Summary: You can change your life if you can overcome your pride. This is a sermon about Naaman and how he overcame his pride to experience a miracle.
Sermon by The Rev. Rian Adams
In today’s Old Testament lesson we meet a dangerous man, a military general who led the army of Israel’s biggest enemy, Naaman. He didn't share Israel's beliefs, their theology, their God, their politics, or their ethics, yet God was at work in him.
He was a stranger, an enemy; but Naaman, had a severe problem. He carried a death sentence in his body… in his skin. He was a leper.
Keep in mind, he was not just a peasant with a disease; he was chief of the Syrian army. He was a successful, respected, and proven leader. Young boys saw him in the streets and wanted to grow up to be him. Everyone knew his name, and his country honored him as a hero.
However, life has a way of predictably being unpredictable. Neither his fame nor his finances could cure the disease that slowly fead on his skin. No doubt his priests prayed and his prophets plead, but their war hero didn’t recover. Some even said that his gods cursed him.
No matter, Naaman had a disease that would take his career, his family, his dignity, and eventually his life. If it progressed quickly, he would resign his position in the army, he would leave his family, his home, his friends, and then the authorities would banish him to a leper colony.
There death would eat away his dignity until he was a shell of a former warrior. Then life would end, not with the public parade of a hero, but with the silence of a penniless peasant.
But as fate… or God… would have it, things changed. One of his slave girls said, “There’s a prophet in Israel who can cure leprosy.” Sometimes we should abandon our pride and listen to, “the least of these.” God never discriminates, rather, God often initiates… even through unlikely people.
It was a long shot and Naaman knew it was a risk. He knew he was an enemy of Israel, and if caught either nation would put him to death. Nevertheless, he loaded bribe money and went to the home of the Hebrew prophet.
When he arrived, the prophet was not there meet him. Instead, he sent his servant to say, “The man of God is too busy, he said you can go jump in the river… seven times.”
Now, religious leaders have avoided me, and a couple of self-proclaimed “prophets” have cursed me, but no one has asked me to jump off a bridge… yet, but the day is still young.
“Jump in the river seven times?” No wonder he was furious. He thought, “I wonder if the stupid prophet even knows who I am? I'm the general of the Army of Syria, I could destroy him and his nation with one word. And he has the audacity to tell me to jump in the sewage pond of the Jordan river? We’re done here.”
Let me pause and say… sometimes leprosy is not just on the skin. Sometimes it's in the soul and it fights living the beatitudes… it's called pride.
The ego can quickly retaliate and tell us we’re above what’s asked of us. Naaman’s ego joined his bravado… and he couldn’t see God in the simple things. He stomped away and said, “I’m too good for the Jordan, I deserve to heal in the rivers of Damascus.”
Naaman's pride kept him dry. One writer said, "Pride is the enemy of hope." And Naaman’s pride blinded him to the hope of a renewed life free from leprosy.
When pride rules the heart, God often sends a messenger to bring us back to reality. That’s when the real hero of the story entered the scene. Another servant, with no power or authority, became the voice of God to the Syrian general.
Naaman’s servant said, “Had the prophet asked you something difficult, you would have done it. But since he asked something easy you resist. You have nothing to lose, so consider it.”
Healing can be easy if we listen to the ones God sends us.
“Fine, I'll Jump…” The first time, nothing. The second time nothing… Six times and still his skin had the white spots of leprosy. But the seventh time was different; he came out of the water acquitted from his death sentence.
If you think about it, the waters washed away two diseases. First, God healed his body… a physical healing from leprosy. Second, God cleansed his soul from pride… a spiritual healing from leprosy.
I think Charlotte Brontë from the classic novel Jane Eyre had insight when she said, "I would always rather be happy and whole than dignified and miserable."
If we put aside the pride of “being right” we can see God at work all around us.