Friday, February 17, 2012

The voice of the weak.

Last Sunday we heard the story of Naaman being healed of leprosy. 2 Kings 5:1-14 Jesus at one point mentions Naaman in connection with the idea that a prophet has no credibility in their own community. Naaman was the General of the armies of Aram (around present day Syria). He has leprosy which will mean that he will no longer be able to lead the armies as lepers are forced to be separate from the rest of society. Naaman's wife has a servant girl from Israel who was captured on an earlier raid. This servant girl suggests that Naaman
could go to Israel and be cured. At this point we see the first miracle of this story. Naaman listens to her and takes her seriously. This girl is as close to being a non-person as you can get. She is a captive slave from a tiny country. It would be like a CEO taking advice from the girl who cleans his house.

Naaman goes to his King who not only allows his General to go, but sends him with a letter and a train of gifts. The King of Israel, who is unnamed in this story tears his clothes in despair and anger at the idea that he is supposed to somehow cure the uncurable. He decides that it is a ploy to start a war. Elisha hears of the visit and tells the King to send Naaman to him. Elisha is a bit of a conundrum. He is grumpy and anti-social, but his ability to heal in God's name is powerful.

Naaman arrives at Elisha's house expecting a show. He is after all an important man. What Elisha does is send a messenger to tell Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River. It would be like travelling across the world to meet with a famous doctor only to have the doctor send the receptionist out with a couple of pills. Naaman is furious. He sounds ready to start that war that the King of Israel was afraid of.

This is where we get the second miracle of the story. A servant talks to Naaman and suggests that he do what the prophet asked. If it had been some impossible task he would have done it, why not this simple prescription? Once again Naaman listens to the voice of the powerless and he goes to bathe and is healed.

This story is about the powerful hearing wisdom from the powerless. We in the church want to be powerful voices in the world. We want to have governments and corporations listen to us. Maybe what we need more than clout is humility. It is the voice of humility, of people who have no direct profit from change that will catch the attention of the people in power.

When I was working in Ontario I attended the semi-annual seminars set up by ISARC. There we heard about the need for secure income and housing for the poorest of the poor. Politicians of all parties came to listen, in part because we were not lobbying on our own behalf.

In this Sunday's Transfiguration reading the voice of God tells the disciples to listen to Jesus. Jesus who came to change the world through transformative love. Not by power, not by legislation, but by self giving love. We are called to reflect that illumination that comes from perfect love, and by listening to Jesus our Christ, become the weak that the powerful might hear.

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