story of how big things can be found in small packages. That God’s miracles are often over looked or unrecognized in our busy lives.
How often do we compare our work to someone else’s? How often do we think that what we do is better than another? Or for those of us who have a lower sense of self-esteem, how often do we feel that what we do doesn’t measure up. Looking at ourselves in an honest and disconnected manner can be quite difficult. We often are much harder on ourselves or have images of ourselves that are not the reality of others. Whether we have an exaggerated ego or a diminished one what we see of ourselves is not usually what others see. This is not only what Naaman had to deal with but it is in part what Paul is telling us in Galatians. He says that we must all test our own work, rather than our neighbor’s work. “We must bear one another’s burdens.”
When we put our efforts into what we are doing, doing the best we can and focusing directly on the task at hand, we often amaze ourselves at what we can accomplish. But when we are comparing ourselves to others we may pat ourselves on the back because we find that what we have done is better than others; though the others around us may not have the same perspective. If you have perfectionist tendencies, we may feel that we have failed or what we have done isn’t good enough even though those around us find the work more than acceptable
In either case we should strive for humility knowing that we are not working for our own goals but God’s. We are not here to judge someone else, heck I’d even say we are not here to judge ourselves, for if do we will always fall short. Judging is Gods task alone and we are here to accomplish the tasks that are put before us, by putting our best efforts into them, by taking one step at a time. Whether that task seems difficult or easy, if we are doing our best than we have succeeded, regardless of what others say or feel about the work we have done. God knows your heart and God know the efforts you put into your work.
When we look at how we are to live our lives in Christ, God rarely asks of us to do big things. He asks small things such as love and faith, generosity and prayer. Even when we perceive what he is asking us to do, as too big; often it is really just a series of small steps. These steps can be scary; especially the first one, but they are small steps none the less. Frequently we are reluctant to do what we know we should; we feel that taking this step will cause us to miss out on something else. We will lose time watching our favorite TV shows or we may lose time with our family. We may lose money or the potential to save money. The thing that prevents us from living out our faith more completely is almost always fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. We can live in scarcity, in which we fear that we do not have enough of something. We can live in fear of unknown people, in which we do not know or even want to know our neighbors as much as we should. Fear is prevalent in our society and fear is not the way of the Gospel. The Gospel is a message of trust in which truth and hope lead to life in Christ. And it is through humility not only of ourselves but of others that we learn to love one another, and Christ.