When God means business...
Last Sunday I talked to you about our Lord’s Way of Love. A way of life calling us to see the world through the loving eyes of God.
Then I said that, “If anything, we are called to love and to let the chips fall where they may.” Or, as in God’s message in today’s bulletin, “Just love everyone… I’ll sort ‘em out later.”
While in our Lord’s days many were worried about where the chips where going to fall, Jesus healed the sick man in a Sabbath, touched the lepers, allowed himself to be touched by a sick woman, and so much more. It is sad to say that today, there are a lot of people worried about the chips, rather by those who need help, compassion, and mercy – in particular when they are far away from churchy ways.
Today’s lessons point that from day one, God meant business.
The people of Aram were ancient Israel’s ancient neighbors and enemies. They always had an uneasy relationship. At any rate, the least that can be said is that there was pretty little love lost among the people of Aram and the Israelites. In fact, at one time or another, they were at each other’s throats.
At the heart of Naaman’s story, there was a Jewish woman, almost invisible – like many other women in the Bible. She was enslaved by Naaman and his family. But the girl, perhaps without realizing it, in many ways represented what Jesus came to do – bring healing across divisions and end enmity through the power of love.
Without her, we would have never heard of Naaman or his healing. Perhaps St Paul was thinking about her when he instructed the people of Galatia – and us! – that whenever there is an opportunity, “you need to work for the good of all.”
And here is Naaman. He was a foreign gods worshiper and a successful military officer – someone whom under different circumstances the Israelites would have killed in no time – and yet, Naaman was healed.
He was not baptized, he didn’t change his religion, he was perhaps oblivious to the implications of what happened and yet he was healed. Like the Centurion in the New Testament, Naaman wasn’t supposed to be favored by God, and yet he was healed.
In Matthew’s Gospel (8:1-4) we find the story of Jesus healing a leper. It is extraordinary, not only for the miracle, but for the implications for the people of his time, all the way up to our days.
Matthew tells us that a leper approached Jesus. But what business had the leper for being so close to town? Lepers were ordered to be away, and to announce their presence with loud voices or clanging cymbals. Leprosy being contagious, it would be easy to imagine the multitude retreating. Further, leprosy was a sign of God’s wrath, wasn’t it? Who would have something to do with such a wretch?
Looking at Jesus, they wondered, “Now, what’s him going to do?” “Is he going to heal him?” “Surely, Jesus may order the sickness to go away or send him to wash at the river, right?”
But no. Jesus heard the man’s cry, and the He touched him, and healed the man. He touched a leper! How many rules and regulations Jesus broke with such an act?
But here is the thing. Jesus came to this world to teach us how to love, and go, and do the same, isn’t it? To love, and to let God take care of the fine print.
The world, society, knowledge, culture, language, everything is changing, even us perhaps without realizing it, or sometimes much to our own chagrin. And yes. We also celebrate change. No one would go back to outhouses, cold showers, and washing the clothes at the riverbank.
And yet, despite the ever-changing world, still the same old challenges remain. Bigotry, animosity, fear to the unknown, hardness of heart, unwarranted arrogance, selfishness and, it has to be said, ignorance of the worst kind still flourishes – The ignorance of those who refuse to learn and the ignorance of those who refuse to see the plain unvarnished truth, because it may turn to be inopportune.
Even the foundational ideas and ideals of our nation are sucker-punched aside in the name of short-sighted partisanship. “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
“Yeah, in God we trust, but we know better.” It is “The Lord of the Flies” all over again, isn’t it?
I wonder how many lines in the sand are being drawn even as we speak. How many are being taught this very morning to hone their swords instead of being taught how to forge them into plowshares? How many Naamans are shown the door of churches? How many are being kept away from God’s healing love – all in the name of a bogus “god”?
In the Way of Love there are no lines in the sand. There is a Cross on the Mount. A Cross that Jesus willingly accepted in the name of Love. In the Way of Love there are no lines in the sand or closed doors, but open hearts and willing hands.
Living the Way of Jesus means that we must learn to trust God, even and especially when it doesn’t make sense to us. Jesus commanded his disciples to share the peace – and if the entreat were to be refused still never to stop sharing the peace. “Freely were you given, freely you should give.”
The Way of Love calls us to be a blessing to a world in need of love, mercy, and forgiving grace, and rather than drawing lines in the sand, the Way of Love calls us to open doors, to cross bridges, and to freely share God’s bountiful blessings. Yes, indeed, God means business. And so should we. Amen.