Preaching: Pastor Rebecca Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, May 28, 2017
Scripture Reference: II Kings 5:1-15
Sermon: Elisha and the Curing of Naaman
It is often said, “Life is a journey.” It is a reminder to us that we are always moving and changing. I received a gift this week that shares that sentiment, with the addition of one important word. The gift says, “It is all about the journey.” That one word, “about” makes all the difference. It changes the whole focus, where we put our attention.
You see, I think, all too often our focus and attention is on where the journey is taking us, what the destination will be. Our attention is on graduating from school, winning a competition, moving to a new community, having children, going to heaven. For Naaman it is finding healing, being cured of leprosy. Only if we are honest we also have a lot of ideas and plans, a lot of expectations of how things will go as we journey to this destination, this moment of achievement. And when things don’t come together in the way we want, when things don’t go as we had hoped, well, get mad, just as Naaman did. We get caught up in our thoughts and worrying, trying to figure things out – how things went so wrong. We get afraid and jump to conclusions, like the King of Israel when he thought he was being set up for a war. Indeed, our doubts, our fears, our expectations stop us, just like Naaman standing outside Elisha’s house unable, unwilling even, to move, to go where the journey was leading.
And yet, “It is all about the journey.” This story of Naaman and Elisha is a story about the journey. This is a story that draws our attention to all that is happening along the way, a story that is full of movement. The servant girl says, “Go to the prophet and be cured.” The king says, “Go to Israel.” The prophet Elisha sent word, “Send him to me.” Naaman went to the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a servant with a message to Naaman, “Go the river and wash.” The Spirit of God is moving, is leading, is guiding Naaman. There is a path, a journey towards the healing God has to offer.
But sometimes we can’t see it. We get stopped and help up by our expectations, our own ideas. Sometimes we need the help of others to see the possibilities, to see what is happening in this moment. At the very beginning, for example, Naaman is suffering. Life’s journey has not gone as expected. Even though he may be a great warrior he is suffering from leprosy. He doesn’t know what to do, but it is a young servant girl who surprises him with a possibility, who points the way forward. It’s Elisha who asks the King of Israel, “What are you so upset about? This is not the end of the world. Send him to me.” When Naaman is upset, thinking this is a wasted trip, it is his servants who encourage him to do as Elisha has commanded, who hold out hope for what may happen. Indeed we all have those moments when we wonder, “What am I supposed to be doing? Where am I going? Where is God at this moment?” And sometimes the answers come in surprising ways. Sometimes in the moments we least expect our eyes are opened to seeing what God is doing, the journey we are on.
It reminds me of a scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which they are on a quest to find the Holy Grail. Along the way Indiana Jones comes to this giant cavern. He thinks it is the end, that he can’t go forward and get across. Only as he listens to the guidance from all his research he steps out in faith, landing on a bridge, a path across the cavern that no one can see until that moment. It seems like the movie is all about finding the Holy Grail, but it is really about the journey and renewed bond between father and son. It was about everything that happened along the way that brought these two together.
Harmoni understood this to be true about her experience on this season’s Dancing with the Stars. Everyone was shocked when she came in 3rd place. Judge’s mouths dropped, heads were shaking as everyone expected she could get the mirror ball. And as Tom Bergeron starts to talk about the shock, to name the expectations everyone had, Harmoni interrupted him, refocusing on what was important – not the trophy but the journey. She was thrilled with her time there. There were no regrets. She had been on a journey of self-discovery and her gratitude was for all she had experienced and all she had become.
“It is all about the journey,” all the experiences along the way that change us, that open our eyes to God’s presence and lead us closer to God. You certainly understand this. That is what you have been naming in these last several weeks of celebration. You have been drawing our attention to the journey, to all the experiences we have shared that have drawn us closer to God. All these celebrations have been reminders to live in this moment, to be present with one another and with God, rather than getting distracted and focused on what is ahead.
Naaman’s journey was certainly not what he had expected, but it still led him to healing, and more importantly to recognizing and declaring trust in God. Life is a journey of finding wholeness, but let us not be so focused on where we are going that we lose sight of this moment, of all that is happening on the journey, all that God is doing right now.