To Be Like Elisha

Good morning!  It was awesome to worship with the wonderful people of RCC this morning.  Here is my sermon!  A little on the short side, because of communion …

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2 Kings 5:1-14

To Be Like Elisha

Sometimes healing is found in the most unexpected of places.

In this morning’s reading from the Old Testament, Naaman, an Aramean man who suffered from leprosy, sent a letter to the King of Israel asking for healing. Naaman, as the story explains, sent the letter to the King of Israel because a young Israelite girl, who had been taken captive by the Aram army and was – at the time – serving Naaman’s wife, said to her new mistress, “If only my Lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Of course, when this young Israelite girl said, “Lord,” people assumed she was speaking of her king from Israel.

But that was not who she was talking about. She was speaking of a different kind of king.

The king of Israel did not cure Naaman. But Elisha – a prophet, a man of God – heard what had happened and sent for Naaman. When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house, Elisha sent a messenger out to him, telling Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times. Naaman was not a believer. But eventually he went to the Jordan and immersed himself in the waters seven times. And when he emerged, he had been healed. It was – in many ways – miraculous.

There are a lot of “Naaman’s” in the world. There are a people who do not believe in God, who allow their actions to be dictated by human beings and structures rather than basic notions of right and wrong. There are people who struggle throughout their journeys without being grounded in a faith that strengthens them. There are people who do not feel God’s creating, redeeming and sustaining grace in their lives. There are people who have never seen the transformative power of prayer. There are people who do not have a community of faith to call their own. There are people who have never felt the support – both tangible and emotional – of church community

We should not be okay with this.

And we do something about it as well.

We cannot stand idly by while people are truly struggling and hurting in the world. The lessons that we learn from Elisha in this story do not really have anything to do with the healing itself of Naaman. They have to do with the way that Elisha sought out Naaman so that he could be healed by God. If you remember, Naaman never asked God to heal him; Elisha was the one who heard that Naaman needed to be healed and then approached him.

We need to be more like Elisha. We need to be willing to go out into our communities and share our faith. We need to listen to the way that God is speaking to us today. We need to pay attention to what is going on around us. We need to live a tangible expression of our Christian faith, both inside AND outside the walls of our church.

I know that this is easier said than done. I led a retreat a few weeks ago with the Board of Deacons and we talked about finding a good balance between welcoming people in our church community and scaring them off by being too pushy. Many members of the Board said that they prefer to air on the side of caution when it comes to welcoming people into the church. They confessed to not wanting to overwhelm visitors with excessive questions and inquiries or ask too much of a new member too soon. The general consensus from the group was that they would rather open doors – but allow people to walk through them when they are ready to do.

And while I understand this sentiment and concern, I also had to push back. Because sometimes people need a little bit of encouragement to walk through those open doors for the first time.

By sharing our faith with the people around us and encouraging them to come into our community, we are not forcing them to believe what we believe or join the church that we belong to. We are simply telling our story and inviting them to be part of it. Christian evangelism has gotten a bad reputation, but it really is a good thing. There are times when people just need that invitation and we – we as Christians and we as members of this church – need to extend it to them.

A few years ago, The United Church of Christ began using the phrase, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” I do believe that – in many ways – we live out this phrase at this church. So know that I am when I say we need to “evangelize” I am not suggesting that we start knocking on doors, forcing religion down people’s throats and telling them that they need to believe what we believe. That is not what evangelism is about – it never was. I am, however, suggesting that we not only open doors of opportunity, but that we also step through them as well and see what – and more importantly who – is outside. If Elisha had not done this, Naaman never would have experienced healing in his life.

I am not saying these things because I want to bring in new members, increase our pledges during stewardship and grow our church. Sure, that would be nice (!) – but that is not what this particular scripture is about. This scripture is about a greater call to grow the Church; it reminds us to pay attention, to share our stories, to welcome new people into our midst and to extend an extravagant invitation to them. This scripture calls us to be like Elisha, to create opportunities for other people to feel God’s presence in their lives and to allow them – like Naaman – to find healing in the most unexpected of places.

So let us live out this call in our lives.

Let us be like Elisha and invite people into our midst to experience God’s presence.

Let us not only set a place at the table for guests, but invite them to dinner as well.

God is good and God is still speaking – let’s share that with the world!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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