A sermon about Epiphany and Baptism, based on the healing of Naaman by Elisha in 2Kings 5.
Introduction: ‘Whistle Blowing’
Someone in church has asked for a sermon on ‘whistle blowing’. A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing occurring in an organization or body of people. I am interested in talking about ‘whistle blowing’, because I had occasion to do it about 4 years’ ago, and my career in the Royal Air Force was effectively finished by doing so. However, what happened to me is unlikely to be relevant to many others.
When we were discussing the idea of this sermon the case of a Christian district nurse was in the news. She worked in Weston Super Mare and she was investigated by her employer for offering to pray for a patient. She was suspended without pay, but, thankfully, reinstated without any action being taken against her. She was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, and I wonder whether action would have been taken against her, if not for that fact and all the publicity surrounding the case. Sadly, her case is not unique. What should we do if we feel called to ‘blow the whistle’ because of our Christian principles, or even to share Christ with a potentially hostile world?
(The aim of the original story is to get to the confession in verse 15: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” But there is much more to be learned from this passage…)
Naaman is a powerful general, well regarded and of high personal qualities – but he has a problem. The point is though that he knows he has a problem – how many have problems but won’t admit them even to themselves? Then again, Naaman’s problem is obvious to others, so he can’t delude himself.
That’s like so
many people today, isn’t it? Most people
around us have a vague belief in God, but don’t know Him personally. Nevertheless, they can apparently get along
quite nicely without God, so they don’t realise that they have a problem. It’s not until they face something that they
can’t solve with own resources, or understand in their own wisdom, that they
realise they lack something they need.
Even then some refuse to see the truth.
Elisha is the “man of God”, and he is not impressed or awed by Naaman’s earthly power, regard or qualities. He also chides the King for his fear and lack of faith. Some would see Elisha’s behaviour as arrogant, but let’s not forget that Elisha has got something that Naaman needs – the General hasn’t come to call out of friendship.
We are in a
similar position to Elisha. Because we
know God personally we have something that is beyond mere worldly power and
prestige – we also have a God-given authority and freedom. In these days of diversity, tolerance and “my
rights”, it’s not fashionable to say that we have The Truth, of The Faith, but
we do. We are very blessed and fortunate
people and we don’t have to apologise for that; we are free to tell others
about our relationship with God. Elisha
wasn’t interested in being popular or fitting in – he had a God-given job to
do. So do we.
The King of Israel
In the story, the King symbolises a lack of faith, but perhaps this is unfair. We know that Israel has suffered at the hands of Aram, so perhaps the King’s suspicion is justified; perhaps we need to be sensitive to others because we don’t know what they have experienced in the past. Also, you can see the King’s horror at the prospect of war and the thought that, even if Israel wins, he will be responsible for leading some of his men to their death. Perhaps we should try to understand over-zealous officials who don’t want religious controversies disturbing the peace.
The Girl Servant of Naaman’s Wife
The girl has been captured and taken away from her people by Aram, a nation who do not know the true God. You would think that the girl would have no love for her master, but she tells his wife that the prophet in Samaria can cure him. What faith and courage in witness! Perhaps also the girl can see good in her master, even though he is author of her misfortune and the enemy of her people.
Naaman’s servants also chose to take a risk to help their master who was in a rage. Let’s not forget that Naaman could have killed any one of them if he so chose. Remember, that there was nothing in it for them – they didn’t know that the cure would work! Once again it is the courage and love of the servants – who are not even significant enough to be named in the story – that enables God’s miracle to happen. Without them there would be no story and no conclusion: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”
We are surrounded by people who do not really know God and choose to ignore Him. Some of these people have authority over us. Our way of life is not popular or well understood. Nevertheless, our God has the final victory and we will have the last laugh. God’s victory over His enemies gives us the opportunity to pray for them, tell them the good news and serve them. Let’s pray now…