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October 9, 2016 Worship Sermon - "Too Big To Heal" Continued pg. 2
They pull up in front of Elisha’s home and wait for the prophet to come out to greet them. Now here’s where things become a little awkward. Namaan was used to getting the best treatment. But Elisha might have been busy healing someone else or maybe it was his lunch hour, because instead of coming out to see Namaan himself, he sends out his nurse practitioner with a prescription… and not a prescription for one of those expensive, experimental drugs, but a prescription for a generic. What an insult! Did Elisha think Namaan was just another HMO referral? Namaan was angry and he refused to follow Elisha’s orders until one of his servants calmed him down enough to think rationally. When Namaan did what Elisha instructed, he was healed.
In order for Namaan to be healed, he had to overcome an inner obstacle: his ego. This is true for all of us, especially for those of us who are used to being in charge. Our ego – our pride – can get in the way of our healing. Being sick is very humbling. Our bodies let us down; we discover that we’re not the perfect specimens we would like to believe. When doctors examine us, we have to take of our clothes and let them touch us in places we’re not used to being touched. All of this makes us feel even more vulnerable; it’s really hard on the ego. But in order to be healed, we sometimes have to let someone else tell us what to do. We have to admit our own weakness and trust someone else.
Elisha didn’t make it easy on Namaan. He could have come out and shown him a little more respect. But maybe that was an essential part of Namaan’s healing. He was too full of himself, too self-absorbed. He needed to learn that all of his wealth and all of his power could not save him. He had to trust someone else. So by the end of the story, Namaan is not only healed; he’s doubly healed. His skin is healed, but more importantly, his ego is healed. The sign of thid is that he comes back to Elisha, praising God. When we praise God, we become a little less self-absorbed. We shift our attention outward, away from ourselves. And that is healing on the inside.
In the gospel, we have another story of a leper being healed… ten lepers, actually. These ten lepers are also full of themselves, but for the opposite reason. Instead of thinking too highly of themselves, it appears they think too little of themselves. Obviously, they’ve been sick a long time, because they’ve learned to keep their distance. Everyone else who wants healing from Jesus runs up to him and falls at his feet. But these ten lepers know the rules. They are outcasts and no one will want them that close.
When I was in my twenties, I was camping for a couple of weeks in the Adirondacks. After the first week, I needed to hike to a nearby town to replenish my supplies. It was a long walk and the groceries were becoming pretty heavy as I walked back to my campsite. A motorist took pity on me and offered a ride. I really wanted to take him up one his offer, but it had been a week since I had bathed and I knew that once I got in the car the motorist would regret his generosity, so I thanked him and told him I was enjoying the walk.
These lepers must have been in a similar quandary when they saw Jesus passing by. They knew to stay downwind, but they were desperate. They wanted to be healed. And so they cried out to Jesus, “Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus tells them what to do, they follow his orders, and they are healed… at least their skin is healed.
But one of them appears to experience a deeper level of healing than the others. The other nine went to the priest, just like Jesus had told them to do. But this one leper – not only a leper, but a Samaritan, the enemy – turns around, praises God, and throws himself at Jesus’ feet. It was probably the first time in years he had touched anyone. No more keeping a distance; no more cries for mercy; no more self-absorption. Just praise and thanksgiving. This man let himself be healed on the outside and the inside.