Sunday, 13 October 2013

Misunderstandings, perceptions, gratitude and the Glory of God - Sermon Sunday 13th October

2 Kings 5: 1-15c
Luke 17: 11-19
(Note: this is a "skeleton sermon" - the lines in italics will /may be expanded on during the talk)
Dermatitis, eczema, prickly heat, psoriasis, vitiligo and Haines disease.... all different skin conditions.

All conditions that affect not only health, but general well being too. Some because they make you feel ill; but mostly because they look so bad – and that causes others to be fearful.

The stories we heard today in both the Old and New Testaments are about dreaded skin diseases... and in those days any skin break out was treated as worst case: leprosy, because there was no way to tell which was which. Thus, a nasty case of prickly heat could result in being ostracised for a while until you could show your skin was clear again.

Haines disease – what is colloquially called leprosy was not fully distinguished until the 19th century. So, we have no way of knowing exactly what conditions the characters in these bible stories really had – except that they were bad enough (in the case of the 10 men) to have them isolated and needing mutual support; and, desperate enough to try any cure (in the case of Naaman)

 These tales tell us lots of things about the nature of humanity; the Ten Lepers, and the curing of Naaman - Misunderstandings, perceptions, gratitude and the Glory of God.

And on first glance they are very simple; dreaded skin diseases being cured by simple means and (some of) those cured turning to praise God.

The title of my reflections is mostly about the story of Naaman and Elisha- though perhaps also about the kings in the story....

The little slave girl very definitely said “go to the prophet”; but when Naaman went to his king for permission to go, his king sent him to the Israelite king.

And his letter was terse: cure my man!!

And I wonder at this point:
Why didn’t Naaman say anything?
            (because he assumed it had to be the power seat perhaps)

What happens when pride gets in the way?
            (we want to be important; we don’t want it to be too simple)

Why didn’t the king immediately think to send him to Elisha?
            (because he thought in terms of nation and defence and strength – not in the old hermit prophet who was God’s messenger)

Why the wild panic?!
Why assume it was a trick – spoiling for a fight?!
            (cf. above; because let’s face it, if you were asked to do something miraculous what would your first thought be?!)

Once that particular difficulty is sorted out we have the next!!

Naaman – the big commander; used to being honoured and obeyed and feared.
His sense of outrage is excessive!! His pride gets in the way
This prophet sends a servant
And instead of some complex ritual; or mysterious ceremony – he is asked to go bathe in the river – SEVEN times!!
It seems so lame; so ordinary – he has wanted extraordinary – and at least some sort of contact with the great man himself.

But Elisha knows that it is not about him; it is about God. (And Elisha does not presume to be a great man; his pride is virtually nonexistent)

And mercifully Naaman’s servants are much more sensible than their master!
Pointing out the obvious
Persuading him to comply
And then... then of course it does become all about God

All about the Glory of God

All this got me thinking about what we do, how we live right now in our time.

How we too, can jump to conclusions; not listen properly; assume we know what is being asked, when actually, what is happening is something all together different.... how relationships can be damaged and broken because we do not pause to listen properly.
How sometimes, it takes the voice of someone else, to remind us who we are and where we fit, in the grand scheme of things
There are things that draw us together;
And there are things that keep us apart

I am pretty sure, that each one of us can think back, remember, and maybe cringe a little over a friendship or a situation, or a workplace incident where pride got in the way of progress; or thoughtlessness made things go far more badly than was necessary.
(Friends who are no longer in our lives?)

Sometimes those things are only with us for a season; sometimes longer.

But whatever it is: God is there; God who never misunderstands our intent; God who never assumes the worst, or the best.

God who knows us, and our friends, and every situation, far better that we can – thank goodness!!

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