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October 9, 2016 Worship Sermon - "Too Big To Heal"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Psalm 111; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
Several years ago, I was sitting in my doctor’s office with five or six other people
waiting to be seen. While I was reading my magazine, a man walked up to the nurse’s
station. From behind, he looked vaguely familiar. After talking with the nurse, he
turned around and I recognized him right away. It was John Street, who was at that
time the mayor of Philadelphia. He waved and said, “Good morning, everybody!” and
then was taken immediately in to see the doctor.
It really didn’t upset me that, even though I and the others had been waiting, Mayor Street was taken ahead of us. After all, it would be pretty awkward for him to be sitting there in the waiting room and have to listen to anyone who wanted to speak his or her mind about the mayor’s performance. But I wondered what it must do to someone like Mayor Street – or any other well known person – to get that kind of special treatment all the time… being whisked past lines of waiting people. Don’t you think the celebrity would start to believe that there truly is something different about them… that they are entitled to be treated with a little more attention than everyone else?
In II Kings we read about a true celebrity. Namaan was the Yasir Arafat of the 8th century BC… a powerful man from Aram – modern day Syria – who had led many successful raids against the towns and villages of Israel.
Now this man, though he was a mighty warrior, had a very embarrassing situation. We might call it a social disease, although it was much worse than herpes… it was leprosy. Here is what the book of Leviticus says about lepers:
“The person who has leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his mouth and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside of the community.”
Obviously, contracting leprosy could really destroy one’s whole life.
Fortunately, this mighty warrior could do something about his situation. He knew people in high places. His servant told him about Elisha, a prophet in Israel who had the power to heal. So, Namaan went to the king of Aram and asked him to write him a letter of reference. Then he took 750 pounds of silver, 2,400 ounces of gold, and 10 suits of clothing as payment for Elisha’s services. At current prices, this works out to be $1,107,360… and we think medical costs are out of control today! Obviously, Namaan is wealthy enough to be self-insured and he’s quite willing to pay handsomely for the services of a doctor who can give him the attention he deserves.
Namaan and his whole entourage head for Israel and they go to the king, because certainly the king would know all the best doctors. At first, the king of Israel thinks he’s being set up. Namaan is the enemy; he’s the guy who has been leading all these devastating raids. This whole thing must be a trick to give Namaan an excuse to attack Israel? Who can blame the king of Israel for tearing his clothes? Fortunately, Elisha heard about this and told the king to send Namaan over to his place. So Namaan goes to see Elisha, bringing with him all his soldiers and chariots, plus the silver and gold. Elisha should have no trouble understanding that this is a very important patient.