Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sermon for July 7, 2013; 2 Kings 5:1-14

Rev. George Miller
2 Kings 5:1-14
“Freedom Comes In All Forms”
July 7, 2013

Summer time brings with it a variety of gifts: street fairs, fireworks and uncongested roads. Another gift for people like me is the chance to catch up on our TV viewing.

Thanks to DVRs, one can record an entire season of a show and then watch the episodes at your leisure.

One program I’m watching is “Bones”, a procedural about a forensic anthropologist.

In one episode, Bones has a near death experience in which she has visions of her long-dead mother and they have various conversations.

In one conversation, her mother notes that Bones has done a good job using her brain to be successful, but she has forgotten her childlike joy. Her mother wishes that Bones learns how to reclaim that part of her.

Your brain helped you to survive, her mother notes, but “It’s not about surviving anymore- it’s about flourishing.” (Bones, episode 202, aired 02-11-13)

I thought about that quote during my vacation to Morro Bay, CA in which I visited my sister and her family.

Let me tell you, her children are certainly flourishing. Living in a small, coastal town they have the benefit of knowing who their neighbors and storeowners are. They have a yard filled with trees bearing berries, a swing set, bikes, and skateboards.

They spend their days climbing mountains and going down to the ocean where they can swim and boogie board, ride their father’s boat and play in the sand.

My niece Elly has this infectious laugh. When we were in the water she’d giggle and scream with delight; no wave was too tall or fast for her not to jump over or dive into.

Flourishing indeed.

Today’s story also features travel and water, a young girl and the notion of flourishing.

We are introduced to a man named Naaman. He seems to be flourishing: a successful army commander, a wife, servants, and a close connection with the king of Aram.

Life seems good, but as it can often be, it takes the honesty of a child to reveal what’s really happening. Naaman is surviving; he suffers from leprosy, a skin disease.

A young Israelite girl tells Naaman’s wife “If only he were with the prophet who is in Samaria he would be cured of his leprosy.”

As the story unfolds, we watch a series of events as Naaman first goes to the King of Aram, then to the king of Israel. Then he is called to the prophet Elisha who sends a servant with the message that his flesh will be restored if he washes in the Jordan River 7 times.

Naaman finds this hard to believe and has a hissy fit, wondering why he couldn’t have just stayed where he was. Eventually he follows the prophet’s commands and indeed he is restored, like a “young boy.”

Naaman has an experience of faith that transforms him from surviving to flourishing.

This is an intricate story with various layers. Note that Naaman is not an Israelite or a Jew. He is a Gentile who worships another god, if he worships one at all.

Yet it does not prevent the prophet or God from offering healing and restoration.

Note there is no fee requested. Not any special words he has to pledge or a requirement for congregational membership.

One even wonders if it’s the water that brought the cleansing or if it was Naaman’s eventual, humble obedience.

Naaman’s healing becomes a free gift, and it is the gift that leads to his faith…

…On one level, I can’t help but to feel that this story is a metaphor about the gift of grace and the freedom that comes with it.

Grace which we have talked about all last month; grace which we sing about as being amazing; grace which you heard Rev. Katsanis preach about last Sunday.

Grace which brings freedom of life and moves one from surviving to flourishing.

And this grace is one that is inclusive, one that reaches out far and wide to anyone willing to hear. Grace that requires no seminary level theology or the “right” notion of God’s presence or how things are.

But grace that is patient, grace that finds a way in even when our spirits seems closed, grace that grows the more we embrace and are willing to experience it.

It’s interesting that in today’s story, the introduction to this freedom, to this restoration, to this grace comes from the act of a child. Because this little girl in today’s story reminds me of another child.

Perhaps you have heard of him. Born to Joseph and Mary. Placed in a manger. Visited by wise men; baptized in the Jordan.

Grew to be a teacher, a healer, a Savior to all. Told stories about a father with two sons and a Samaritan who was good.

We know him as Jesus Christ.

Thanks to Jesus, we don’t have to be dunked in the Jordan 7 times nor do we have to travel far to experience freedom and flourishing.

In fact, we don’t have to travel at all, because through our experience with Christ we discover that no matter who we are, no matter how far or how little we have journeyed, God has loved us all along.

Through our experience of Christ we discover that God has always been alongside us, ready, willing and able to offer the gifts that bring about freedom and flourishing...

…Today’s story is about many things. For today, let is be a story about grace.

Grace that says God wants to grant us freedom even when we fail to acknowledge our own captivity.

Grace that says God wants us to be whole even if we are not yet aware of our own brokenness.

Grace that says God wants us to be fully realized human beings even if we are not yet ready to believe that such a thing is possible.

Grace that says it’s not who you are or what you’ve done, but that God loves you.

Grace that says it’s not where you succeeded in life or where you failed, but that you are worthy of God’s love because it is God’s to give and God’s love is beyond abundance.

Grace that says I want you free to flourish instead of just surviving.

It was grace that we were washed with when we were baptized, grace that we experience when we confess our sins, and grace that we taste when we gather at the table to share the bread of God and the cup of life.

For in Christ, we are justified; in Christ we have already won our freedom.

Grace is not just about surviving; it is about flourishing and living the fruitful lives we were always meant to enjoy.

Amen and amen.

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