Text study – 2 Kings 5:1-3 & 7-15c

Wow…two weeks in a row that I am starting with the Old Testament text.  Hopefully this is something I will do more often.  After all, in the three year Revised Common Lectionary, the Old Testament text and the Gospel text often have a common thread running through them.  I am not sure what text the sermon will come from this week, but I will start here and continue with the Gospel text later this week.  With that…let’s spend some time with good ole Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5.

Naaman is a powerful and successful military commander for the king of Aram.  But Naaman had a little problem…he had leprosy…normally a death sentence (depending on the kind).  Obviously Naaman is not an outcast as we often see in the New Testament.  Naaman is still commanding his troops and is allowed to go and speak with his master.  Whatever the strain of leprosy that Naaman had, it was serious enough to go into enemy territory to seek healing.

After making the appropriate preparations, Naaman heads out to find this prophet, Elisha, who resides in Samaria.  Upon arriving at Elisha’s house, Naaman is greeted by one of Elisha’s servants who is carrying an important message, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed."  Wow…this sounds like good news.  Jump in the river and all will be well.  But Naaman doesn’t see it that way.

Naaman is offended and angry and leaves in a huff.  "How dare he, Elisha, to not even come out and heal me himself."  But one of Naaman’s servants sets him straight and Naaman eventually does as he is commanded.  Naaman returns to Elisha to offer his appreciation and thanks for being healed.

What is at the root of Naaman’s problem early on?
(1)  He feels deserving.  After all, he ventured into enemy territory to seek this healing.  Granted, he came under the banner of peace, but nothing is guaranteed.  Naaman went hoping and expecting this man of God to do something incredible.  If he didn’t feel deserving, he wouldn’t have gone through the trouble.

(2) He expects a "light show".  When Elisha does not come out, Naaman is angry.  He wanted (and expected) Elisha to come out and wave his hand, and do something impressive to conjure up a healing spirit (Naaman had no idea about this God of Elisha’s).  Once again, Naaman felt deserving and wanted to see Elisha "do his thing".

(3) He doesn’t trust the power of the promise.  When he is commanded to wash in the Jordan he is offended because the rivers back home are much cleaner and more appealing.  "Certainly those rivers would be better."  But it has nothing to do with the water.  Maybe there is a baptismal connection here.  I know of people how bring water back from the Jordan River to use in a family member’s baptism; thinking that the water is somehow more special or holy.  But it is not the water that does the work, but the promise with the water.  If the pastor decided to baptize a baby with Coke (though not advised) I believe God would still "do HIS thing".  It’s the promise.  Naaman missed this.

(4) (On the lighter side — Naaman is not Lutheran) — He does not believe in the Priesthood of all Believers.  Once again he is angry that a SERVANT came out to deliver this message of healing.  He felt Elisha should do it, after all ELISHA is the prophet.  The power of the promise and the Good News does not come from us…it comes from God.  Elisha did not heal Naaman, God did.  Something Naaman figures out after he is healed.

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So…what are some possible preaching/teaching points:
(1) Connection with baptism.  The power of the promise is in the Word that comes from God.  It is not who does it or what is used or how it is done — it is the promise – the Good News.  God can not be limited.

(2) If a servant can carry a "healing message" then you can too.  God has a healing message for all His children and we are the servants who are to deliver it.  We have the power and authority to do so through Jesus Christ — the priesthood of all believers.

(3) The gift of healing is free.  Following this text, Naaman tries to offer Elisha some gifts, but Elisha does not accept.  The message of Good News, through Jesus Christ is offered to ALL people.  This is AMAZING GRACE "…how sweet the sound…".

(4) A healing service would be very fitting this Sunday (as it would anytime).  Anointing with oil and praying with people for healing in anyway God sees that the person needs.  For healing comes in a variety of ways.

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Stay tuned for thoughts on the Gospel text coming up later this week.  In the mean time (and in all times), seek the Lord and know the healing power of the Good News — Jesus Christ has risen that we may have New Life.  Amen!

-edh-

Text study – Habakkuk

I have decided that I shouldn’t be prejudiced against the Old Testament.

Actually…I am not really prejudiced against the Old Testament, I just don’t preach on it all that often.
You pastors/preachers out there…how often do you preach on the Old Testament? 

Looking through the scripture I have preached on over the last 3+ years I have been here (yes…I actually keep track of all the texts I preach on) I figured that I preach on the Old Testament about 12.1% of the time.  I preach on the Gospel text about 68% of the time.  I have only preached on the Old Testament text three times this year so far.  Maybe this week Habakkuk will make an appearance as the preaching text.  Perhaps…

Anyway…I thought I would jot down some thoughts about the Habakkuk text assigned this week by the "almighty" lectionary.  It’s a book we don’t open too often and I am willing to bet, a book that many people have not heard of or are not familiar with at all.  So here it goes.

Habakkuk was a prophet in the nation of Judah around the year 607 b.c.  The people were a wicked and perverse people.  They had long forgotten the God who brought them out of Egypt; lead them to the Promised Land; gave them years of prosperity and blessed them with His presence.  Now they were doing what pleased them and them alone.  Habakkuk, seeing the depravity around him, calls out to God wondering how long God is going to let this perversion last – "How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?" (1:2)  Habakkuk has had it up to here (picture my hand at my forehead).

[Now this is where I need to interject something.  The lectionary assigns 1:1-4 and 2:1-4 and that is it.  But if that is all you read, you miss a lot.  Habakkuk is a short book — 3 chapters — so read the whole thing.  The ending is beautiful.  I am not sure what I will do on Sunday, but context needs to be set up.]

Now back to our program…

In verses 5-11 of chapter 1, God responds to Habakkuk by telling him that He is well aware of the perversion and is preparing something big — the Babylonians are going to come in and kick some butt and haul the people off into exile.  Well…this doesn’t sit well with Habakkuk because the Babylonians are even more perverse than the people of Judah.  Why would God even turn His eyes in the direction of the Babylonians? 

God once again responds (chapter 2).  God understands the sins of the Babylonians and they will certainly not escape judgment, but the people of Judah are guilty of greater sins.  God then goes into a diatribe of a series of "Woes" after a great verse (4) where God says, "See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous will live by his faith"

Habakkuk follows this up with one of scripture’s most beautiful psalms and the verse (19), "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer. he enables me to go on the heights."  Habakkuk’s faith shines through even though he does not fully understand what God is doing.

The Gospel text (Luke 17:5-10) speaks of faith to move a mullberry tree.  Here we see an example of faith in the midst of trials.  We struggle with understanding why God does the things God does (or does not do).  We wrestle with what God’s will is.  We pace across the floor of our faith and wonder how long we can last.  But God calls us to be patient and in due time our reward will be here.  We don’t understand God (that’s not our job)…all we need to do is trust God; trust that since God is indeed Almighty, that God has everything under control – Remembering: "The Sovereign Lord is my (our) strength; he makes my (our) feet like the feet of a deer. he enables me (us) to go on the heights."

Hmmm…I think I am liking this book more and more.

Peace be with you and Amen!

-edh-