Summary: Epiphany 6: We live in a superficial world. Extreme makeovers are touted as the way to a new you. Really? God’s extreme makeovers remake us from the inside out!
We live in the day of the makeover. Some say that with just the right clothes, cosmetics and accessories, we can be new people. Isn’t it cool? The old adage says – clothes make the man – maybe the woman too! On the TV program What Not to Wear, Stacy and Clinton take on the challenge of reeducating an oftentimes reluctant female guest on what fashions, make-up and hairstyles would be most flattering on her. By the end of the program, Stacy and Cinton’s client is transformed. She becomes a more put-together and attractive person because of the makeover.
On another program, 10 Years Younger, a whole bevy specialists remake a person. Now these folks use much more invasive approaches: plastic surgery, lasix eye surgery, dermabrasion, implants, reconstructive dental procedures, fashion and cosmetic advice. The promise is - as the title implies – to make the person appear to be 10 years younger. On both 10 Years Younger and on What Not to Wear, we are led to understand that by undergoing an extreme makeover we can be radically different and more beautiful people. Well – maybe, if all that is important is on the outside!
Our Old Testament lesson today takes us through an extreme makeover of sorts. The guy needing the makeover is Naaman. This fellow was a pretty important guy in Syria sometime around the 8th or 9th century BC. He was a high ranking general - a big shot. He was something like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in today’s time. He was well-positioned. He was among the cream of the social elites in his country. There probably wouldn’t be an official state function without general Naaman. The king he served thought very highly of him, in fact, we hear that the king regarded him as a great man. Naaman was a soldier’s soldier – valient and capable. The Lord had given the country a very important victory through Naaman’s leadership.
There was only one problem with Naaman – he was sick. He had leprosy - a terribly disfiguring, progressive condition. Curing it was beyond the medical technology of the time. There was no question that Naaman’s future was in jeapordy. So general Naaman needed an extreme makeover in the worst possible way. God was going to provide him one – but not before Naaman learned a very important lesson – that with God makeovers are “transformations” and they are more than skin deep.
Once Jesus was in a house – teaching. It was crowded - to the point of overflowing. A group of friends wanted to get their sick buddy in front of Jesus, but they couldn’t because of the crowds. So they made a hole in the roof and lowered their friend in front of Jesus. And the Lord cured the him – but it wasn’t the first thing Jesus did. First Jesus forgave the man his sins! That’s the order of God’s priority for us. What’s important always comes first.
When God does a makeover, it is always an amazing thing. Saint Paul expressed this in a few different ways. He wrote: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:2a) The word transformed in here has the same Greek root as the word ‘metamorphosis’ – the incredible transformation that some creatures, like caterpillars, go through to become entirely different. Another time, Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (1 Cor 5:17) So when God does a makeover, it is extreme to the max.
But how was this going to happen for Naaman – a fellow that wasn’t even an Israelite? God intervenes in the most amazing ways. On one of general Naaman’s military campaigns, a young girl from Israel had been captured. She was brought to Syria and became a servant to the general’s wife. This young girl knew about Yahweh – God Almighty – and she knew about the Lord’s prophet among the people of Israel, Elisha. One day the young girl told her mistress that the general could be cured. All that he needed to do was to go see the prophet.
I find it wonderful that the young girl knew exactly where to turn for help. What a great example of child-like faith. The scriptures talk about children being exemplars of faith. Jesus, holding a little child, said “Unless your faith becomes like this small child’s, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus would point out young children and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is made up of children like these.” In many ways, the heroine in today’s story is the young girl serving in Naaman’s house. She knew where to turn for help – to God! “Go see the prophet,” she said.