Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 12 Sermon

In the 14th Century, Julian of Norwich, an anchoress and visionary wrote that “all shall be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.”

That faithful statement is connected to the Hebrew word “shalom.” We often use that word for peace, but it has other meanings too, for the root of shalom means wholeness and wellness.

Peace & Health go together, because that is what God intends for creation. Wholeness and wellness are not just about our individual selves but our connection to each other, to the created order and to our God.

All shall be well is an understanding that God’s shalom, is meant for everyone, even the enemy.

Naaman – the commander of the army of the king of Aram, though a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy. (remember Leprosy in the bible is not the same as we understand Leprosy today as Hanson’s disease).

Naaman hears from his wife about an Israelite slave girl, the most powerless person around him, and she startles him with the revelation from the slave that a prophet in Samaria can cure him.

Outrageous! Samaria! The King of Israel doesn’t want him to come, he’s commander of the enemy’s army. But… He goes. When he approaches the prophet, Elisha doesn’t go to him. He sends a messenger instead to Naaman with his horses, his chariots, and his entourage with him. The messenger tells him to go wash in the Jordan, 7 times, and he will be made clean.

Naaman was furious, felt disrespected because the prophet didn’t come out to see him, didn’t call upon God and didn’t do anything. The rivers back home are just as good as the Jordan! Such impudence!

But…his servants approach him and remind him that if the prophet had given him a hard task to do, he would have done it. Why get upset about going to the Jordan to wash and get clean?

And for the second time, Naaman listens to a servant, listens to the least in his presence, and he goes and does as Elisha had said. And lo and behold, he is made clean, his leprosy is gone! And God’s shalom happens, even to the enemy, through the faith of others.
In John Drinkwater's play Abraham Lincoln, President Lincoln is talking with a Union woman, and an anti-Confederate zealot.

Lincoln tells her about the latest victory by Northern forces — the Confederate army lost 2700 men, while Union forces lost 800. The woman is ecstatic. "How splendid, Mr. President!"

Lincoln is stunned at her reaction. "But, madam, 3500 human lives lost ..."

"Oh, you must not talk like that, Mr. President. There were only 800 that mattered."

Lincoln's shoulders drop as he says: "Madam, the world is larger than your heart."
In Jesus, we have one whose heart is as big as the world. In the Gospel today, a leper comes begging, kneeling to Jesus, for he has heard of Jesus and what he has done for others.

“If you choose, you can make me clean…” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!"

And the leper was made clean, he asked for it and Jesus did it. Now by touching him, Jesus became ritually unclean but all of that is meaningless to Jesus because Jesus is not interested in ritual purity but helping make the leper taste shalom, to be whole again so that he can be with his family.

Jesus then tells him to go, show the priest, offer what Moses commanded regarding the cleansing as a testimony against them. You can sense the frustration of Jesus with a system that kept people apart rather than bringing them back to wholeness and grace.

But it is the leper who came to Jesus wanting help who is made whole again by Jesus who desires that for everyone, because that is what God does, even with “the other,” the enemy.

Those are stories of faith, the leper cleansed by Jesus, & the slave girl and his servants who help Naaman find healing. This is faith rooted in shalom, in wholeness and wellbeing. That is what Jesus invites us to do in our lives and to all who need healing and wholeness which we can by love and compassion provide.
A story from a busy New York restaurant: After church one Sunday, some friends stopped for lunch at a busy neighborhood restaurant. As they were enjoying their meals, one of the friends noticed a man who had taken great care to make his tattered clothes look spiffy. He had finished his simple sandwich and coffee and was searching one pocket after another for enough dollar bills to pay for his lunch. He was becoming increasingly frantic as he came to realize that he did not have enough money to cover the check.

The friend got up quietly as if going to the restroom. In passing the man's table, he leaned down, pretending to find a $10 bill on the floor. It was done so naturally that when he offered the bill to the distracted man, the man's whole body language changed. "Thank you, thank you," he said, "I was sure I had that bill." The poor man was beaming, the friend smiled warmly & walked away.

The others at the table were deeply moved by what they had witnessed. Their friend had done a great kindness, not because of the $10 gift, but because the poor man was treated with gentleness, caring and respect. [As told by Alice Allen, in "Metropolitan Diary," The New York Times, December 30, 2002.]
May we seek to bring God’s shalom to our world, knowing that God’s love is larger than our world, and that God has created us for wholeness and wellness. For then we shall know that, “all shall be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” Amen.

No comments: