7-26-15, Pentecost 9 (PR) God’s Expansive Boundaries, Traditional

SERMON – July 26, 2015
2 Kings 5:1-14

(PLEASE NOTE that the following sermon was a one-person monologue, so the text here is an approximation of the spoken sermon content.)

Lepers are a dime a dozen in our culture – how about yours?

We have more people diagnosed with leprosy than you can shake a shepherd’s crook at.

Impetigo, thrush, scabies, lice, ringworm, athlete’s foot.

And of course actual leprosy, which is our general term for all these skin diseases.

Yeah, we have a lot of lepers.
Oh, I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself – do I know any of you here?

Do any of you know me? Do you know who I am?

NO NO!! Not Namaan – he is a commander of armies … I’m not a military man.

NO NO!! Not Elisha – I’m no prophet, either.

No, I’m Sanghi … I am one of Namaan’s servants.

I’m actually the one who talked him into washing in the Jordan River.

Oh, I am a man of faith, like your prophet Elisha.

Up until today, I prayed to a lot of gods … gods of war, gods of harvest, gods of healing ….

But I think you people of Israel are onto something.

This God of Israel is different from any other god I have prayed to.

This God of yours seems to love a lot of people … not just a few who worship him in a certain way and with certain words.

Your God seems to look into your hearts, and can see what is going on inside of you.

I’ve never heard of a God like that before.

But I think I will want to learn more about this God you all seem to know so well.
I am sorry to get distracted … we were talking about lepers.

Do you have many in your country here?

No? … Remember, like in my country, leprosy comes in many forms.

People can be shunned and ignored and treated like they are lepers for many reasons.

I hear you have someone called “The Donald” who is being shunned by one of your tribes called the “Republican Presidential Candidates.”

And I am told that one of your modern day Goliaths … someone named Hulk Hogan has been shunned by his fellow giant warriors.

And even a legendary court jester named Bill Cosby seems to have been isolated from everyone who has ever loved him, because of some terrible things he has been accused of doing.

Each of these persons are leprous in their own way, aren’t they?

They may not have a disease that is contagious … but for right or wrong, they are treated as if they do.

They can no longer walk among the ordinary people of their towns without being seen in a different light and shunned by many.
Yes, of course, you say … there will always be a few people who are leprous … a few who are shunned by the world.

But it is more than just a few people.

There are whole colonies of leper in this land in which you live.

Some people are lepers because of the color of their skin – they are shunned and isolated and discriminated against.

Not all … but some.

And some even fear that they will not survive because they are seen as lepers.

Some people are lepers because of the way they view marriage in your land.
Instead of being judged for their ability to love and be committed to another, they are judged by the flesh in which that love and commitment resides.

And they are shunned as something less than godly … less than human.

They are seen as relational lepers in this land.
Do you not have people who steer clear of those of a different political party, or those who live in a different part of town, or those who champion a different social agenda?

Are they not lepers to each other, shunned because of a philosophy they adopt?
Yes, lepers abound in your world, as they do in mine.

They may not have physical maladies that you can see with the naked eye … but they are all around us … and at times, we are the lepers, shunned by others.
My master, Namaan, was a leper … he was a leper in two ways.

Yes, he had a skin disease, of which God healed him through the directions that Elisha the prophet gave to wash in the river.

But Namaan was also a religious leper because he worshipped false gods … he was a foreigner … and he led an army who were enemies to the people of Israel.

If we read a little farther in this book you call the Bible, we would hear what happened next:

15 Then (Namaan) returned to (Elisha) the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before (Elisha) and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.

Yes, Namaan became a believer that day … a man who had vastly different beliefs about the world than Elisha, and Elisha’s king.

But God saw Namaan as a child of God … God saw Namaan as one of God’s own.
Your great God … and the God, I Sanghi, want also to know … is a God who breaks down the boundaries we build in this world.

Boundaries between people … boundaries between communities … dare we say boundaries between countries.

God chooses to invite into God’s family, those of his choosing, not our choosing.

God chooses to invite into God’s family those we might think of as lepers, but who God sees as daughters and sons.

It is a matter of control.

You also talk a lot about a man named Jesus.

In his teaching, he regularly reminded those he met that it was God who was in control.

The people of Jesus day erected walls … and adopted rules … and locked doors … and turned away, so that they could control the kinds of people they came into contact with.

And Jesus broke down those walls … and laughed away their rules … and unlocked their doors … and turned them around through the call of repentance, so that they would meet those who were their sisters and brothers in God’s family.

The people of Jesus day called all sorts of people lepers, and pushed them away into caves and deserts and barren places.

And Jesus healed them, and called them back into their towns and into their families.

Jesus reminded the people of his day, AND US … that we do not get to always have things our way.

Sometimes, God reminds us that the path God has laid out for us leads to the best life has to offer.

And that is Good news, if I have ever heard it.

Sanghi thanks you for helping me understand about your great God today.

May our God bless you … and heal you … and open your eyes and hearts to those around you who need to be healed.

Amen.

Rev. Craig Ross

Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

I have always appreciated the positive perspective on life and faith that is here… the broad range of life/social/political perspectives in our congregation… and the staff with whom I am blessed to work.