Saturday, December 28, 2013

As Simple As . . . (2 Kings 5:1-14)

     If you own a prized bull, you are going to do whatever it takes to keep that bull healthy when it gets sick.  Naaman, the commander of the army, was the prized bull of the King of Aram.  Naaman was quite successful as the leader of the army and had won many, many battles and wars for the king.  This guy was perfect in every way . . . great warrior . . . great leader . . . highly respected within and outside of the military . . . and, probably even really good looking.  You know the sort of guy I am talking . . . a prized bull; but, he had leprosy.

     Apparently Naaman had pretty much exhausted all the known cures for leprosy in his time . . . tried them all . . . and, was pretty much resigned to the fact that he was never get rid of the dreaded disease.  Then one day, a band of his soldiers captured a young girl from Israel who becomes a servant for Naaman’s wife.  This servant girl tells her mistress that she should have her husband go and see the prophet in Samaria . . . he would cure her master of the leprosy inflicting him.

     Remember now, when you own a prized bull you do anything to keep that prized bull.  Naaman’s wife tells him . . . he tells the king, and the king jumps at the opportunity to get his star commander cured.  The king is gung ho and writes a letter of introduction and request to the king of Israel to make it happen.  In fact, he loads Naaman up with a whole bunch of gifts—750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and a brand new wardrobe to offer to the king to sweeten the deal and insure that it will happen.  And, so, off Naaman goes to be healed.

     The letter and booty does their job and Naaman is given permission to have an audience with the prophet.  Things are going smoothly until they actually get to the house of the prophet . . . the prophet being Elisha.  Seeking an audience with the prophet, Elisha refuses.  He refuses to meet with Naaman.  Instead he sends a messenger to Naaman with these instructions: “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleaned.”  That was it!

     Prized bulls are usually worth their weight in gold, but we all know how prissy they can get—primadonnas.  Naaman is no different.  He insulted that Elisha won’t come out and heal him.  He is angry that the prophet tells him to go wash in the Jordan River . . . angry because he could have done that in the rivers around his country . . . the Jordan River is second-class compared to the rivers back home.  He is further insulted that the solution to his problem is so easy . . . so simple . . . Naaman is ready to go home, tired of chasing another wild goose in the name of healing.

     Eventually Naaman’s servants talk some sense into him.  They reason with him, telling him that basically it would not hurt to try . . . just because it is simple and easy does not mean that it won’t work.  They tell him: “My 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, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

     We humans have a tendency to make things and life more difficult than they really hard.  We humans seem to have come to the conclusion that if anything in life is worth doing, it must be difficult and hard to do to be worth it.  When the solutions seem to be simple and easy, well, we have a tendency to disregard them for that very reason . . . they are too simple, too easy . . . we know that it has be more difficult and harder than that.  Wash yourself off in the river!  Come on, it has to be harder than that!

     But, in the end, it was that simple . . . it was that easy.

     Naaman goes down to the Jordan River, wades out into the water, and begins the process of washing himself seven times.  Doing as he was told, he was healed . . . his flesh was restored.

     In the movie, The Wizard of Oz, our heroes are sent off on a dangerous adventure to retrieve the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West in order to be granted their wishes—for the Tin Man it was a heart, for the Scarecrow it was a brain, for the Lion it was courage, and, for Dorothy, it was a way back home to Kansas.  It is quite an adventure that these four take . . . flying monkeys, evil soldiers, a wicked witch . . . all to get their wishes fulfilled.  In the end, they succeed and return to Oz to present the broom to the Wizard.  The Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion all get what they wish for . . . even Dorothy is on the brink of going home to Kansas with the Wizard.
     Then it happens, the hot air balloon that the two of them are going back to Kansas in slips its moorings . . . it quickly ascends into the sky with the Wizard while Dorothy is stuck on the ground.  Off it goes, farther and farther away, until it disappears off in the horizon.  Dorothy is shattered . . . heart-broken . . . stuck in the Land of Oz.  There is no way home . . . or so she thinks.

     Then Glenda, the good witch, tells her that she has always had the ability to get back home.  All she has to do is to close her eyes, click her heels, and repeat: “There is no place like home . . . there is no place like home.”  Of course, Dorothy has a typical human reaction  to this information as she gives Glenda that look that says, “You’re kidding me!”  After risking her life going on this grand adventure and retrieving the Wicked Witch of the West’s broom, it couldn’t be that simple . . . couldn’t be that easy.  But, it is.  Why didn’t someone tell her this at the beginning of the movie . . . sure would have saved a whole lot of hassle.

     Basically, for the past three weeks, we have been hearing scripture readings dealing with the need for us to give our lives over to God . . . to let go and let God have our lives.  To let God and let God have control of our lives.  God will do that for us, if we are willing to do it.  But, that sounds too easy . . . too simple.  Yet, that is what grace is all about . . . letting go and letting God. 

     God’s grace is funny that way . . . it really is that simple and easy.  Remember that we humans have a tendency to complicate things and life . . . and, because of this, we have a difficult time embracing something that is this easy to do.  We get a little bit like Naaman in our story, we have a hard time believing that something so simple and easy.  Jesus says, come and follow me . . . it is that simple and easy.  In Eugene Peterson’s interpretation, The Message, Jesus puts it this way: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

     Come to me, says Jesus.  It is as simple as closing your eyes, clicking your heels, and saying, “There is no place like home . . . no place like home.”  Jesus should know . . . let go and believe.  Amen.

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