#EnemiesServants&Healing is the Podcast for October 9, 2016. How do our enemies, servants, and healing inform us about the Christian life? Naaman, a leper, almost walks away from a cure because of one of these things. What is it? Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Life #Naaman #Elisha #Luke #Evangelism #Scarcities #Servants
Enemies, Servants, & Healing: Luke 17:11-19
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/9/2016 The 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read 2 Kings 5:1-14; Luke 17:11-19.
Ah, enemies/outsiders, servants, and healing. They are so prevalent in our readings for today and for what it means to be a prophet. I will get to that later.
I love, love, love, the story of Naaman the Syrian Commander and Leper and Elisha. It is the background for the story we have in Luke of Jesus healing the ten lepers with only one returning to say thank you, and he was an outsider. Naaman is an outsider in his story, too. Not only is he an outsider, he is a commander in an army that at times has been an enemy of Israel. We can tell by the simple fact that he has an Israelite slave girl who recommends that he go to Israel and be healed. Slaves were acquired through war.
So, enemies, ah, enemies! There are two instances in this story where the healing of a man with leprosy were almost derailed due to nationalistic tendencies of the people in the story. Naaman gets a letter from his king in Syria that asks Ahab, the king in Israel, to allow Naaman to be healed by the prophet. The nationalist pride and suspicion of Ahab almost thwarts the whole thing. Ahab thinks the King of Syria is luring him into a trap by asking that he, the King, do the healing. Something he cannot do.
Ahab has always been the height of arrogance and stupidity. It can only be the Lord’s doing that Elisha hears about it and reminds the king that he is a prophet. The enemy and outsider knows, and remembers, that there is a prophet in Israel. To recognize the prophet and the work that God does through him is to recognize God. So, here, we have the enemies and the outsiders pointing out to the insiders, who exist to praise God, that God is active and can heal. Who knew?
The second time that we have this nationalistic issue is when Elisha tells Naaman to dip in the river seven times. Just go out in the river, which is up to your chest, and dip yourself seven times and you will be healed by God. There is no palm to the forehead, no shouting, no fainting. It is simple. Yet, the pride of Naaman is insulted that God would heal him in such a simple way. Where is a televangelist when you need him? The way that we play each other as insiders and outsiders often gets in the way of God and his work. Just look at the immigration issues we argue about today.
The Father in heaven created all humans. He wants us all to love each other. When we start to divide each other by nationalism, race, religion, and who has done the right things and who hasn’t, then we miss opportunities to heal and be healed. God never operates from the place of scarcity. He is the Creator of all things. Jesus is the one through whom all things were made. The Holy Spirit sustains all things. There is no scarcity there. There is only scarcity in the hearts of men. It is a testimony that we know we are not that powerful and we are small. We know because we keep thinking that there isn’t enough, when there is plenty, if we share. That includes the blessings of God. I do not think it is an accident that just prior to healing Naaman, Elisha feeds a thousand men from a few loaves of bread. Sound familiar? That is what prophets do.
In the Gospel, there is a question as to what the priests would do with Jesus’ lone Samaritan former leper who he sends to them to be inspected and declared clean. There were the same issues of Samaritan/Jewish strife that separated them. The Samaritans rejected Jesus because he was headed to Jerusalem. The Jews claimed that the Samaritans had a false God because they practiced Judaism on their mountain and not in Jerusalem. Jesus, on the other hand, heals all who come because God is the Father of all. [That is why we serve communion to all who have been baptized in the Triune formula and believe in the Real Presence.]
Servants or service play a big role in these stories. An Israelite servant girl tells Naaman’s wife he could be healed by Elisha. When Naaman almost blows it and will accept being a leper rather than have his pride hurt, it is his servants who steps in and point out the obvious. Jesus is not only providing a healing to the lepers, he is providing an incredible service. To be made clean meant that the lepers could once again participate in the society and its commerce. They could resume their lives as part of their communities. Healing has a purpose, which we will get to, but it is a great service that Jesus is providing here. Jesus and Elisha show that their role is not to just proclaim, but to be of service, something the disciples are being warned about in the previous list of parables in the Gospel of Luke before this one.
Servants, in the story of Naaman, show us that it is everyone in the community that plays a part in the healing of people. If we were to have a healing service and just the priest [or pastor] showed up, then it would be ridiculous. The servants who point those in need to the prophet and to the method of healing are critically important. They have an intimate place and can speak in the ear of the people who need healing. Even the lowest of us can preach the Gospel through our actions and words. Everyone must work together to worship and honor the Father. It is a mark of the Kingdom of God that all are working to bring others into the dominion of the One who heals. All of us evangelize.
I would like to take a break from the podcast to talk about October. It is October and that means it is the Fall Invest in the Spiritual Life Campaign. If you are a frequent listener to My Spiritual Advisor’s podcasts and you have not made a donation, please consider doing so now. Our goal to get $7,000 in pledges this month. We have already reached $1,100 toward our goal this week. To donate, there is a link below this podcast where you can join us in providing spiritual direction to 4 continents, 5 countries, and 20 states in the United States. So often, we are finding housing, support services for the victims of domestic abuse, food services for the hungry, you name it. We believe that we should tend to the needs that can get in the way of hearing or not hearing the Lord. Help these people through helping us. Let’s now return to the podcast…
As I have alluded to, healing has a purpose whenever it is done in the Bible. Elisha didn’t just heal to heal Naaman. Naaman was an enemy and outsider who recognized God, in fact, some say converted to Judaism. Elijah, Elisha’s predecessor, and Elisha himself, have had fits with Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel. It is not beyond God to shake us up by doing something outside of what we think the Father does to get our attention. St. Anselm said, “God is greater than that which can be thought.” Sometimes, we need reminding. Sometimes we need to be reminded that God may work outside a community, but whenever he is active in the world, he forms a community. He may start with one person coming down from heaven, but he gathers 12 men to his side, many disciples, too, and they form a community that transforms the world. It is still the case that the Lord works through prophets, who inspire a community to change the world. That change can happen through healing that points to the community as a source God’s love. Healing is done when it serves God’s purposes, not when it is convenient for us.
Jesus heals over and over again when there is some situation that people are saying he is a false prophet, he is a blasphemer, he is bad, he should be killed, etc. Even the apostles have to be worried that they, too, don’t fall into the trap of negligence that Ahab fell into. The healing of the Samaritan leper should be that notice to the apostles and us.
“Why doesn’t the Lord heal me?” Many have asked me. My question that follows always is, “Who would benefit from the testimony of you being healed?” For those of us who have a relationship with the Lord in such a way that Heaven awaits, then why would we want to be healed to stay here anyway? Sometimes, we are allowed to have our pains so that we will lean on the Lord all the more. He knows what we are like and if we would stay true when healed. Look, even nine of the Israelites, the people of God, who were healed with leprosy did not return to say thanks.
Healing comes in many forms: healing from bitterness, healing from abuse, healing from injuries, healing from jealousy, etc. How often do we recognize the interaction of the Lord God Almighty in our everyday existence? It should not be lost on us that the main meal we partake of every week is called “Eucharist.” It is from the Greek word, “To give thanks…”. That word is at the beginning of our “offering of Thanksgiving” with these words, “Father,…, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks…” This idea of thankfulness is at the heart of who we are. Who should be at the top of our list to thank over and over more than God the Father who blesses us continually with little healings throughout the day?
So, enemies/outcasts, servants, and healing, are present in these passages. They all point to what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God. You, too, can bring others to know Christ if you just say a gentle word or two to point them in the right direction. You, too, can have healing for many things in your life if you acknowledge God’s existence in your life. This is one of the many things it means to be in the Kingdom of God, your home and your life. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian