Every so often in our lives, something rocks our world…and what we thought was all in control just falls through our hands like sand. Maybe it’s a major health issue, the downturn in our job, or the death of someone close to us, … (or just this morning, one lady told me she probably has cancer, another told me about a lung problem that has put her in the hospital twice, and then I heard about a 14-month-old boy who fell into a lake yesterday and is barely clinging to life). When these things happen, we don’t know what to do, so we stand looking up to Heaven saying, “Jesus, have pity on us”. Too often, we have to be broken down to the point that WE’re not in control anymore. We have to get to the point that there is NOTHING else we can do. If anything is going to change, …God is the one who has to do it.
The 10 lepers in the Gospel had reached that poing. They’d sunk as low as they could. In those days, leprosy meant being cast out from society. They lived in a no-man’s land between Israel and Samaria – a place where nobody goes. And that’s the point, when you’re ‘unclean’ with leprosy, you are not allowed to be around people. Without community – without civilized food, shelter, sewage, normal human interaction – these 10 men had zero control over their lives. So they turned to the only place they could…. Jesus, Son of David,have pity on us!
Alcoholics and others who have been through the 12-step process probably understand this phenomenon better than most. As long as an alcoholic maintains ‘some’ control of their lives, they haven’t hit bottom yet. And…If they haven’t hit bottom, then they’re not placing ALL their hope and trust in God. It’s as if God insists that we give ourselves up COMPLETELY – down to that last shred of pride – before he can start to rebuild us the way HE intends us to be.
Our first reading told us the story of Naaman, but it didn’t tell us the WHOLE story… so , like Paul Harvey…I’m gonna tell you the REST of the story.
Naaman was a powerful general from another country who came down with leprosy – he’d tried everything to get rid of it – lotions, salves, pills, doctors, sunshine, bathing, …he even tried some of those wonder-cure-alls on the infomercial on TV….but nothing helped. He was at the end of his rope – ready to give up. Then somebody suggested that Israel had a prophet who was known to possess great power. Hope was rekindled! So, he loaded up a bunch of gold and headed south to find Elisha the prophet…all along thinking about what he’d say to Elisha and how to convince him that HE was important! He DESERVED to be cured by Elisha’s God. Well – somehow, Elisha heard he was coming, and rather than going out to meet him – he simply sent a messenger to Naaman telling him to wash 7 times in the Jordan.
Naaman was insulted…no, more than that…Naaman was ticked off! He’d travelled far and was expecting Elisha to pray loudly over him and wave his hands over his skin to heal him in a big public display. Instead Naaman didn’t even give him the dignity of coming to see this ‘important’ man. He thought to himself - Why should I bathe in this muddy, ugly, stinky Jordan when there are beautiful rivers back home. He refused to bathe. Fortunately, his servants reasoned with him that if Elisha had asked him to do some extraordinary feat, he would gladly have done it – like lay in the sun for 20 days in a row – eat 3 quarts of prunes each day – cover himself in a some special mud….he would have done WHATEVER Elisha commanded. So why not do this SIMPLE thing? You know the rest of the story… Naaman gave up his last shred of pride and dignity and plunged himself 7 times and was completely healed. You see – he couldn’t be healed until he gave up even his pride and humbly plunged into the muddy water.
Aren’t all of us the same way? We pray to God…but we have our preconceived notions about how we want God to fix the situation. We try to control our lives to the point that God has a hard time making himself noticed. We might TRY to turn a problem over to God, but often, the answer to our prayer is not the way we had it planned in OUR mind, so we figure He didn’t answer….and we take control back. A good example would be if one of us prayed really hard for our Mom to be healed of cancer – and for three months, she gradually fades further away until she finally passes. We might go to God angry that he didn’t answer our prayer…but what we have to realize is that He gave her three months to spend quality time with her family – to get affairs in order – to heal some past hurts that had split the family – and finally, it taught us to let go – something we might not have been incapable of doing before.
Little Billy was only 9 years old when he told his Dad that he wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. He was SURE that’s what he wanted to be, and it’s all he talked about. He had the plastic guns and cowboy hat, the boots with spurs….Now – fast forward 9 years and Billy (who is now ‘Bill’) is graduating from high school - and he started talking to his Dad about going to college to be an Engineer…but his Dad says, Whoa, whoa, who.. ‘College? Afraid not, Billy…remember…you wanted to be a cowboy. I’ve sunk all my money into a ranch in Texas and we’ll be moving there next month.’ Would his dad be wise to do that? Of course not. Dad’s know very well what’s best for their kids.
Fortunately, God knows what we need – in spite of what we ask for. Our Psalm today says “The Lord has revealed to the nations His saving power’. God reveals his power normally without some extraordinary event, but rather …in the ordinary. God works miracles in our lives daily – slowly working HIS will to make us who we need to be – and to change the world one heart at a time. He reveals himself in the woman who gives her life selflessly to care for her children. God reveals himself in the teachers who put their heart and soul into helping their students to open their minds. He reveals himself in the 85 year old man who visits his wife every day in the nursing home even though she no longer remembers who he is. There’s another example which our community here got to be a part of:
You’ve probably heard of the Community Meal served in Jasper now several days each week. They see God at work all the time – and this week, our community got to be part of it. So many people responded to our call for food for the funeral for Benton Kluesner, that we had several desserts left-over. So, we took them to the Community Meal. The guy there explained that they already had their meat and vegetable for the day, but were wondering what they could offer for dessert….and God provided…as he always does. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Apparently, that happens ALL the time for them. Actually, that happens all the time for every one of us, but we don’t notice…often we shrug it off as just ‘coincidence’. Remember though: “A Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous”.