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EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST 2019 C

I have a special affection for this week’s theme found in the Old Testament reading from 2 Kings, Paul’s letter to Timothy, and the Gospel reading from Luke.  They all feature a healing theme.  For the last month and a half, I have had accelerating inflammation and arthritis symptoms.  I have added several healing measures to try and address my health concerns.  These include blood tests, massage, diet changes, health supplements, doctor visits, medications, and after 25 years--a NEW BED!  And, of course and especially, prayer!

One might think that I am, perhaps, putting TOO MANY EGGS in my healing basket!  Maybe it would be better for me to pick the method of healing that I have been convinced is the best one and just stick with that one.  That would put me on a par with several people in the Bible. Let’s look at a few of those people, some of whom are in today’s Bible readings, and a couple that you may also recognize from other Bible stories.

Our lesson from 2 Kings starts out, “Naaman, the commander of the Aramean King’s army, was respected and highly honored by his master.  The Lord had given Aram a victory through Naaman. This man was a good soldier, but he had a skin disease.”(probably leprosy). He was a good man with a great reputation, whom no one wanted to get near because of that same disease.

To his great fortune, Naaman’s wife had a Jewish servant girl who had been captured in a raid in Samaria.  She had a connection with the prophet, Elisha, who had prior healing experience. Naaman should just go present himself to Elisha.  Healing was surely “just around the corner.”

However, Naaman was not too excited to have to meet the so-called prophet of someone whom they had conquered.  But he gave it a GOOD TRY, anyway, and presented himself to Elisha. Elisha did not meet this powerful general face-to-face.  Instead, he sent a message to Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed.

Naaman felt disrespected that Elisha would not meet him and then make him follow a protocol in order to get healed, which included entering the lowly Jordan River by someone as distinguished and honored as Naaman was.  With pride in hand, Naaman was willing to forgo the possibility of being healed because he was unwilling to be HUMBLY HEALED.  He wanted to be healed because he was a CUT ABOVE THE CROWD.

After some prodding and a big slice of humble pie, Naaman did as he was told and his skin became as smooth as a baby’s bottom!  Naaman said to Elisha, “Now I know that there’s no God in the whole world, except the God of Israel. But people, before you think that the point of this story is that the only real healing comes through the lead characters in the Bible, and that this is the point of today’s message to us, let me remind you of a couple of other Bible stories about wisdom and healing.

You might remember that when Moses led the “Chosen People” out of Egypt into the Promised Land, Moses had become THE JUDGE for pretty much ALL DISPUTES.  Moses didn’t have the humility to admit that he was heading straight for BURN OUT. He needed some HUMBLE HEALING, too.  

Fortunately for Moses, his father-in-law, Jethro, saw what was going on.  He let his son-in-law, Moses, know how UNHEALTHY this set-up was. Jethro suggested a much wiser and healthier system that delegated responsibility to several levels of judges and arbitrators.  Jethro was not one of the “Chosen People”, yet God used him to heal a system that was broken.

You might also remember that during Jesus’ ministry, while he was teaching and healing many people, and sharing God’s message with them, the Apostles bumped into a group of disciples not of their group who were healing people, too.  The Apostles, Jesus’ Chosen Few, thought it was just terrible that these IMPOSTERS were healing people without JESUS’ OFFICIAL SEAL OF MINISTRY APPROVAL. In their NOT-TOO-HUMBLE OPINION they thought Jesus should BANISH THEM to “you know where”, or at least tell them to stop this illegitimate healing.

Jesus, of course, TOTALLY AGREED WITH THEM---NOT!  Were they doing it in someone else’s name—NO?—Well OK THEN—just leave them be.  Why couldn’t these OTHER DISCIPLES do some of the needed healing, too?  

In modern day healing, we have had some of the same concerns about PROPER HEALING METHODS.  I remember a few times, years ago, that I was singing to patients in the hospital or telling jokes and getting told not to bother my patients or others in earshot.  This was, after all, a HOSPITAL, a PROFESSIONAL PLACE OF HEALING.

Nowadays, when I bring music or lighten things up a bit, nurses, and even doctors seem to appreciate it because they have noticed a connection between happiness and healing.  Some hospitals have even designated some rooms as COMEDY CENTRAL at certain times of the week, noticing that patients, the patient’s family, and staff saw the positive stress release as part of the HEALING PROCESS.

The point that all these stories have in common is that healing can appear in many different forms and that we should humble enough to consider their possible healing power in our lives. 

To that end, I will admit that I have asked myself why I still slept on the same bed for the last 25 years, albeit with several attempted upgrades to try and make gold out of fool’s gold!  I will be giving the old bed last rites in the next 10 days. I am not expecting miracles, but I am trying to be healthier.

I have cut out bread from my diet, for the most part, to try to get rid of empty calories, which had little nutrients to support long-lasting health.  If you knew how much I love good bread, you would know this has been a challenge. Apparently, my body does seem to like the addition of more healthy vegetables to my diet. 

Some items that I have tried to keep out of my “daily diet” is self pity and blame.  I decided to replace them with acceptance and positive thoughts. Do you know who are my HEROES OF HEALING?  They are the ones who treat the healing process as a CALLING and a PRIVILEGE. They don’t seek to impress you with their SPECIAL GIFTS.  Rather, they use their healing for the benefit of others.  

I bought the bed from someone who owned the same one himself and didn’t try to hard-sell me.  I like my doctor because she and I are exploring my good health with open communication. I appreciate my sister telling me how my mother had success with her arthritis.  All of them are HUMBLE HEALERS.

Let’s look again at the 10 lepers that sought out healing from Jesus.  They were in dire straits, outcasts from their families and their communities.  They were a BROKEN, DISEASED AND HOPELESS BROOD. You sure didn’t hear the disciples reaching out an invitation for healing.  I am sure they kept their safe distance. But Jesus, always generous gives them a WORD OF HEALING, which healed their bodies of their disease.  

9 of the lepers focused on the physical healing, so they could go right back to their old life.  The 10th leper, who being a Samaritan, did not have such a great life to go back to, was the only one who saw that the DEEPER & LASTING HEALING came from the humility of the one who shared it, who wanted NOTHING IN RETURN, but offered EVERYTHING TO THOSE WHO PAID THE HEALING FORWARD.

There is healing power all around us.  It is not there for us to hoard or to deny.  It is there for us to search for, appreciate, experience, and then to share with others.  That’s why Jesus said we could do more than he could—because Jesus wants to heal IN US & THROUGH US.

And all of God’s HEALED & HEALING children said…AMEN!