I stand before you excited,
Excited because today I get to play a very active role in God’s plan,
Today, I will preach the Gospel,
Today I have the opportunity to speak to you about the greatest story ever told,
Today I speak to you about God’s redemptive plan.
I want to start off by saying that; I see that the entire Bible is the story of God’s redemptive work in his creation.
From the garden and the fall,
To the law and wisdom and the message of the prophets
To God amongst us - Jesus and the teaching of Christ,
To the cross- and the resurrection
To the founding of the church at Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit
With the book of Acts the only unfinished book of the bible, unfinished because the work continues to this day,
And to the vision of glory, the vision from revelations of the great and glorious uniting of the faithful in the heavenly city
In all the Bible, each story is in some way connected to God’s redemptive work in humanity
Now the Old Testament reading for today is a story about the healing of Naaman, it is a powerful story, by itself.
It is a story of how a military leader, who is an enemy of Israel, comes to seek healing from a foreign prophet,
And leaves being so overwhelmed by power of his healing to declare: God as the one and only true God.
They say, "The devil is in the details."
Aram's king, Naaman, and even Israel's king arrogantly assumed Naaman's healing would come in ‘the details’ of their: power, wealth and positions combined with Elisha's elaborate actions.
However, Naaman's simple, humble obedience provided the context for God's healing power….. It was really God through the details.
Often, we do actions that require difficult, obvious forfeiture of ourselves, our time and our possessions.
We receive accolades for our actions. But, really, is it what we did?
Rather, God acts through ‘the details’ of our sharing what God has first given us.
For example, in overcoming malaria, it is God's power that heals through little things we give—insecticide, nets or sprays, anti-malarial medications, water treatment projects, etc.
Like Elisha, we can give these little things or details through which God's healing power reveals Christ's light to all nations.
To God be the glory!
India, it is estimated, has about a quarter of the world's lepers, more than any other single country.
The Government is unable to deal adequately with the disease and it is left primarily to Christian missionary groups to deal with the burden and they do so receiving the bulk of their support from abroad
Such outside help came to Mother Teresa in 1975 when she received a gift of nearly million dollars to build a community for lepers on 15 acres of land donated by the Government, on the road to Calcutta.
She was never able to do it because people from nearby villages came out with bows and arrows.
Much of the prejudice is based on a superstition that lepers are being punished by their disease from some offense against God.
India's lepers are literally people who cannot help themselves.
They are held down not only by their disease, but also by the stigma.
No one is lower than a leper.
What little help they get is always from someone or some institution enlightened enough to see that.
Again and Again, breaking into all the hurt and misunderstanding around diseases and suffering enters our God
The Gospel reading today is also about the most socially ostracizing of ancient illness – leprosy
And it is about as clear an understanding of healing, healing at the hands of Jesus, as can be found anywhere,
It shows profoundly what God is doing when he heals. I would like to first go over the passage in a slightly different way…
Imagine for moment if you will, you are a Leper, there are many leprosies, many of them completely different. All you know is that because of your flaky white skin you are ostracized.
You are forced to live outside the city in a tent, away from everything and everybody.
You are separated from your whole family, friends and any possibility of work.
Your sole means of getting any money for food is limited to begging and that is even very hard as you are supposed to stay away from everyone else by 30 paces.
Then you hear that a great healer is coming through your city. You decide that this is your chance,
You are fed up with the life that you are forced to live, you are going to ignore all religious laws and will go to see him and ask him to heal you.
You wait by the roadside… and wait… and wait… you are used to waiting but this time the excitement makes the wait feel like forever…
There he is… Now is the moment that you have been waiting for. You run up to him…
There he is right in front of you and all your plans to be bold, all of a sudden, seem frozen, all your convictions to stand up for what you want, melt into a more timid appeal and you meekly falling to your knees,
You realize you may have contaminated him with your illness.
Yet, all you can think of is that you want to be clean again.
And you say “If you choose, you can make me clean?”
To your great surprise this Jesus touches you, he knows what you are thinking, he knows what you were just afraid of, of passing on your illness… and he touches you.
And tells you “I do choose, be made clean” and immediately the leprosy leaves you.
Then he sends you away, he tells you go to a Priest to authenticate your healing and provide a thank offering to the temple, but tell no one else…
Tell no one else? Tell no one else… of course you will do anything Jesus tells you…
But as soon as you return to the city, your joy can not be contained, you are clean and you tell everyone that you see. “Jesus made me clean.”
Healing is a touchy subject. It is the source of a great deal of potential manipulation.
You only have to take a quick look at Benny Hinn to see how dangerous it can be.
It is filled with expectations;
A desire to believe;
Yet worldly skepticism.
At the core it questions the power and influence of our faith on our earthly existence.
So I would like to share a few thoughts with you about what I understand as biblical healing:
Since ‘the fall from grace in the garden’ all sickness and disease was viewed by the Ancient Hebrews as a product of sin.
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”(John 9:2)
Next, biblical healing was connected to preaching or proclaiming the good news of God. Physical healing is a device for the message. Jesus’s intention was primarily spiritual healing.
“Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. (Matthew 9:22)
And in the small passage right before today’s gospel, which we heard last week - which makes it sandwiched in between stories of healing - Mark writes
Jesus answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.(Mark 1:38-39)
Thirdly, healing was connected to illustrate or prove God’s authority, it was dramatic and public.
Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.”(Matthew 9:3-6)
Those three principals of healing are important to put healing into proper perspective… but consider one more.
Consider God’s “big picture plan”
God’s plan of redemption
God makes those outsiders - - - insiders
God transforms by his healing grace…
Those that the world considered untouchable
God reaches out to them, touches them and brings them into belonging
Consider also why Jesus told the leper not to tell anyone -
Jesus must have known by choosing to make the leper clean he would be trading places with him,
Due to the crowds and his popularity, It is now Jesus that was forced outside the city
Brothers and Sisters in Christ – healing is what God does, in one way or another – healing is the transference of God’s rightful holiness traded for our illness
Illness - physically, emotionally or spiritually
It is the divine exchange
A surgeon well known in America once said, "You know, if I am to be a good surgeon I must know three subjects — physiology, mental therapy and religion."
"Why religion?" he was asked.
"Because," he replied, "the circulatory processes in a guinea pig are the same as in human beings, and the respiratory processes in a horse are the same as in a man.
The only difference between me and a veterinarian — and God bless the veterinarian — is that I am treating a human soul.
When I enter an operating room, I must remember that sometimes the patient needs some comfort more than a pill; that I cannot cure the fever until I dissolve the fear that is causing the fever.
We doctors today need something more in our medical kits than we can buy at the corner pharmacy — we need a grip on God!"
For several years the tallest building in the loop in Chicago was the Methodist Temple, the "skyscraper church."
Far above the business buildings was the church's tall steeple, and on the top of the steeple was a large lighted cross.
This cross has been significant in the lives of many people. People at the point of jumping out of windows have looked up, seen the cross, and instead of jumping called the pastor.
People on the verge of some criminal act have seen the cross and changed their minds.
Here, a few blocks from Madison and State - streets the center of Chicago's skid row and all its filth and degradation, was the cross offering help from above.
As the well-loved Hymn “Rock of Ages” declares:
"Nothing in my hand I bring…Simply to thy cross I cling."
2000 years ago God came in the flesh to live as one of us.
Jesus arrived in the flesh as a frail baby, grew up living a human existence.
And when the time came, He went about the land to preach and to heal.
God reached out and touched us, touched the untouchables.
Jesus chose to make us clean.
Nowhere in the Gospels is there any suggestion of Jesus asking a sick person what he had done or whether he had sinned before healing him.
Instead he took direct action to meet the need.
The most important Reason that Jesus healed was that He cared about people and suffered when they did.
The root meaning of compassion is just this: to know suffering together
The very essence of the incarnation is that God came in the flesh and experienced what we experience – Jesus above other all things – is compassion
Christ's public ministry was clearly for all people, even a man whose own society banished him as unclean.
This man, who suffered from leprosy, somehow already had a revelation of Christ's light and he knew that Jesus could cure him.
Once healed, the man would not contain his faith and joy; he "began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word."
We, too, are called to freely and with great joy in knowing the promise of God, proclaim the gospel –
Once you grasp the joy in your life of God healing you, in whatever way you need healing…
You can’t contain it – as we say in that great psalm
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, (Psalm 23:5-6)
We speak of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out.
And just as the book of the Acts of the Apostles is unfinished, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit continues each and every day
God is there sharing His love in the midst of the good times and the suffering
As we follow Jesus, if we look closely enough we can learn something of how to cope with suffering.
True, we'll be reminded again that suffering is one of the loneliest experiences of all, it indeed was what nearly defeated our Lord
"My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?!" (Matthew 27:46)
As Jesus cried out on the cross….Yet, Jesus turned suffering, pain, and loneliness into love.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ – each one of us can be an agent of God’s healing
Each one of us can by our own corner of ‘the details’ – administer healing gifts
We may be called to be directly in the healing disciplines of the medical arts
Or we may provide God’s love by making someone who might feel on the outside… welcome – and in doing so be an agent of redemption
A detail in God renewing plan
Modern day lepers are not hard to find…We all fall short of God’s glory
I look into my own heart and I know what it is like to be an outsider
To be out of step with others
But most painfully; to be out of step with God…
But I know that Jesus has invited me in.
I know that I will enter into that heavenly city and I won’t be able to contain my joy either….
Because Jesus chose to make me clean
Healing God, thank you for your power to cure our ills. Keep us ever mindful that it is your power and not our own that gives life. Grant us generous spirits so that we share ourselves, our time, and our possessions—the little things or details through which you alone can heal. Amen.
 Illustration Sourcebook II - #1542 – Leprosy, Prejudice
 Illustration Sourcebook I - #0669 – Comfort, Healing — from the book Life's Hidden Power
 Illustration Sourcebook II - #1417 – Cross, Salvation
 Illustration Sourcebook I - #0067 – HEALING, COMPASSION - Morton Kelsey Healing and Christianity
 God Pause for Monday, 2/6/2012 - Luther Seminary