Such a Simple Thing

July 11, 2020

            Sometimes when we are in distress, looking for solutions to things that are threatening us, we look for complicated answers and beyond those people who are actually able to help us; beyond them, that is, if their solutions don’t suit our agendas and don’t feed our egos.  It’s remarkable – 

            Let me tell you a story:

            There was once a powerful military commander who was well decorated for his victories over surrounding nations; so powerful that as part of his victory lap, he would bring home prisoners to serve in his home – one of the benefits of being the commander, it seems.  But though the commander was a power to be feared, he had a huge challenge – he had an extremely contagious disease – leprosy – which necessarily isolated him from others – no one wanted what this man had!  

            Luckily, however, a young girl, one of the wartime prisoners, offered him hope and a cure; she ‘knew a man’ in her homeland who could take care of the problem!  Consequently, the commander returned to the land he had so recently ravaged, with an impressive display of manpower and wealth, but not to the ‘the man’ the young servant girl suggested; he was far too cool for that! He went instead to meet with the king he had so recently defeated.  That ruler was absolutely no help and feared the whole thing was a set up.  But, the king ‘knew a man’ … the very one suggested by the young prisoner of war.

So the warrior and his retinue went to see the man; expecting to be treated with great fear and respect – not so much. “The man” didn’t even come to the front door to greet the warrior. Why?  I don’t know.  Perhaps, ‘the man’ didn’t want to catch what the commander had,  or perhaps, since that warrior was a pagan, that in itself was an ‘unclean’ condition; I don’t know, but whatever the reason ‘the man’ just sent instructions: ‘go bathe in the river and you will be healed.’  

Was the commander grateful? Nope: he spewed angry words of entitlement: “Are you kidding me! Don’t you know who I am?  I am important – I have rights!  You didn’t even come out to meet me and that river of yours is filthy!  I have cleaner rivers at home!”  And off he stormed – still sick.  

I love what the soldiers told their boss – “you know, if ‘the man’ had asked you to do something hard, you would have done it….this is such a simple thing…..”  They took a risk by calling the commander to account – he could have had them killed because they were basically get over yourself and do what you need to do to be healed – it might be inconvenient, it might be a real pain and make you feel weak and humiliated – but do you want to be clean or retain your image? But they took the risk – and it was worth it – because the commander came to his senses – bathed in the river – and was healed!

This isn’t just a nice little story; you may recognize it as the account of the Aramean commander, Naaman, and the healing he received when he humbled himself enough to obey the prophet Elisha. (2 Kings 5:1-14). We can learn a lot from that retelling, don’t you think?

Doing such a simple thing made all the difference!

We can learn so much from this historical account – particularly now. We are all in various states of distress – we want things to be different, but we don’t like what we have to do in order to make that difference. The simple things that we can do to bring about healing – are often actually the most difficult, because we are required to let go of our sense of self-importance, our sense of power, our sense of our own ‘rights’ for healing to begin.  Healing begins in the simple things.

So, here’s the question: How often do we want things to be different, but we don’t like what we have to do in order to make that difference. Think of a few examples:

  • Apologizing for our part of a rift in relationship.  (Matthew 6:12)    
    • Such a simple thing – but shouldn’t the ‘other’ person apologize first? 
      • Does it really matter who takes the first step?
      • Do we want to be healed?
  • Reaching out to participate in the healing of the political and racial strife in our country. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
    • Such a simple thing – but I am not the one acting crazy – it’s THEM.  
      • Have we listened to each other to see what whoever the THEM is thinks?
      • Do we want to be healed?
  • Gathering as a community to care for the homeless and underserved. (Acts 6:1-6)
    • Such a simple thing – but I pay agencies to handle such things
      • Is throwing money at problems the answer or does it take relationship to see what is actually needed?
      • Do we want to be healed?
  • Wearing masks while we wait for a vaccine so we can get back to work and school
    • Such a simple thing – but those things are hot, they steam up my glasses! Besides, I’m in charge of me!
    • Are our ‘rights’ and our comfort really more important than life? (John 15:13)
    • Do we want to be healed?

And the consequence of that is the question that lingers is will we do those simple things – or continue in our disease?  Do we want to be healed?

Do we want to be healed?

Healing begins in the simple things.

That is the question that lingers: will we do those simple things – or continue in our disease?  

Do we want to be healed? It begins with such a small thing!

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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