1st Reading — 2 Kings 5: 14-17
Some talking points to this story:
- It is a small Jewish girl that suggest to Naaman (head general) to go see Elisha. She is a slave from a country they have raided. This is a story, like so many others in the Bible, of the underdog.
- The king of Aram wrote to the king of Israel that he was sending Naaman, who laughed and thought it was a trick. When Elisha overheard, he intervened and said to send him to me.
- When Naaman first arrives to see Elisha, Elisha doesn’t even come outside to greet him. Naaman at first gets angry and turns to leave, but the servants (again) convince him to stay and give Elisha’s suggestion of dousing in the river a try.
- In this time period, there were localized deities. Each tribe had land and they had a god. So if you were traveling or at war, you had to think about how that god would react. The idea of the Jewish people that we all come from 1 God, that we are all brothers and sisters and we could actually live in peace was BIG.
- Notice in the last line that Naaman now refers to himself as servant. All power is temporary. Why does he want Israel’s dirt? Because Israel dirt = Yahweh dirt and that is what he wants to worship on. Naaman is enlightened by being healed, but he is still using his old, familiar categories (Don’t we all do this?).
Continue reading the next 2 lines of this passage (2 Kings 5:18-19) Elisha is concerned about what’s going to happen when he returns home and has to worship his tribal god again, Rimmon. Rather than admonish him, Elisha tells him to go in peace. God is with us in the complexity of life. To reflect on this further, listen to Rob Bell’s Podcast #34:
2nd Reading — 2 Timothy 2: 8 –13
This letter in the name of Paul assures us that though he was ‘chained’ and eventually killed, “the Word of God is not chained” and that the God we find in Jesus Christ will be forever faithful – even when we are not. God continues to work and inspire even our stage of reading and interpreting – helping these words live for us – enfleshing His love and presence in us.
“The Bible is not a book to be read,
but a drama in which to participate.” Abraham Heschel
How can the word of God free you? William Barclay says, “Jesus must always be our own personal discovery. Our religion can never be a carried tale. Christianity does not mean reciting a creed; it means knowing a person,” (The Gospel of Luke, p. 121).
Margaret Silf says, “God’s life and grace will flow so much more fully and freely through empty hands, “(Inner Compass, p. 110). How do we DO that? Perhaps the leper teaches us…
The Gospel – Luke 17: 11-19
The leper was healed while ‘Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem.” This is what happens to us when we walk with Jesus even to and through the difficult times and places of our lives. We are healed each time we come to Eucharist praising God and becoming more perfectly a part of Christ’s body. We are healed each time we put others ahead of ourselves. We are healed each time we choose to forgive those who wrong us even as we try to overcome the evil. We are healed each time we pause a few seconds to ‘give thanks to God’ for the many blessings of each day. Such gratitude makes our faith a vibrant and growing reality: we owe all to God who gives us everything that is good. Faithfulness and thankfulness go (grow?) together (Living Liturgy, Cycle C, p.224-227).
The ten lepers asked Jesus to have pity on them. Pity, or mercy, in the Mediterranean world, means to motivate someone to meet his or her interpersonal obligation. In effect, the ten people in Luke are asking Jesus to give them what he owes them!
Jesus as healer was constantly challenging existing boundaries and pushing them ever outward. Sinners, the blind, the lame and lepers were welcome within the boundaries of the holy community Jesus was forming. Now that the lepers were healed, they are restored to their communities. The nine that left may have gone to the priests to thank God there. The Samaritan leper could not enter Jerusalem, so he couldn’t do that. He recognized Jesus as being one with God, and so he thanked him personally. The other nine lepers may actually bump into Jesus again…do you think they might thank him later? The Samaritan grabbed his opportunity while he had it, (Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle C, p. 150). What opportunities do you have to thank God?
For further reflection on being grateful now, consider Rabbi Kenneth R. Berger’s 1986 sermon on “Five Minutes to Live” which can be found at:
He talks about the discovery that the astronauts had five minutes in the Challenger before their death and wondered what they thought about. Here’s an exerpt:
You are here: I know for some its aches and pains, physical and emotional, but you are here. Be grateful for that. I don’t mean to be so blunt, but you are not in a grave, you are not in intensive care, you are not bed-ridden, you are in Shul welcoming in another New Year, and that sounds okay to me, and it should to you.
In short, say to yourself, Boy, I am blessed, with being alive, with having family and friends, with the ability to be in Shul welcoming in a New Year.
In only I appreciated what I had when I had it. . . . .appreciate it now. . . . my friends, when you have it.
Yes, If only I had known. . . . If only I had realized and appreciated what I had: and as the shuttle falls through the sky, the third possibility: “If only I had other chance, I would do things differently.”