The passage that this reflection is inspired by is 2 Kings 5:1-19, “The Healing of Na’aman”
In our time, we tend to believe that healing is instant if it is going to be effective. Listen to the commercials: our hair, our skin, our moods, our pain, our personal challenges in the bedroom, can all be healed by a pill. Admittedly, the list of potential side effects is daunting, but who listens to those when in pursuit of a fast, effective cure?
In the ancient world, disease had to do with spiritual matters and so required spiritual cures. No aspirin in the ancient world. No penicillin, no valium, no viagra. When Na’aman is convinced to seek out Elisha, he is scandalized that all that is required of him is to bathe in the Jordan. It seems an almost insulting suggestion to this commander of armies, this ferocious general. And yet, the cure works and Na’aman is curiously healed, seemingly in both body and soul.
The Christian church is not unlike Na’aman. We have been the top dog for a long time. In centuries past, it was the church who had an influential hand in the affairs of state, in the wars of the world. But the day of Christendom, the worldly power of the church is coming to an end and with it, the organizational structures are becoming old and in poor repair.
So what are we to do, we the people of the institution, we the ones who name ourselves the children of the church? It is time to get in the river and cleanse ourselves of the past. It is time to wash the wars of other eras, old wars, tired disputes, off of our skin. It is time to immerse ourselves in the cleansing waters of faith and rise in the waters of new life.
After his baptism, Jesus immediately went into the wilderness to discern his path. He came to understand not so much what he would do, so much as how he would be. He decided not to depend on the structures of the faith, but on the wisdom and life of ancient teachings about hospitality and healing. He placed relationship ahead of purity laws, and forgiveness ahead of punishment. He chose the path of compassion rather than the way of striving and judging. He still makes us nervous, and with good reason. With him, there is the sweetest relationship imaginable, but there is also the challenge of the unexpected. Give away your coat, kiss the leper. Travel in the wilderness until you know, go to the cross if you must.
As I travel in the world, I hear people crying out for faith, for places of healing, places where they too can find new life. I think that this is what the gospel writer meant when he said, “Jesus saw that the people were without a shepherd,” or “Jesus saw that the people were hungry.” It is time for us to open our eyes and get out in the wilderness where the work is. It is time for us to care less about the structures and more about the relationships, less about the rules and more about the people.
Let us commit ourselves to compassion. Let us be willing to be cleansed in the Jordan and sent into the wilderness, if need be. Let us be willing to rise in the waters and commit ourselves once again to the good news of hope and compassion, the healing that is a process not a quick fix, the healing that changes our lives, and thus the lives of others. Let us all say, Amen.