Our 2 Kings and Luke Scriptures are deeply intertwined this morning.
Naaman is a non-Israelite commander with significant social net-worth, authority, and power.
The Samaritan leper in Luke is also non-Israelite, but is unnamed.
Thus, he is without social net-worth, authority, and power.
And yet, these men are plagued with the disease of leprosy.
Leprosy does not discriminate based on social net-worth, authority, or power.
But, it does isolate the infected from the community, especially holy men, such as Elisha and Jesus.
However, these men do seek the assistance of the holy men, who give each a simple task. Naaman is instructed to wash in the Jordon River. The unnamed lepers are instructed to show themselves to the priests, who could declare them healed.
Although we may not have leprosy or been miraculously healed, we have a shared experience with these men and all of humanity. We ALL have been infected with a disease simply known as “sin”. Sin does not discriminate based on social net-worth, authority, power, race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, biological sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, political leanings, or otherwise. But, sin isolates, divides, and separates us from God, loved ones, and neighbors far and near alike.
I envision sin less as a list of behaviors and more as a state of being.
Sin is less acting against a prescribed moral code and more being infected with an incurable disease. Martin Luther understood sin similarly defining it as “being curved in on the self”.
Our healing comes directly from God through the life, public ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
Our healing comes through the mere grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love of God experienced through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Naaman and the unnamed Samaritan return to the holy men, in order to express their thanks and gratitude to God.
A colleague posted commentary from The People’s New Testament Commentary
(M. Eugene Boring & Fred B. Craddock), which read:
“The leper responds with gratitude and praise. There is no presumption that “of course God heals/forgives/saves – that’s God’s business”. Grace cannot be calculated; grace is always amazing grace. “Grace” and “gratitude” are related linguistically and theologically; just as the two words are derived from the same root, so there can be no awareness of grace without gratitude, no gratitude without awareness of grace.”
We are called to respond to the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love of God, loved ones, and neighbors near and far alike with gratitude. But, what about those nine lepers who did not return in gratitude to offer thanks to God and Jesus for their healing?
The commentary continued:
“All were cleansed. The healing was not reversed or cancelled. Ingratitude does not cancel God’s faithfulness (Romans 3:3, 4). But there is hurt in the voice of Jesus that only one is grateful. The church is the community of the grateful, those who recognize that, while God’s mercy extends to all, all are compelled to respond in gratitude. The others are just as cleansed by God but do not recognize that it calls forth the response of praise and thanksgiving”.
The words of this commentary are profound and powerful. All of humanity has been healed from the shared disease of sin, although not cured since sin remains in and around us. This healing is grace and we are invited to respond with gratitude, but our healing is not depended upon our gratitude.
May our eyes, ears, hearts, and souls recognize the grace offered to us
from God, loved ones, and neighbors far and near alike.
May we respond to said grace with the appropriate gratitude and thanksgiving.
May we be so moved to extend said grace to our loved ones and
neighbors far and near alike.
May we ponder the words of Brnnan Manning, that:
“Christianity is not primarily a moral code but a grace-laden mystery.”
May we embrace the grace-laden mystery.
Scriptures were 2 Kings 5: 1-3, 7-15c; Psalm 111; and Luke 17: 11-19
Originally preached on 13 October 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).