Sermon: February 15, 2009

15 02 2009

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.



                                                Mark 1:40-45




            Have you ever had an experience where something seemed to be good to be true.  All that you have to do is this in order to get that.  If you just go down to R & J manufacturing and put you resume in, they will make you president of the company that afternoon.  All that you have to do is buy one lottery ticket and you too could be a million dollar winner.

            I remember when I was a kid and my older brother decided that he should take me out and teach me how to ride a bike.  My brother rode a bike, and he wasn’t near the athlete that I was.  How difficult could this be?  Well, I got on the bike while my brother held the bike and then he told me that all that I had to do is pedal as fast as I could.  I did.  I got on that bike and I pedaled as fast as I could – straight into a tree.  Battered and bruised I got up and got on the bike and tried again – this time right into my Mother’s favorite rose bush.  Now battered and bruised and bleeding, I got up on the bike once again and listening to my brother I tried to work on my steering.  And I steered just fine this time.  I steered right into the neighbor’s dog – which made neither him nor me happy.  At that point I turned to my brother and informed him that I was done.  I had two perfectly good feet that could get me anywhere I wanted to go and for greater distances there were city buses.

            I thought of that when I read two of our lessons for this morning.  In the Old Testament Lesson we meet a man who just couldn’t believe something could be as simple as that.

The first lesson was about Naaman.  Naaman – the commander-in-chief of the armies of King Aram of Syria.  A very important person.  Rich and powerful.  But he gets leprosy – an awful disease that always ended in death.  But then he heard about this healer in Israel who could even cure lepers.  So he went.  But when he gets there, he is treated badly.  The healer doesn’t even come on out and see him.  Sends a servant.  And what does this servant tell him to do.  He tells him to go down to dirty, smelly old river and wash himself seven times.  “What?  Are they taking Naaman for a fool?   I betcha they will be sitting on top of their house watching Naaman bathing seven times – coming out with dirt and sea weed all over him – and laughing and laughing.   And enjoying how they made a fool out of Naaman.  The great General Naaman.  What a sight.”  So he turned to leave.  And if it weren’t for the servant girl who said to Naaman, “What have you got to loose?  I mean, if you go down and do the seven baths thing – yea, you might just come out dirty and covered with seaweed, but then again you just might get healed.  Isn’t that worth the risk of looking foolish?”  So finally Naaman went down and did what the prophet told him and guess what?  He got healed.

            On the other hand the Gospel Lesson tells us the story of a man who had leprosy and when he comes to Jesus he had no doubts that Jesus could heal him.  He was ready and willing to do anything that Jesus asked him to do because he had faith.  He would have stood on his head and howled like a dog if Jesus asked him to do that, because he really and truly believed that Jesus could heal him.

            The real question that these two stories leave us with is which one are we like.  Are we like Naaman?  Or are we like the leper in the Gospel Story?  Do we think that nothing can be that simple.  Have faith in Jesus – put your trust in Jesus – believe in Jesus and anything can happen, because Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.

            You know, I now have been the chaplain at the hospital for about a year and a half.  And you wouldn’t believe the number of miracles that I have seen there.  I have seen people who put their absolute faith and trust in Jesus who get their healing – who walk out of that hospital well – when there is no earthly reason why they got better.  On the other hand, I have also seen people who didn’t get well – who died – and in them I have seen a different kind of miracle.  I have seen the miracle of faith – people accepting their death – without fear – knowing that they are going into the arms of a loving God.  I have seen people die with a smile on their face as they meet their creator.  And to be honest I am not sure which is the greater miracle.  The one gets healed of their physical problems or the one who finds peace and joy in the father’s love.   You know, I think that I am a man of faith but there are times at the hospital – in the ICU – when I stand in awe  of something as simple as faith.

            So which man are you like.  Are you like Naaman who can’t believe that anything can be that simple and that easy and do you want to just walk away?  Or are you like the leper in the Gospel whose faith is so strong that he has absolute faith and trust in Jesus.

            When you encounter problems in you life – when the demons of life that we talked about the last two Sundays – when the demons of life come at you – when you are afraid of loosing your job – loosing love – not being liked by anyone – facing illness – is your Jesus the first one that you turn to or the last.  Because you see the wonderful thing that these stories tells us is that Jesus walks beside us in each and every moment of life – that there is nothing in this life that we face alone – that nothing ever separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  All that you have to do is have faith – believe – and know that it is just that easy.  It is just like riding a bike.









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