My Lenten sermon series this year is based on Creative Communication for the Parish’s material entitled “By His Strips: Healing Wounded Relationships” (www.creativecommunications.com) It is a series that addresses how Jesus dealt with the destructive relational patterns such as escalation and invalidation and how He also, through His death and resurrection, made it possible for relationship healing to begin.
I started the series this past Sunday with the topic of escalation and how it ruins relationships. One of the things that I shared is that by nipping pride “in the bud” we can begin to de-escalate tense situations and told the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a powerful military commander from Aram who had contracted leprosy and was told to visit the prophet Elisha in Israel. Aram and Israel were enemies.
Naaman went and then grew insolent at being told to dip seven times in the Jordan River, when he could have stayed home and dipped in a cleaner river. But through the thoughtful words of his servants, he relented and went and washed and was made clean from leprosy.
In his gratitude Naaman tried to pay Elisha who refused any payment for services rendered.
As I read through that segment, I chose to keep on reading…
and was reminded of something very important:
After Naaman had traveled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.
“Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’”
“By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.
When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.
But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
Two things hit me: 1. Leprosy is contagious. In handling the itemsGehazi came in contact with the leprosy.
2. Gehazi saw lots of ‘shiny things’ to quote Tami Heim and Toni Birdsong, and the temptation was over powering. He grabbed for things that corrupted his soul. He surrendered his birthright, if you will, like Easu, for some temporary reward, that I would also call relief. Relief from duty, obedience, faithfulness and the like.
And he paid dearly for his compulsion.
This morning I read a wonderful post by Megan Hyatt Miller and she put into words so very well and clearly, the on going necessity of faithfulness and endurance that I need to hear again and again.
Megan writes, “Endurance is not a very popular spiritual idea. Personally, I’m much more into deliverance, moving mountains, and miracles. When I pray for these things, I always imagine that God’s mercy looks like quick and final intervention, but my past experience says otherwise.
So much of our spiritual walk (notice isn’t not called a run) is about keepin’ on keepin’ on. God calls us to trust him and walk with him today, to fix our eyes on him right now, not in the future. Like most things, this is harder than it looks.”
Lord God, I struggle with significance, success, and fame, that I clearly admit. I pray that you will help me focus on being faithful to You, my family, and the ministry that you have called me to here and now. Amen.
These are my Thursday thoughts.