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Healing of Naaman
November 4, 2018, 12:00 AM

Grace and peace to you from the Triune God, our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer. May the words on my lips and meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

God is in the business of healing. Today we read the story of Jesus healing the leper and the story of the healing of Naaman. In both of these we are looking at the healing of what was known in the ancient world as Leprosy. This might have been a mild case of psoriasis or it might have been the condition we know as leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease and caused by a bacterial infection. It could also have been any number of other skin conditions because they did not medically distinguish one from another. It was potentially communicable, they understood that much, and that meant that you were to be shunned until you got better at which point you could be restored to community, if the best medical authority in the community, the priest, declared you healed. I will simply note that for Jesus to have healed in this community meant that he did not shun this community but spent time with them. So, Jesus heals the lepers and God through Elisha was healing lepers.

Modern medicine is great. It has led to the cure of many of the conditions that were basic in ancient times and which led to being removed from the community. Take leprosy, which today is totally curable, with the correct antibiotic. There are so many conditions for which we have good medicine today that in ancient times required a healer, Take something like schizophrenia, which we now can control in many cases. Think about the legion of demons that Jesus healed, it was likely any number of mental health issues that led to that person being out in the graveyard instead of part of society. They were stark raving mad probably and today with a good psychiatrist could lead a relatively normal life.

My question is what is the leprosy of our time. I can remember a time when HIV/AIDS was a leprosy. Due to the work of my childhood church, I was around the Gay community and I can remember being told that it was OK to get a hug or for the person with AIDS to touch you, so long as there were no open wounds. This was something that doctors figured out pretty quickly and yet it took years to disseminate the information, through the media and books and articles and exposes and radio until, one day it became reasonably accepted that a person with HIV should be left to live a normal life and is not a person to be feared. But that was in my opinion a case of modern leprosy and so gives us something to relate to and Jesus through the church was definitely in the healing business for those people. No, not all churches, but where there was healing occurring it was often the work of some of the churches.

When I ask the question what is the leprosy of our time, I am really looking to the question of where should we, as the hands and feet of Christ, be working in our world. What are the issues of our day and time that leave people marginalized and on the edges of society. Maybe you experience one of more of these things and keep coming because you know God is in the business of healing. I think of the question, “What is the leprosy of our time” and Active Alcoholism comes to mind as one of those things that when you are in the depths of that disease you find yourself isolated and in a corner and yet we know that one of the most effective cures for it is a miraculous healing by God and the church has supported this work for as long as it has been going on. In fact surrender to God and miraculous cure is the best known solution to addictions of many kinds.

It is certainly true that inside of my life time, single parenthood, divorce and adultery are all things that have been variously unacceptable to society. They are also things for which the society, as a whole, no longer shuns people and for which we have better boundaries established. Admittedly, it is a work in progress and so there are places in which the church has and will continue to be, hopefully, a place of healing. You see as the body of Christ in the world we first receive that healing and then we go into the world and provide that healing. I sometimes wonder if partisanship is not a leprosy of our time which may only be healed by the intervention of God. God is capable of healing this plague in our land and God is capable of restoring community as God has for all of history, if only we will say yes I choose to accept this healing.

Just last week I was part of the healing work of the church. I went to Synagogue for services to remember the tragic shooting in a synagogue in Squirrel Hill. This was an act of reaching out to our neighbor and showing them through presence that they continue to matter and that they are not the lepers of our time, but people who deserve to be treated with care and respect. I saw first hand how that was healing to those people, who needed to know that their religion was not leprosy in our community, that their religion did not need to separate them from the rest of us, that their religion did not make them unclean and unfit to worship God. And so Jesus went, in force, to this place of pain and un-health and restored their health. It is not that there were not scars when we were done or that it does not play in the minds at moments but it is that it is no longer debilitating for that community. So, you see Jesus continues to be in the business of healing.

I return to the question of what is leprosy in our time. What are the conditions, physical or mental, for which we push people to the edges of the community. Are there things that YOU hide from this community or society in general because you are afraid that they will get you marginalized and pushed to the edges. Are there situations or realities that you know are true for you and for which you see no possible cure. Are there people you have not invited to attend social functions or church because you believe that something about their outward, lived reality would make them uncomfortable in this community and so to protect them you do not invite them. Whatever those things are, chances are they are the modern leprosy, either in the larger community or in this community and since Jesus is in the business of healing, they should be OK here in this place because this is a place of healing for leprosy.

Healing of the community is the first and most important work of Jesus. Look at our gospel story today. First Jesus heals the physical condition of the leper and then send him to the priest, which was how you were restored to community at that time. So, sometimes the healing is about changing the physical conditions, sometimes healing is about removing the mental conditions and sometimes healing like psoriasis today is about greater knowledge that helps us to include the person but does not change their outward condition. And so I am left with two questions. First, what is leprosy in our time and how are we called to be about the work of helping to be the healers of the lepers. Who are we as individuals and as a church body called to work with today to help restore their health. What are the causes and conditions of marginalization in our time and how do we as the hands and feet of Jesus channel the healing power of God to those people. Second, and for today maybe more importantly, what are the causes and conditions that need healing in your world. What are the causes and conditions that you hide from the world for fear of being pushed to the margins. What are the places in your life for which healing needs to occur.

God is in the business of healing. Jesus is in the business of healing. We are in the business of healing. First receive the healing you need, because you are a child of God, made fearfully and wonderfully in the image of God, and Gods want you to be well. Then go out into all the world proclaiming the healing of God to all you meet, identifying the lepers in our community and working with them to heal them and restore them to community. Amen.