The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

2.12.06 worship gathering

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Veeeeery different than I expected earlier in the week! Thanks, commentors!

I’ve come a little further since I gave this on Sunday. I think if I were doing it now, I’d spend a little time thinking about what a stellar success Naaman was.

Naaman’s egotism and expectations almost kept him from enjoying the healing that God had for him. But that isn’t the point! The point is (drum roll): they didn’t!. God has no words of rebuke for Naaman – quite the contrary. Naaman becomes a pretty bold and pretty humble servant of God.

Sometimes I get hung up on how I almost didn’t do X or Y, so I must be a pretty lousy follower of Jesus. But I have a hunch Jesus’ view on it is, “Wow, Monte, you could have turned off completely there, and you didn’t! You’re still here! I’m so proud of you!”

Maybe a little hard to take. But might be how reality is. Think?

10:30 Monte: Good morning – [CUE PSALM 30]

Let’s start by reading a Psalm together. This is Psalm 30 – King David tells how God rescued him. Maybe you can identify with David’s feelings.

Sharon reads responsively:

Psalm 30 [CUE AS WE READ]

A David psalm

1I give you all the credit, GOD-

you got me out of that mess,

you didn’t let my foes gloat.

2GOD, my God, I yelled for help

and you put me together.

3GOD, you pulled me out of the grave,

gave me another chance at life

when I was down–and-out.

4All you saints! Sing your hearts out to GOD!

Thank him to his face!

5He gets angry once in a while, but across

a lifetime there is only love.

The nights of crying your eyes out

give way to days of laughter.

6When things were going great

I crowed, “I’ve got it made.

7I’m GOD’s favorite.

He made me king of the mountain.”

Then you looked the other way

and I fell to pieces.

8I called out to you, GOD;

I laid my case before you:

9″Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead?

auction me off at a cemetery yard sale?

When I’m “dust to dust’ my songs

and stories of you won’t sell.

10So listen! and be kind!

Help me out of this!”

11You did it: you changed wild lament

into whirling dance;

You ripped off my black mourning band

and decked me with wildflowers.

12I’m about to burst with song;

I can’t keep quiet about you.

GOD, my God,

I can’t thank you enough.

cue songs:

Come, Now Is the Time to Worship

Jump In!

Healing Grace

Prayer by Sharon

Welcome by Terry

Message:

We started with a story of a rescue – the rescue of King David. Now here’s rescue story – the story of Naaman. Children, one of the heroes in this story is a girl – and we don’t even know her name – but you watch what she does.

Naaman is an OT fellow – but he isn’t Jewish. N is a soldier – in fact, N is a general – the head general of a nation called Aram, roughly modern Syria. He’s been successful – like David in the Psalm we read, “things were going great.” He had been winning on the battlefield, and Aram was in good shape.

But General Naaman got sick. He had a skin disease – and it was likely to cost him his life. Skin diseases resulted in isolation, disfigurement, and death. No one in Aram could help him.

Aram was often at war with Israel. And here’s where the girl appears. One time when Naaman led a raid on Israel, he captured this young girl, and she became Naaman’s wife’s maid. Time went by, and as Naaman got more and more sick, she felt badly for him. She said to Naaman’s wife: “Oh, if only my master could meet the prophet [back home in Israel], he would be healed of his skin disease.”

N’s wife tells N, N goes straight to his king, king says, “Go.” So, General Naaman of Aram gets together a royal military escort with chariots and horses and off they go.

[cue map Judah Israel Syria1]

Show Damascus and Samaria – perhaps 100 miles. How fast do chariots travel? Perhaps 5 mph. Two days of hard travel into enemy territory, the former raider now comes for help. Israel and Aram are officially at peace – but do you think the Israelites along the way were glad to see him? Remember where the servant girl came from?

You may remember that just last year, the Prime Minister of Lebanon was assassinated. Syria, which had many troops in Lebanon, was implicated in the plot, and forced to withdraw. Suppose one day, down the road from Syria, comes an armored convoy, racing toward Beirut? Risky business!

Naaman’s convoy pushes on to Samaria, the capital city. He strides into the palace, presents the King of Israel with orders from the King of Aram: “When you get this letter, you’ll know that I’ve personally sent my servant Naaman to you; heal him of his skin disease.”

What’s the King of Israel think? Suppose that armored convoy from Syria made it to Beirut. Syria’s a much larger country. How would it strike the leaders of modern Lebanon if Syria’s commanding general showed up with an impossible command?

Down the road from the palace, tho, lives the prophet Elisha. Utterly coolheaded, Elisha says to the king, “Why are you so upset? Send him to me.”

Back on the chariots, flags flying, military escort, as if five black limos with secret service agents on the side, international peace hangs in the balance as the city watches them roll up to Elisha’s little house.

What if a head of state came to your place? Five black limos, secret service agents by the doors scanning the neighborhood, neighbors staring out their windows, pulling their children up on the porch. He’s getting out of the car – he’s important – what should you do?

Elijah doesn’t even answer the doorbell. Sends his hired man out with a message. “Prophet says go down to the Jordan, dip seven times, you’ll be fine.” Back inside. As if you sent one of the kids out with a note – “Dad says to go soak yourself in the Skunk River, see ya.” There’s General Naaman on his chariot.

By the way, here’s what the Jordan looks like today:

[cue Jordan River 1 -muddy!]

Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of GOD, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. 12The Damascus rivers … are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet.

But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple “wash and be clean’?”

So he did it. He went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, following the orders of the Holy Man. His skin was healed; it was like the skin of a little baby. He was as good as new.

Like Psalm 30:

[cue Psa 30 excerpts] GOD, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together.

3GOD, you pulled me out of the grave, gave me another chance at life when I was down–and-out. …

The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.

Close call. Naaman almost didn’t get well. Why? The way God wanted to work didn’t fit his expectations. Didn’t look like he thought it should. Wasn’t the right format, the way things were done. Didn’t give him the prestige he deserved. Worst of all, perhaps, he had to accept it without earning it – nothing “hard and heroic.” Just a gift. And some good friends helped him – “Naaman, you’ve come too far to walk away now. See it through.”

Looks like God had more in mind than healing his leprosy. And by the way – wouldn’t have happened without the slave girl’s comment.

So – where are we:

We read Psalm 30 together: the story of King David, someone who has it all together, life falls apart, he seeks God earnestly, and God graciously puts him back together.

Then there’s the Naaman story: a pagan general who has life by the reins, then falls apart. He puts himself out to seek a God he hears about from a slave girl, almost gets sidetracked by his own expectations, but ends up better than he dreamed he would.

Two rich men, two disasters, two restorations.

And now a simple short story of a man with nothing meeting Jesus. Fast forward 700 years to Mark 1:40:

We read of an impressive man healed – now, an unimpressive one.

40A leper came to him, begging on his knees, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.”

41Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.”

42Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy.

Once again, as David said:

The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.

Naaman traveled for days on his chariot – this man traveled a few feet on his knees. Both were healed. Naaman couldn’t get Elisha to show his face – this poor man came face to face with Jesus, felt his touch. Guess you gotta get down low one way or another.

Final passage. Here’s my question: what on earth does this have to do with the previous three – the Psalm, the Naaman story, Jesus healing leprosy?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 –

24You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. 25All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

26I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! 27I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

Maybe what these four have in common is this: Paul – now the famous Apostle Paul, writer of much of the NT, planter of churches, fearless evangelist – Paul is just as aware of his need for God as David, and Naaman, and the man with leprosy were. He sees himself, and now, though not in tragedy or sin, determines not to let up at seeking all the “healing” he can get. He is illuminated enough to see his need for God even though he isn’t in despair; he seeks, not for relief of a torment he feels, but for more of the goodness he’s been privileged to taste.

What’s God done for you so far? Want more of that?

What I learned this week about my own walk.

Giving

Jump In!

Prayer – Sharon

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Written by Monte

February 12, 2006 at 3:57 pm

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