The Seventh Time

2 Kings 5:1-14 – The 7th Sunday after Pentecost – for July 3, 2016

Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.” (2 King 5:10)

The River Jordan
The River Jordan . . .

Elisha, inheritor of Elijah’s prophetic mantel, God’s miracle-worker and sage, lived in an odd era compared to our modern days.

It was a time of kings and the conquered.

Of wars and warriors.

Of famine and futility.

Of hatred and hubris.

Of borders and battles.

Of slaves taken and servants mistreated.

Of gods and God.

The powerful ruled the powerless; the rich became richer; generals forged decisions with the spilled blood of the young; orphans and widows increased in number; the poor became poorer; the 99% scraped by and the 1% schemed for more wealth.

Not like our time at all.

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In the time of Kings, in the tales of Elisha, there came a warrior named Naaman. He was a general for Aram, from the land to the east.

Diseased Naaman was.

Shamed Naaman was.

He would give away gold and slaves and probably some of his wives (and even his children) if only he could rid his body of the illness. Continue reading →

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The Truth Needs So Little Rehearsal

2 Kings 5:1-14 (and a bit of Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)  – The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday July 7, 2013

“His flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean…” (2 Kings 5:14)

Naaman takes the plunge . . . in a stained glass kind of way.
Naaman takes the plunge . . . in a stained glass kind of way.

This week, I’ll take a figurative swim with Naaman . . . once again*.

It’s so easy to take the plunge!

Or is it?

In II Kings 5:1-14, Elisha’s cure for Naaman, who longed to be rid of his leprosy, was apparently too easy for the “mighty warrior.” The prophet Elisha basically suggested what every physician and parent since Eve and Adam have encouraged:  take two aspirin, have plenty of fluids and get some rest. Of course, in this case, Elisha’s “plenty of fluids” meant hop in and out of the Jordan River seven times.

But Naaman felt slighted. Irked. He wanted personal attention. He preferred incantations, incense and other hoopla.

“Just try it,” Naaman’s servants urged.

It was only seven times in the Jordan. (Hey, Naaman, you can count that without using the fingers on both hands.)

Easy. Too easy?

I like what Barbara Kingsolver said in her novel, Animal Dreams:  “The truth needs so little rehearsal.” The truths of our lives, where we experience the deepest healings, and provide the most honest answers, are usually easy to explain. In general, I’m skeptical with long or convoluted explanations.

Way back in 2007, in the waning days of Bush II’s presidency, Dick Cheney made me skeptical—and nervous—with his interpretation that the Vice President’s office wasn’t part of the executive branch. That kept him, he claimed, exempt from sharing certain records. He had lengthy explanations for what he would not do. He sounded very irked. And to be fair to both irksome sides of the political aisle, Representative Henry Waxman (the Democratic chair of the House committee hounding Cheney) missiled an 8-page memo to the vice president with the congressional demands. No one was keeping any accusation brief or simple! Continue reading →

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Doubting Easy

2 Kings 5:1-14 – 6th Sunday after Epiphany – for February 12, 2012

“So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan…” (2 Kings 5:14)

In Luke’s Gospel (4:27) Jesus mentioned Naaman once.

Jesus used the old warrior from Syria as an example of how God and God’s prophets go about their business. Jesus so thrilled his listeners (a.k.a., his friends and neighbors), they attempted to toss him off a nearby cliff. Irked the sermon’s message, they wanted to see how far the messenger could spiral down before smacking the ground.

However Jesus “passed through the midst of them, and went on his way.” In other words, Jesus escaped a lynch mob.

Preachers and writers beware when Naaman is mentioned…

…So let’s talk about Naaman! (You prepare your easy escape from angry crowds while I work on mine.)

Though the name Naaman surfaces several times in the Bible, I’m interested in the fellow that starred in the fifth chapter of Second Kings. Outside of Kings and Luke, this particular Naaman is no more than a footnote. As with many Biblical characters, he appears and then vanishes. But while “on stage,” he makes an impact (and I don’t mean like a body falling off a cliff.) Naaman, a “commander of the army of the King of Aram” (Syria for modern Googlers), is by all accounts a warrior, feared and fearsome.

In other words, one tough dude.

With one issue: skin tissue. He’s got leprosy; can’t hide his bad hide. In the wondrous ways of the Bible, where happenstance and Holy desires hold hands, Naaman learns of a cure: Go see Elisha, a prophet of the God of Israel. I’ll trust that you, dear reader, have already read the full account in II Kings. However, let’s make it interesting . . . Continue reading →

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