Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"All pleasantries aside"

Message preached February 19, 2006
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon  2 Kings 5:1-19

Order of Worship

  Unless otherwise noted this is an "amble and ramble" sermon, without a manuscript.
Below is somewhat of a summary.

            The sermon title stems from the name of this biblical character, Naaman, which means "pleasantness" (or "charm" or "loveliness"). With leprosy, even if a lesser skin ailment under the umbrella of that dread diagnosis, this successful Syrian commander's life was less than pleasant. And when he went in search of a cure, prompted by an Israelite slave girl in his household (who was no doubt captured on one his military campaigns), he expected things to go as he thought they should - in good "pleasant" fashion, if you will. However, God - and God's prophet Elisha - doesn't work that way. All those pleasantries are shoved aside. Moving beyond his expectations, his anger and pride, Naaman submits to a bath in the Jordon, as Elisha commanded. Seven baths, to be exact. Wonder of wonders, he is healed.

            This message will tug on some of the threads woven in this story. The intent is not to focus upon illness and healing, so much as upon the ways in which God works (or doesn't work). We have our own expectations that may need to be laid aside, along with our sense of power, anger, pride, etc. as we approach the Lord. God doesn't necessarily deal in "pleasantries." By the way, Jesus mentioned this character once and it didn't turn out to be a pleasant experience. His hometown congregation welcomed him to read from the Isaiah scroll one Sabbath and share a few words as the latest hit on the speaker/healer circuit. What were they expecting? Apparently not what they got, as his words incited a riot and he was nearly stoned to death. All because he included an outsider named Naaman in Isaiah's jubilee proclamation? (Luke 4:16-30) God doesn't always work like (or with whom) we expect.

            Of interest is that when noting Naaman's healing, it says that "his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy..." The phrase "young boy" (vs. 14) is the masculine form of the phrase describing the Israelite "young girl" (vs. 2) from whom he learned of the Hebrew prophet. Coincidence? Probably not. This female slave, no doubt ripped from her home by the order, if not the hand, of this Syrian military man - not a pleasant experience!) reminds me of  what Jesus said about blessing those who curse you, about loving your enemy, about heaping hot coals upon hostile heads with your caring actions. Though not exactly a "Damascus road" turn-around for this military man, Naaman did come to the point of confessing "now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel." (vs. 15) Makes you wonder what happened to that nameless young girl when he returned home.

            This message will begin with a playful interaction over the meaning of the names of folks in this congregation, asking if anyone knows what their name signifies. Then we'll jump into the story of Naaman wondering how his name may have played out growing up with other children who can at times be cruel ("oh, pleasant boy"), or later trying to lead men in battle ("let's follow Mr. Pleasantness." snicker, snicker). In fact, there is some speculation that the name is connected to the Syrian (and later Greek) god of vegetation/fertility named Adonis, who was known for his stunningly good looks. Speaking against idolotry, Isaiah decried those who have forgotten the God of their salvation, who "plant pleasant plants (naamanim) and set out slips of an alien god..." (Is. 17:10)

            The sermon will end with a song - a poem composed this month about the intersection between this character and the rest of us, how we are "Like Naaman." As with most of my messages recently, this one will not be fully composed until I actually deliver it.

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Kings.

(para traducir a español, presione la bandera de España)


©2006 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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