Go Wash – A sermon on 2 Kings 5:1-14
Last week I started reading RJ Palacio’s New York Times Bestseller Wonder. It starts this way:
I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an Xbox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.
If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.
But I’m kind of used to how I look by now. I know how to pretend that sort of thing: me, Mom and Dad, Via. Actually, I take that back: Via’s not so good at it. She can get really annoyed when people do something rude. Like, for instance, one time in the playground some older kids made some noises. I don’t even know what the noises were exactly because I didn’t hear them myself, but Via heard and she just started yelling at the kids. That’s the way she is. I’m not that way.
Via doesn’t see me as ordinary. She says she does, but if I were ordinary, she wouldn’t feel like she needs to protect me as much. And Mom and Dad don’t see me as ordinary, either. They see me as extraordinary. I thin the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me.
My name is August, but the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
We don’t know what Naaman looked like. The way his leprosy manifested itself isn’t completely clear. But we do know two things… It wasn’t such a hindrance to prevent him from becoming a well-decorated commander in the army of the King of Aram. But it was enough of a nuisance that he wanted to rid himself of his disesase.
So Naaman gets advice from the most unlikely of saints. The young girl taken captive who was serving his wife. This unnamed, unknown, slave girl tells Naaman of a great prophet in another land that can to heal him of his disease.
So like any good army commander, Naaman goes to the king who is totally unable to help him. And that’s when the truly unexpected starts to happen.
Rather than going to meet the great commander, Elisha waited for him to come to him, and then didn’t even spend that much time in having an actual conversation with Naaman. Walter Brueggeman puts it this way,
But the prophet was indifferent to his coming, and scarcely noticed him. He said to the general, “Oh, go jump in the Jordan River…seven times.” It was a little like “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.” Again, against his better judgment, at the behest of his advisors he did go to the Jordan, a piddling little river. He did.
And the text says, “His flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy.” He was clean. His flesh, against the disease, was as smooth and sweet as a baby’s rump. He was healed. He could resume his prestigious life. The story does not tell us how the healing happened, wanting us only to be amazed at the cure.
The command to go wash seems simple enough. But Naaman puts up a fight, complaining about the cleanliness and size of the river. But he finally gives in and gets wet. And the truly amazing thing does happen in that water – Naaman is cured.
In this story of Naaman, God does amazing things while the reluctant army commander is in the river washing.
Frederick Buechner writes,
Air is our element, but water is our heart’s delight. “My flesh faiths for thee,” the Psalmist sings, “as in a dry and weary land where no water is” (63:1). And among the last things that Jesus ever said, and among the most human, were the worlds, “I thirst” (John 19:28).
Water is a powerful image in thinking about our faith. Water cleanses us like Naaman and washes away all those parts of us that make us into someone we are not. Water welcomes us into the family of God in our baptism.
Jesus used water to welcome the disciples to the table in that upper room. Washing them, preparing them for the feast that was to come.
And it was at that table where Jesus, like Elisha before him, gave out some simple instructions. Take, Eat. Remember Me.
For when we gather around this table to remember our Lord, we are washed clean, we are healed and made whole, and we are filled with the power of the Spirit to be apart of God’s healing of this entire world.
Alleluia and Amen.
 RJ Palacio, Wonder p.1
 Brueggemann, The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann p.331
 Buechner, Beyond Words p.407-8