Wash and Be Clean

Prophet Margins

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Our text is about obedience and about submitting to authority, but it is also about recognizing the voice of God in the voices of others. Naaman had little reason to listen to Elisha, except that he listened to the voice of the refugee girl whom he made a servant in his house. What does it take to hear the voice of God? To whom do we listen?

Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls

We are thrilled to welcome the writing of Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls for the Preaching Notes for this worship series. Dr. Smalls is senior pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan, and an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Click here to read more about Dr. Smalls.

A Prophet in the Margins

We live in a day and time where leaders seem to take themselves too seriously. Yet, leaders are people. They suffer, they celebrate. They rejoice, they mourn. None of them, however, are able to connect with everyday people as much as they can when they are sick or suffering from some physical ailment.

Typically, upper-level government leaders can secure the best medical consultation and have access to the best pharmaceutical resources. Access to health care is not much of a concern for these leaders—except, of course, when the kind of condition a leader has is not curable.

On one of the conquests of Naaman, a little girl was secured who ended up being the servant of Naaman’s wife. She witnessed Naaman’s misery as well as the challenge that his wife and servants had in caring for him during his moments of discomfort.

The little girl offered a reference. She knew a prophet. She knew that her master back home could cure him.

Naaman had plenty of political experience in the realm of international relations. It would make sense to invite the king, Aram, to assist him in securing this special service. The king agrees to send a letter to the king of Israel, who ultimately throws a fit. Elisha hears of this fit and sends the king a word of comfort. “Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8).

It is done. The king sent many gestures of exquisite kindness. But prophets who are settled in their call and assured in their work are not easily swayed.

Naaman arrives and is not even greeted by the prophet. There is no state dinner, no pomp and circumstance, nothing. “Wash in the Jordan seven times” was pretty much all he got. That was insulting to Naaman. But when you are really sick, there isn’t much time for pride.

Naaman, encouraged by one of his servants, dipped in the pool, probably feeling ridiculous. But that feeling didn’t last long, as his rough, scaley skin was renewed and restored to the texture of a little boy’s skin.

This, on the surface, seems like a fortunate turn of events. But it is far more in-depth than that. Elisha was a prophet who perhaps did some of his greatest work while sitting on his couch. In fact, this may not have been the prophet’s work at all. This was God’s work.

God, as only God can, used a little poor girl to initiate not only the healing of a man but also the witness that God is able to cure the incurable. This isn’t the first time that God has used a poor young girl to bring about immeasurable transformation among those who do not yet know God.

So much was accomplished here.

Elisha shows us how not to be too drawn in with being in the spotlight in the fight when doing prophetic work. This prophet, Elisha, was not mesmerized by political pageantry. He was not frightened by the possibility of political strife. While King Aram sent a note and material luxuries, Elisha sent a soldier to the water.

Elisha never left his house to meet Naaman. He did not once leave his house to talk to the sojourners responsible for ensuring a successful trip. He never left his post as a prophet.

Quite frankly, he was quite content doing all this work by staying and being tucked in the margins.

In This Series...

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes