July 8, 2007 VI Pentecost (RCL Proper 9/C) II Kings 5: 1-14; Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20
When we introduced the Revised Common Lectionary we noted that through this season after Trinity Sunday the readings from the Old Testament and the Gospel are now sequential and not designed to find thematic connections. Nonetheless, even with a randomness there will often be ways that the two readings throw light on similar subjects, since both the Old Testament and the New Testament after all are built on common foundations of a concern to account for how God’s purposes are worked out in the midst of his people. In any case, so it is today, as the story of the healing of the Syrian official Naaman by the Prophet Elisha coincides with the dramatic story in Luke of Jesus sending out the Seventy on what is essentially the first Apostolic Mission.
Both stories about the power of God. Jesus commands the Seventy to go out into the towns and villages and to enact their exactly the same ministry that he has been living-out. “Cure the sick,” he tells them, “ and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Meanwhile back in II Kings the Syrian Secretary of Defense has come to famous King Ahab with what seems like an impossible request. I mean, ask me as a subject nation to pay more tribute, or to enlist more mercenaries for the Syrian army. But to cure you of your leprosy? And now Elisha picks up where the great Elijah had left off with this Israelite monarch, always reminding Ahab about the limits of his royal authority. Some things kings can’t do, only God. Is this more than you can handle, Your Majesty? O.K. then, I’ll take care of it. No problem. And then to send Naaman off to his ritual cleansing bath, and a life restored. Some things are beyond kings and governments and even the best efforts of the traditional healthcare system.
The point of both stories is that they are here for us this morning. To remind us that we are the ones called to be the Elisha’s now. That we are among the crowds Jesus sends out with his power and authority, to work miracles, to heal, to reconcile, to announce and usher in God’s new government. We are the ones, now, that these stories are about.
It’s all about us, and it's all about miracles. Miracles of healing, which of course take place in many forms, sometimes physically and sometimes at levels of life and experience that it takes a deep spiritual discernment to understand. Miracles though that happen all the time, right here, as real and as powerful as anything Elisha ever accomplished or that the Spirit-Filled apostles could even imagine.
They said, “you won’t believe what happened when we went out in your name, Jesus. Miracles everywhere. The sick restored to health, the fearful encouraged, the mourning comforted. Forgiveness happened, in places where it never seemed possible before.” And Jesus said, “Yes, I know, I know. The moment I sent you out, lightning flashed, that’s how great it was, and I could see Satan himself toppled from his throne and cast into outer darkness.” And he says that to you, to us, even sometimes when we aren’t sure what we’re actually doing here, when it seems sometimes we aren’t getting anywhere, and then certainly in those moments when the clouds break and a bit of sunshine does shine in. “Friends of St. Andrew’s: I saw Satan fall from heaven when I sent you out. The power of sin and death broken, new life begun.
How hard it is to stand at the foot of the Cross and then to move out into the wide world of our lives. His body broken for us, because of us, and his blood poured out, and in the mystery of that moment of horrible death, the seeds of new life.
We just seem too ordinary for this, but it is true nonetheless that the stories aren’t just about Elisha and Jesus and his disciples, but about us. About how in the miracle of the font we die in him and are reborn, about how in the miracle of the altar the common things of life become him, and then with them we become him, his hands, his feet, his arms, heart. And every moment of our lives begins to shimmer with the potential of a miraculous transformation, every relationship, every challenge: a seed in the moment of bursting into flower. “Where there is hatred, let us sow love, where there is injury, pardon, where there is sadness, joy.”
It looks like an ordinary neighborhood church, which is all it is, and they look just like ordinary people. But don’t let that fool you. There are miracles happening here, all the time, all around you. Better things in him and through him and with him, than we could ever have asked for or imagined.
Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.