No boundaries - Reflection 10-10-19

Texts for Sunday October 13, 2019
18th Sunday after Pentecost 

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

The first lesson and the Gospel are tied together by the healing of the disease of leprosy. In the Kings reading, it is an enemy of Israel who is eventually healed of leprosy by a prophet of Israel. In the Gospel, 10 people who were living together as outcasts because of leprosy were healed. The one only who returned to give thanks to Jesus as healer was a Samaritan.

Interestingly (to me), earlier in Luke, Jesus referred to the story of Naaman’s healing. He was making the point to the hometown crowd that God does not show preference for those who are “in” or “out”. God heals whoever God wants to heal.  (At that point the crowd tried to throw Jesus off a cliff.) Later in Luke, when a Samaritan village refused to offer hospitality to Jesus, his disciples were ready to call down fire upon their head. Tersely, the Bible reports “he rebuked them”.  Then, a chapter later, Jesus uses a Samaritan in a parable – a good Samaritan – as an excellent example of how to “love your neighbor”.  

All of these stories are about crossing boundaries. God doesn’t abide by the boundaries that we put up between us and them.

I think there is another, maybe related, point to be made. In 2 Kings, notice who drives the healing action in the story. Not Naaman, the King of Israel, or even Elijah. First, we have the young slave girl who, in today’s jargon, was a human trafficking victim, carried off from Israel. But she carried with her the knowledge of her God and God’s thing about crossing boundaries. There is no “maybe” in her suggestion. If Naaman went to Elijah, he would be healed. Period.

Then, for some reason, the people choosing the lectionary texts decided to skip a few verses of this story after the slave girl speaks up. To summarize: Naaman tells his king about what the slave girl has said and the king gives him a proper letter of introduction to the king of Israel. Naaman also decides to “grease the wheels” of the request by taking lots of money with him. Naaman then goes to the king of Israel and...

We return to the appointed text to hear the king of Israel panicking about the king of Aram’s request for healing. Apparently, those wheels needed something more than grease.  Then Elijah, another servant of God who doesn’t seem to care that Naaman is on a different side, says to the king “Stop panicking. Just send him here.” Elijah then says to Naaman “Just go wash in the Jordan and you’ll be fine.”  Naaman is obviously a man who wants to be in control. He used the proper channels to get his foot in the door, and offed an enticement of cold hard cash. But now, instead of a spectacular act of healing with lights and sound appropriate to a man of his standing, he is supposed to go to a muddy river and wash.

At that point we meet the second driver of action. It is another servant, or maybe a bunch of servants. They suggest he just give it try. And Naaman is healed and acknowledges God as the source of healing.

Not only does God cross boundaries, God also commissions the lowly and insignificant to carry God’s compassion beyond the edges of the expected.

Similarly, in the Gospel, the one who returned to give thanks is still an outcast, still insignificant. His leprosy is gone but not the fact he is a Samaritan. But of the ten who were healed, he is the only one who recognized God’s compassion. He praised God as soon as he saw it. And then returned to Jesus to give thanks. Once again, Luke uses the unexpected Samaritan to drive the story’s action. But this time the Samaritan serves as an excellent example of how to “love God”.

What are your thoughts?

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