2 Kings 5:1-14

Mark 1:40-45

Naaman listened to a servant girl, which is great. But he also got some things wrong (or his king did). For starters, he went off to the king of Israel with a letter asking to be healed. He went to the seat of human power, because that’s the kind of power Naaman knew and understood. There would be good official reasons, of course, for checking in with the king of a country you visit, especially when you’re the ranking general in your own country’s army. Oh, and your countries are at war with each other. But still, you can see why the king of Israel might be a little bit nervous about this letter: “I want you to cure Naaman of his disease.” The king is just not the right guy for the job.

Elisha is the right guy, as the little Israelite girl knew all along. He calls Naaman to his house and pronounces his remedy: bathing in the Jordan River. And again, Naaman gets it wrong. He’d much rather have bathed in Syria’s rivers if that’s all it would take to heal his skin disease. He didn’t want a bath, he wanted the kind of healing prophets do, with prayers and hand-waving and the whole works. Elisha disappointed him.

Again, the servants are the ones to lead the general in the right path. They acknowledge that a little dip in the river doesn’t sound like much, but that should be all the better. Naaman would certainly have gone ahead with some extreme program of fasting and herbs if Elisha had suggested that, so why couldn’t he at least try this easier regimen? Once again, the servants are right. God doesn’t use great displays of power to heal Naaman, God uses the simple voices of people who didn’t strictly have a speaking role in the first place.

Naaman got it right after all. He searched for healing in the way that he thought it would come, through some big prophetic demonstration, because that’s how this kind of healing would make sense for him. But then these little voices called him out, and he listened to them. He tried what they recommended, despite the fact that their recommendation didn’t sound at all like what he expected. God worked this healing in the way that Naaman least expected it.

That seems to be the way God works. That’s how God works in the Gospel reading today, too. Granted, Jesus sends the man to offer the appropriate sacrifice that completes his healing in the terms of the Law, but that’s just a matter of keeping Jesus’ own work under wraps for a little while longer. We still see the same God who works healing and reconciliation in unexpected places.

Naaman was disappointed in Elisha’s prescription because it didn’t look like what God would do. He expected something God did to look more impressive, more extraordinary somehow. We often miss God for the same reason, that we just don’t notice what God is doing. We’re disappointed in God because our healing doesn’t come. We live with chronic illness that it seems God couldn’t possibly want for us. We live with resentment, fear, or just plain confusion about what God is doing in our lives, because what God does is so often different from what we expected God’s work to look like.

I can’t tell you for certain what God is, where God might be in our life as the church or the wider life of the world. Sometimes, in my Elisha moments, I can take a pretty good guess at where God might be, but I can’t usually say for sure until I see it. I can tell you about some things that God is or does in general, but it’s so much more real for all of us to just see God happen.

We know that God is in our healing, once the healing happens. Naaman knew that God was with Elisha once he had been healed; Elisha, blessedly, knew (or at least felt) where God was before that. We know God’s presence when it hits us, even if we didn’t know it was coming, even if we don’t have the kind of words we’d like to put on that experience. We feel healing and love surrounding us, we see light for the way ahead of us.

Is it possible that God is already with us? Can we imagine that the healing we need is already going on? Can we picture that reality in the places where we need healing? Can we picture it in the places where we don’t even know it was healing we need? Naaman’s healing and the one Jesus performs in the Gospel demonstrate God’s power. Our healing – the love we feel here – the presence that is with us, even if we only recognize it later on – that is the power of God.

That’s why we come back here every week, especially now when life is so strange and unsteady. We come back because God is here. God who is our comfort and our strength, who is beginning to work our healing here right here. God happens here, in this room where we greet each other like the family we are. Where we lift up each other’s prayers, even when we can’t lift up our own. Where we feed each other at the table of Christ’s presence and where we’re washed from the past in the font of new birth. Where we offer our gifts to the work of healing and love in the world. Where God lives among us in this visible way, so we can go out to share God’s healing love with others.

Amen.

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