This Sunday we will read about the healing of Naaman the leper. It’s an Old Testament story about an Aramean soldier who suffers from a debilitating disease. Elisha the prophet heals Naaman of his leprosy and the foreigner comes to have an experience of salvation by the works of the God of Israel. It’s a story that tells us that the God of Israel is the God of all the nations and that his grace extends beyond the reach of Israel.
Years ago Jim Walter preached on this Sunday. Jim was a priest for a long time before he came to St. John’s and had a career in mental health in addition to helping with various parishes along the way. He served here for 13 years as Curate, retiring several years ago and dying earlier this year. Jim was known for his stories and he wasn’t necessarily tied to factual accuracy in those stories. On the Sunday he was preaching on these lessons, he mentioned in his sermon at 7:30 that Jesus was the one who had healed Naaman the leper. I teased him a little afterwards, reminding him that the story was an Old Testament event and had occurred hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Not offended, Jim replied, “Well, it sure sounds like something Jesus would do.” Indeed it does.
Because of that, when I read this lesson now, I am reminded that the message of Jesus is an eternal message of healing and salvation. Jesus doesn’t come to bring a new truth. He comes to bring the old truth that God created all of us, loves all of us, offers redemption to all of us, and calls us to be in communion with each other as well as with God himself. Christ may be a new way that humanity understands that message but the message is what God has been trying to express to us throughout the ages. It is a message that will continue to flow forth from God forever.
The sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross affects those who knew him in a dramatic way. Shortly after the crucifixion, Jesus will appear to his followers resurrected and alive. That event is so significant that his followers are transformed from self-centered and frightened cowards hiding from the officials in order to avoid death themselves into courageous proclaimers of Christ crucified and resurrected. Their belief in the risen Christ is so real to them that so many of them will be willing to die themselves. Death, they come to experience, is not the end of God’s grace. As God can heal leprosy, God can raise the dead. There is no situation where hope does not enter. The evils of the world cannot defeat the grace of God. That’s what the disciples and followers of Christ come to know and proclaim.
That sacrifice made by Christ also extends back in time and forward in time. It evidences the eternal healing and saving grace of God that is woven into creation. Christ does not just give hope to those who knew him. Christ shows that all who came before him are also saved by that same grace. Christ shows that all who come after him will be saved by the same grace. The crucifixion and resurrection are time specific events but they show the character of God which is not bound by time. Jesus saves all humanity for all time – past, present, future.
So the more I think about it, the more I think Jim had it right. Even though Jesus wasn’t born yet, the grace he embodies saved Naaman hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth. Jesus Christ as the Son of God has been around since the beginning of time. His presence is in creation. His presence is in our deepest sorrows and greatest joys. His presence will be waiting for us in everything we face. His presence will be saving the world long after we are gone.
The great hope we know through Christ has always been here and it always will be here.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Sunday, October 13, at noon
Tuesday, October 15, at noon
Sunday, October 20, at noon
Plan to attend one of these 45 minute meetings, hear our vision for 2014, and pick up your pledge packet. Those unable to attend will be called on by a canvasser. Begin now to consider your financial pledge to your church.
Blessing of the Animals – Sunday, October 13, 5:30 pm
In the Labyrinth Garden
We were rained out last week so please join us this week and bring your pets
Choral Evensong – Sunday, October 20, 4:00 pm
Halloween Carnival – Wednesday, October 23, 6:00 pm
Honduras Presentation – Sunday, October 27, 9:15 am
Pledge Cards Due – November 3
Daylight Savings Ends November 3
Bazaar – Wednesday, November 20
Ordination for Daniel Cenci and Candice Frazer – Saturday, November 23, 11:00 am
Thanksgiving Eve Eucharist – Wednesday, November 27 – 6:00 pm