A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley
by Andrew McKearney on 9 October 2016
We’re offered two stories this morning about the graciousness of God.
The first tells of Naaman the leper – not that he liked to be thought of as a leper! Naaman was a successful man of the world who came with all his horses and chariots to the entrance of Elisha’s house – and when he got there Elisha did not even come out to meet him! Instead Elisha sent a messenger with a simple command to go and wash in the Jordan 7 times!
Off went Naaman in a rage! He was a powerful man, used to getting his own way and being treated with deference, but his leprosy meant that under all his bluff and bluster, he was a vulnerable man. And it was this vulnerability that Naaman was quite unused to handling, making him difficult to live with. A typical man, I hear you say!
Help for Naaman came from a surprising quarter! Not from the kings in the story, neither the king of Israel nor the king of Aram were able to help Naaman. Instead help came from a most surprising quarter!
First, a young captive girl from the land of Israel who served Naaman’s wife, suggested that Naaman should go to the prophet in Samaria, confident that he would cure him of his leprosy.
And second, when in his anger Naaman turned his back on Elisha, it was Naaman’s servants who approached Naaman and suggested that if the prophet had commanded him to do something difficult then he would have done it, so why not obey when asked to do something simple?
Notice how on both occasions it was the servants not the masters who were able to get alongside Naaman. These were marginal, powerless people who knew about vulnerability because they too were vulnerable, and with surprising courage they managed to help Naaman with his vulnerability – his leprosy.
Turning to today’s Gospel reading, we learn there just how extensive the graciousness of God actually is! Because regardless of whether they came back to thank Jesus or not, all 10 lepers were cleansed! God’s active goodness, his grace and mercy, extends far beyond any boundaries we may try and impose!
And in this story it wasn’t a servant but a Samaritan, again an outsider, who recognised this boundless graciousness of God and knew how to respond. The other nine lepers were dutiful, obedient, doing exactly as they had been told by going to show themselves to the priests. After all that was what Jesus had told them to do:
‘Go and show yourselves to the priests,’ he had said to them.
But by the end it wasn’t the dutiful ones that were commended, but the Samaritan! His response to finding himself healed of his leprosy, was both disobedient (he didn’t go and show himself to the priests) and extravagant.
No simple handshake – no note sent through the post to say a polite ‘thank you’ – instead he praised God with a loud voice and prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him!
Clearly not an 8 o’clocker!
The servants of Naaman and his wife – the Samaritan healed of his leprosy – both invite us to have a simpler, less dutiful, more joyous response to the graciousness of our God.
Only then will our vulnerabilities be healed.