The graciousness of our Lord and God!
A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley
by Andrew McKearney on 13 October 2019
Both stories that we’re offered today are about the graciousness of our Lord and God!
The first tells of Naaman the leper – not that he liked to be thought of as a leper! Naaman was a successful man who came with all his horses and chariots to the entrance of Elisha’s house, looking to be healed!
In the few verses that have been omitted from today’s reading we learn of the size of the present that Naaman brings with him for Elisha – 10 talents of silver, 6000 shekels of gold and 10 sets of garments! The picture painted is reminiscent of the visit of an American President to a foreign country, bringing with him a huge retinue of cars, outriders, helicopters, secret service men and advisors!
And when Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house, Elisha doesn’teven come out to meet him! Instead he sends a messenger with a simple command that Naaman should go and wash in the Jordan 7 times to be healed!
Naaman is outraged!
Back home he’s got rivers bigger and better than you can find anywhere else in the world!
He’s a powerful man! He’s used to getting his own way and being treated with respect, but his leprosy means that under all the bluff and bluster, he’s also a vulnerable man.
Help for Naaman comes from a surprising quarter! Not from the kings in the story, neither the king of Israel nor the king of Aram can help Naaman. Instead help comes from somewhere quite unexpected!
First we hear of a young captive girl from the land of Israel who serves Naaman’s wife. She’s the one who suggested in the first place that Naaman should go to the prophet in Samaria – she was confident that he could cure him of his leprosy.
And later on in the story, when in anger Naaman turns his back on Elisha, we hear how Naaman’s servants approach him to suggest that if the prophet had commanded him to do something difficult then he would have done it, so why not obey when he’s asked to do something simple?
Crucial on both occasions is the fact that it’s the servants not the masters who are able to get alongside Naaman!
Masters are a threat!
Servants are marginal, powerless people who know about vulnerability because they’re vulnerable themselves.
They can point the way – and they do!
With surprising courage they manage to help Naaman withhis vulnerability in a way that the rich and powerful can’t – and by following where they point Naaman experiences the graciousness of our Lord and God:
‘His flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy,
and he was clean.’
It’s a deeply moving story!
Turning to today’s Gospel reading, we learn there just how extensive the graciousness of our Lord and God actually is! Because regardless of whether they come back to thank Jesus or not, all 10 lepers are cleansed!
In this story it isn’t a servant but another marginal person, Samaritan, an outsider, who recognises the extraordinary graciousness of our Lord and God.
The other nine lepers are dutiful, obedient, doing exactly as they’ve been told by going to show themselves to the priests.
But by the end it isn’t the dutiful ones that are commended, but the Samaritan! His response to finding himself healed, is extravagant!
No simple handshake – no note sent through the post to say a polite ‘thank you’ – instead he praises God with a loud voice and prostrates himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks him!
How deeply un-Anglican!
Two wonderful stories about the graciousness of our Lord and God! There for rich and poor, there for grateful and ungrateful alike!
And the ones who point the way are not the rich and powerful but the servants and the Samaritans!
That’s the Gospel!
It’s the Servant of the Lord – himself poor and vulnerable, crucified and held of no account – who points the way for us all to that place of healing, hope and delight!
To the graciousness of our Lord and God!