Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Model for Grace

I preached on Sunday.  The sermon was based on a Luke 10 passage -- I'll post it over a few days next week.

However, there was a sermon that wasn't.  The sermon I preached was not the sermon I planned on preaching; the sermon I preached was only born on Friday.  For at least three weeks prior to preaching, I had a whole different sermon in mind, based on a different scripture.  There is no dramatic reason why I switched.  I changed my course prior to writing because the one I wrote seemed to flow better from thought to sermon.  That's usually a God-thing.

Anyway, I thought I would resurrect the sermon that wasn't into a blog post.

One of the other lectionary readings last week was 2 Kings 5:1-14.  This is the story of Naaman.  I really like this story, and I still think it would make a good sermon.

Naaman is a commander in the army of the king of Aram - in fact, he was the commander of an army that defeated the Israelites.  He has leprosy.  On one of their raids into Israel, a young girl had been taken captive, and she served Naaman's wife.  This young girl suggests to Naaman that he go to Israel and seek healing from the prophet Elisha.  Naaman told his king what the girl had suggested, and the king sent him with a great fortune and a letter to the king of Israel, asking for him to cure Naaman.

The King of Israel is distraught, because he can't cure Naaman and thinks this is a trick from the Aramean king.   Elisha heard about Naaman, he sent a message to the king, telling him to send Naaman to him.

Naaman goes to Elisha's house bringing all of his horses and chariots and wealth.  The passage says that he halted at the door to Elisha's house.  Can't you just picture that?  A great commander, bringing much wealth, stopping at Elisha's door?  Elisha doesn't even come out and see him!  He sends a messenger to tell Naaman to go wash in the seven times Jordon,  in order to be healed.

Naaman is not happy.  Who is this prophet who won't even come out and see him?!  To wash in the Jordon is so below him.  One of his servants, who must have been rolling his eyes behind Naaman's back, convinces him to try this simple thing.  What does he have to lose?  So, Naaman does it, and is cured.

It's a great story.  I think it tells us some things about the nature of grace -- how we approach it, and what it really is and does.
  1. We think grace can be purchased.  We might not try to buy it with gold and silver (although sometimes we do), but we think the better we are, the more God will love us, and the more grace he will bestow upon us.  Grace isn't for sale.  
  2. Do we think we can go it alone, without God?  The servant girl tells Naaman to go see Elisha, a prophet of God.  Instead, he seeks out his King and then the King of Israel.  Is it his pride?  Lack of faith?  Whatever it is, it prevents him to receiving grace, because he keeps asking the wrong person for it.
  3. We think we can control grace.  Naaman wanted to control how the healing would happen.  Washing in the Jordon River wasn't the way he wanted to be healed.  I think it was just too humbling for him.  In verse one, the word gadol is translated as "great" and in verse 10 as "difficult."  "Thus Naaman is said to be a 'big man,' and he expected his cure to be a big deal.'" (Feasting on the Word).  The problem is that we are not in control of God.  God is in control.  God will bestow grace when and where he chooses -- how he chooses.  
  4. It is easier for us to accept grace when we let go and trust God.  Trusting God was hard for Naaman, and it is hard for us.
  5. Grace is transformational.  We miss verse 15 because it is not in the lectionary, but after his cure, Naaman comes back to Elisha and says, ""Now I know there is no God in all the earth except in Israel..."
Are we like Naaman?

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Blogger birdwatcher said...

Thanks - I think the hardest part of all is ACCEPTING that grace is a free gift from God - and not earned. It seems to defy all our life lessons of hard work yields positive results.

8:49 AM  

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