The Rev. Fredd L. Ward III serves as senior pastor of South Congregational Church in East Hartford.
Scripture: 2 Kings 5:9-14 (NRSV)
So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’
But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me [the prophet] would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage.
But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’
So [Naaman] went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
I’ve been shaving my head since 1992, so it’s been a very long time since I used shampoo. I do remember, however, that printed upon every bottle, regardless of brand, was some version of these three-step use instructions: “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.” I didn’t research the matter in preparing this reflection; but I assume that is still the case. If ever there was such a thing as a “no-brainer”, the directions for what to do with your shampoo or body wash is it! So, what’s the story with simple instructions?
The answer might be found in the story of Naaman who, like so many believers, approach life and faith with an unreasonable and unnecessary degree of difficulty. As I understand the world of the text, Naaman was seeking more than a cosmetic cure for a skin condition. His Hansen’s disease was symbolic of something below the surface – a “dis-ease” in the soul that necessitated a spiritual solution Elisha offered Naaman simple instructions: “Go wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” In other words, wash, rinse and repeat.
If there ever was such a thing as a biblical “no-brainer”, the directions for what to do in order to be made well was right in his face. Yet, Naaman complicated the situation and actually got in God’s way. “I thought that for me Elisha would surely come out personally.” Self-importance and self-centeredness get in God’s way. “I thought Elisha would stand and call on the name of the Lord and would wave his hand over the spot.” Trying to prescribe the process and the particulars of God’s provision is to get in God’s way. “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than the all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them?” When you second-guess the inspired instructions from one of God’s messengers, you add a degree of difficulty to your already troubling circumstance, and thus delay salvation.
Each of us is endowed with brainpower. Sadly, however, we misuse it or we don’t use it in conjunction with the power of the Most Hight. As a result, we attempt to outthink and outsmart the One who knows our deepest need rather than outright trusting. The life of faith gets increasingly frustrating for so long as we refuse to follow good orderly direction.
Gracious God, save us from every form of “dis-ease” -- fear and frustration and even our own faults. Grant that we might learn to more faithfully follow the many sources of good orderly direction that are available to us in this life. Keep us from trying to outthink you…from getting angry and going away from you. May you keep us. And may we keep it simple. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the family and friends of the 7 motorcyclists killed in a crash in New Hampshire on June 21
- For the family and friends of those killed in a plane crash near Dallas on Sunday
- Continued for the Rev. Tim Gilbert, Rev. Graham Van Keuren’s spouse Eric, and Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough as they recover
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the staff, volunteers, and campers at Silver Lake Conference Center as they begin week two
- For the decision of the 32 General Synod to approve the formation of a new conference in southern New England
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
First Congregational Church of Southington
Southport Congregational UCC
Second Congregational Church of Stafford, UCC
North Stamford Community Church
The First Congregational Church of Stamford
This Week in History:
July 1, 1979 (40 years ago) The Sony Walkman goes on sale, sparking a revolution in personal electronics. The portable cassette player sold for $150 and did not immediately take off in sales until Sony representatives took to the streets of Tokyo giving pedestrians a chance to listen to the devise. The first available units sold out in by the end of August.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”