Friday, 31 October 2014

Keeping it Simple - sermon for November 2nd

2 Kings 5: 1-14
Elisha and Naaman

Itchy, scratchy, red, burning, irritated, dry, flaky, sore, distracting, prickly, inflamed, tender, raw....

I think it fairly safe to say, that at some point, we have all had a nasty rash... a minor irritation; a reaction to eating something, or too much sun.
While you have it, it drives you to distraction.
Now, some of you, like me, may occasionally have full blown dermatitis – and it can drive you to distraction... the itch is relentless; you are desperate to scratch it – but you know if you do it will be so painful... whenever I have a flair up it lasts a few days- if I’m really unlucky it’ll be a week. But I have soothing ointment to use; I can use cold compresses; take pain killers... I have to hand everything I could need to ease the situation.
There are those who live with these sorts of skin disorders all the time – not curing or healing, but simply managing the condition.

Imagine if you will; the full blown variety, with no help.
No soothing balm
No cooling compresses
No numbing agents, or painkillers
Just the constant itch and pain – utterly exhausting, demoralising, distracting.

It is no wonder then that Naaman, a man of power, wealth and influence, was prepared to take the advice of a lowly slave girl – anything must be worth a try.
There’s the first miracle in this tale: the little slave girl, an Israelite, was listened too.

Naaman would have given anything.... anything! to be relieved of his affliction, thus he travels with great gifts and riches – if this will work then he must surely pay for it!
How little he knew of God’s grace.
For God’s grace is not earned or paid for
God’s grace is free!
The ultimate free gift
It isn’t complicated you know – it’s simple.

God’s grace is ours to receive, wherever we need it, before we know we want it, grace is there. We don’t deserve it; we cannot earn it; and we surely aren’t able to buy it!
Grace is ours.
That moment of clarity; the lifting of spirits; the calm in turmoil, the hope in despair, the comfort in pain – all seem against the odds, and all can be attributed to grace.

Thus, we come to the meeting of these two men – well, not actually meeting – the messages exchanged.
Naaman wants to feel that something special is happening; something that he can hold onto – something concrete he can really believe in. Being told by (another) servant go and dip yourself in the river, seven times... really didn’t do it for him.

No prayer?
No laying of hands?
No covering with gunk?
No calling down of the deity?
Just go wash in the mucky foreign river... seven, yes, seven times!

Maybe the pain, which had driven him to travel, was so distracting that at that moment he just wanted someone to acknowledge him; to recognise who he was...
“Don’t you know who I am?!”
“Can’t you do something, some great gesture to give me confidence?”
“Surely, it cannot just be – go dip in the river? I could do that anywhere...”

Isn’t this sounding familiar?
The grand gestures stick in our minds
We look to the world, to the big, memorable events. We look at the organization, the complex planning, the minute details... and we forget the bigger picture.

This is what it is like with faith and life too
There are those who talk about their big life changing moment of coming to faith
The drama, the atmosphere the grand conversion moment – and for some that is right and good.
But for the majority of us, it is the simple, quiet going about faithfully, accepting God, welcoming Jesus in, relying on the Spirit for guidance.
No great big showy event
Just the simple walk of faith.

Be washed
Be accepted
Be clean.

Naaman – go dip in the river, seven times
God will bless you
God will make you clean
And Naaman... if it seems too simple, hey! What have you got to lose?
But you have everything to gain...

No big showiness
Just God
And us
Keep it simple
Keep it right.

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