2 Kings 5:1019 Part I
†In Jesus Name †
May you hear God’s call to repentance…until you answer it with joyous expectation!
It is one of those things they tell you when you are trained to help people. Expect the backlash, even hatred, when you tell them what they don’t want to hear, but desperately need to hear. It may be the rehabilitation therapist who pushes you or the doctor who orders that invasive test that we only see as uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Lifeguards are told to expect it when saving the life of someone who is drowning. To the point where the technique of knocking the drowning person unconscious is practiced.
Too bad they don’t have a similar technique for prophets and pastors when we are called to do that which is uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Like calling a person to repentance, or calling them to let God heal their hearts, souls, and lives.
Like Naaman in the reading this evening.
A powerful general, in fact, Naaman is the one, the armies of Israel, feared more than any other. This isn’t just the equivalent to ISIS, but the equivalent to Hitler’s best generals. A man feared, honored, respected. Enough so that a King would call for peace so that he could be healed by the God of his enemy.
It’s all set up, healing has been promised, not just a procedure recommended, but after all the trips, after all the investment and travel is made, Naaman’s sinful pride reacts.
10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” 11 But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. 2 Kings 5:10-12 (NLT)
Do you believe this man? He has been promised complete healing, absolutely complete healing, and he rejects it because he doesn’t like what God calls him to do. Instead, he wants to rely on his own wisdom, his own strength and do it himself.
I mean, who does he think he is, to bargain with God?
I mean, it’s not like he’s an even a believer, he’s not even Lutheran. Why does he think he knows better than God? Who does he think he is, to say those other rivers are better than the Jordan? Who is he to get mad at God and storm off? Really???
What kind of self-righteous sinner is he? The worst of the worst, to turn away angrily from the loving mercy of God our Father…
Yes, he is the worst kind of sinner, the same sort of rebellious sinner as you and I, and the rest of the sinners in the world.
We do the same thing when we ask why we have to repent, or why we have to obey commands which we don’t like. I mean, how many of us really like and eagerly obey the command to love our enemies and pray for those who would persecute us?
Or how many of us understand the mind of God when he tells Peter to repent and be cleansed of your sin, and be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
We don’t, so we argue that our sin isn’t as bad as theirs, or that it’s not that bad of a sin, that we are just doing fine spiritually, that there is nothing to repent of.
You might even get mad at me, when I remind you that there is, or you might not like it when Chris plays that song, that reminds you that you need to have your heart and soul and mind healed.
But you do, he does, I do….
But we need to the Spirit to work in us, to guide our confession and prayer, to lay all this sin before God… and that is what we shall do right now.
(time of confession, followed by reading of the gospel and a sung Creed)
2 Kings 5:1019 Part II
Peter’s epistle tells us that God is patient, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We see this in the passage, as first the slave girl to a general comes to him with the hope of a cure. A slave girl, addressing the top general of the land?
Then, as he stormed off angrily, so violently that he was going to miss the healing God has promised, his officers were used by God to call him to repentance. For those of you in the service, does anyone just walk up to the commanding general and tell him he was wrong? They did, they reasoned with him, and he heard the call to hear God, and he listened and obeyed.
And God healed Him. God had mercy on him and transformed him, just as God promised through Elisha.
It cost him nothing to be transformed, the man of God didn’t even want an honorarium.
Something more incredible happened than the healing. Hear Naaman’s words,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. 2 Kings 5:15 (NLT)
That is the gospel that is repentance; that is the transformation that happens when God works in our life when we trust Him. Naaman came to repentance, to the realization that we aren’t God, that God is not to be manipulated, questioned or controlled. Instead, we embrace Him and become calmed by His love.
Naaman tried to honor God, to give him something back, through the prophet. When that happened, he did something odd, he took home some dirt, a trunk or two full. Something that would bring home the memory, and help him be humble, to help him remember that God is in charge. Seems like an odd thing to bring home, doesn’t it?
We need such reminders, both of our need to be humble, and of the grace of God, which brings us to wholeness. We need to celebrate the joy of repentance, of restoration, of reconciliation. This is why we remember our baptism, why we celebrate the Lord’s supper, why we gather together. To be reminded of His presence, and the joy of God’s work in our lives.
Can you imagine Naaman’s words upon arriving home? Hey Honey, I’m home, and you will never guess, not only am I healed, I brought home some…dirt! For the God of Israel is the true God, the God who cares for His people!
And something else, the blessing of the prophet, who said, Go in peace.
And now, as one of the repentant, he did