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)
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!
While channel surfing recently, I caught several minutes of The Bourne Identity. It was the scene where Jason Bourne, the spy-with-amnesia-who-always-recalls-just-enough-to-get-out-of-trouble, persuaded his naïve companion Marie to gather information for him from a bank. The ever-clever Bourne gave her lengthy, elaborate instructions. Instead, Marie asked a simple question in the bank and obtained the key data.
And I shouldn’t ignore the Gospel’s lectionary reading this week. In Luke 10, Jesus sent forth the seventy to proclaim the good news. Mission on! Earlier, in Chapter 9, he’d unleashed the twelve disciples. While the tenth chapter included a lot more followers for Jesus’ goals, the marching orders were similar, and simple . . .
Travel light, share peace and, if you’re welcomed in homes, that’s wonderful! But don’t linger, and if you’re not welcomed . . . well then, move on!
Most of the life giving and life affirming truths we share won’t be complicated. We likely won’t even have to rehearse our lines. And yet, sharing those truths will rarely feel easy as you stand before the other. How much courage did it take for Naaman’s servants, as they watched the fearsome warrior turn “away in rage,” to repeat Elisha’s simple prescription that a dip in the Jordan might be worth the effort? 2 Kings doesn’t say so, but I suspect the servants trembled enough to shake the dust off their sandals.
Everyone, behind the pulpit, in the pews or outside the church, should rightly squirm at the 2 Kings reading. Few are “mighty warriors,” but all need healing. There’s no doubt, in today’s world, that some healing demands considerably more than a jaunt to a nearby river. Heart surgery. Cancer treatments. Diabetes. COPD. Alzheimer’s. Mental illnesses. And so on.
Jesus, sending the disciples, cautioned them about hauling around too much baggage. The Nazarene wasn’t only referring to the first century version of Samsonite. The truth to be shared about God’s love needed little rehearsal and could lead to wondrous renewal.
Some will receive it; some won’t.
Naaman had more than leprosy. In 2 Kings, we are aware of his arrogance, anger and vanity. The healing that mattered most for him, and for us, only started with the physical. Elisha invited Naaman to trust. Trust can be as heavy as it is light. And so Naaman plunged into the Jordan and “…his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.” Long before the mighty warrior’s final plunge, I suspect being clean for him was far more than skin deep.
Some become light-hearted; others let arrogance weigh them down.
*Revised from a July 2007 essay. (Yeah, I had other stuff I needed to work on this week. Revisions in all forms are an important part of my limited writing time.)
Image from here.