6th Sunday after Epiphany

February 13, 2000
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Kings 5:1-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 30
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Reading 4: 
Mark 1:40-45

Both selections below are stories about healing and can be used together. Because of the narrative quality of the 2 Kings story, it might be best to let the narrative speak for itself in the sermon by simply telling the story. By becoming familiar with the story and all its nuances, the preacher can allow the theological issues to flow naturally from the narrative.

2 Kings 5:1-14
This text from 2 Kings is part of a larger story which involves three parts woven together in chapter 15. All of the parts taken together sharpen the question of the proper response to God's healing power. Naaman, an outsider, a Syrian, is powerful yet is a leper. His healing is the focus of the first part of the story. Through a series of plot developments, he is led to the prophet in Israel, Elisha. Through his openness, Naaman is healed by the end of the first part of the story (vs 15). In the second part, Naaman wishes to pay the prophet, but Elisha refuses. In the third part, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, pursues Naaman in order to get the reward which his master refused. Gehazi hides the money, but Elish finds him out and Gehazi ends up having leprosy at the end of the story.

The two character, Naaman and Gehazi are meant to play off each other. Gehazi's (the insider) is a cautionary tale about how not to respond to God's healing. Naaman's (the outsider) story is how to respond properly to God's healing.

There are several theological issues in the story.

1. Universalism. God healed the outsider, while the insider displayed bad faith.

2. Health was given in order for faith to follow.

3. Naaman's response expresses a transformation of his life as a result of the healing which was accomplished by a plunge in the river (baptism).

4. The problem of loyalty. Naaman is set within a tension of divergent loyalties, and the problem of how to sort out such loyalties. The issue of faith is set within the tensions of the reality of several competing loyalties.

One preaching possibility is simply to tell the story with all its twists and character conflicts and the strange resolutions, with all the comedy which is written into the story. The conclusion of the sermon would be to draw out the theological issues above.

Mark 1:40-45
This story is connected to the story above through the act of healing a leper. Jesus has just begun a preaching tour, and is approached by a leper, who wants to be made clean. Jesus heals him. Jesus' healing power can be seen as an embodiment of that same healing power in the 2 Kings text.

A preaching possibility of both texts is to talk about the openness and receptivity of the two characters who were healed in the two stories, Naaman and the unnamed leper who came to Jesus. Naaman is a character study of faith. The unnamed leper is a picture of openness to Jesus' healing power.

From a Process perspective, openness to the divine is one of the important aspects of each occasion of experience. And that openness and responsiveness to God's influence leads to further openness in the future. Faith can be interpreted as trusting that divine influence each moment.

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