Rev. Lee Ireland is the interim pastor at First Congregational Church, UCC in Rowley, MA.
Scripture: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c (NRSV)
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’
When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’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 he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, 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 he 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.
Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’ He urged him to accept, but he refused. Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.
Scripture: Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.'
Reflection: Thankful for Healing
Back in 1977, my grandmother came to visit while I was living in Honolulu. Since she knew the Methodist minister who was serving at Kalaupapa, the leper colony on the north shore of Molokai, we went for a visit one weekend. It is a small farming community that is separated from the rest of the island by a sea cliff. Back in the 1870s, it became the home of those who had contracted leprosy, brought to the edge of the island, dumped into the sea with the expectation that they could swim to land and become a part of the growing community. There was no known cure at the time and many feared that the disease was contagious, so they were quarantined on that little peninsula to contain the spread of the disease to the rest of the population.
At one point, Father Damien had heard of their need for a pastor and decided to minister to them, having learned from Jesus, that it’s better to choose love and not fear to guide him in caring for those who had been rejected by society. Fortunately, medical advancements have produced a cure for the disease, but many chose to stay and still reside on this stunningly beautiful peninsula where cattle graze and life is one of daily awe. They sing their praises to God daily for the blessings they have received since the healings and new life unfolds day by day.
The scripture passages for today, from 2 Kings and Luke, reveal how different humans have responded to their healings. Naaman expected personal treatment and a flashy show of healing since he was a leader. Instead, he was called to humble himself, travel to the Jordan River and dip himself 7 times to be healed. He was stunned when it actually happened and, therefore, humbly returned to honor the God of Elisha and give thanks. In Luke’s story, Jesus healed 12, but only one came back to thank him and he wondered: “Why only 1?”
These stories beg of us – Have we been healed? Have we thanked God for the healings, or have we just continued with the busyness of our lives without acknowledging the wonder, the grace and thanking God for the healing? May you take time this day to pause and think about the healings you have received, no matter how small, and offer your prayers of thanksgiving to God.
Merciful God, we so easily take for granted the gifts of our lives and the many healings that allow us to live our lives as we wish. Accept our humble thanks for these gifts we have unknowingly and knowingly received and kept on going. Thank you for your unconditional love. May we add our voices to the joyful noise that all creation offers each day.
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 people of Iraq where violent protests last week led to at least 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries
- For those grieving or suffering after a vintage B-17 aircraft crashed at Bradley Airport on Wednesday killing 7 and injuring 8 others
- For those grieving or suffering after a shooting in Kansas City on Sunday left 4 dead and 5 wounded
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the beauty of New England in autumn
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
First Congregational Church in Bloomfield
Bolton Congregational Church of the UCC
First Congregational Church, Branford
Olivet Congregational Church UCC
United Congregational Church Bridgeport
This Week in History:
October 7, 1949 (70 years ago) The Democratic Republic of Germany is created only 5 months after France, Great Britain and the US formed the Federal Republic of Germany. Known to westerners as "East Germany", the nation was formed by those German states in the occupied Soviet zone and believed by many westerners to be a puppet nation of the Soviet Union. Berlin became a divided city between West and East German authorities despite being deep in East German territory. The divide was solidified by the Berlin Wall started in 1961. The wall was torn down and East Germany ceased to exist in 1990 when the land and people were absorbed by the Federal Republic of Germany.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Interim Pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC in Westbrook, Connecticut