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?

Note to the Teacher

The key theme in this lesson is “Listening for God.” The icebreaker begins by inviting the students to play a game in which active listening is involved. The discussion encourages students to think about how God speaks to us and who God uses to do so. God used Naaman’s servants to heal him. Elijah heard God in the least likely of ways. The activity allows for more fun along the same theme. Is it easy to listen when there’s too much sound? Too much volume? Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker: The Next Best Word (10 minutes)

Have the group split into pairs. The adult leader will count, “1, 2, 3, Go!” On “Go,” the paired students will each say a word to each other. This could be any word. It’s meant to be random. For example, Student A and Student B are facing each other, then the leader says, “1, 2, 3, Go.” Student A says, “circle,” while at the same time, Student B says, “water.” The leader then gives students a moment to think about how they can connect the words “circle” and “water.”

The goal of this game is to have both students, on the count of three, say the same word. So, the students are trying to think of the next logical word that comes after “circle” and “water.” The leader counts again; and at go, if the students both say, “inner tube,” they then will sit down and wait until all other pairs of students have finished.

It will be interesting to see how long it took each pair to say the same words and to see if they were really listening to each other. Feel free to play multiple rounds!

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

Our scripture reading today takes place in the Old Testament, right after the prophet Elisha feeds one hundred men with just ten loaves of barley and ears of grain. We meet a foreign military officer with an affliction.

Read 2 Kings 5:1-14.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • There are a handful of characters in the story. Who are they, and what can you say about each of them?
  • Naaman was sick with leprosy, an illness that was often associated with the judgment of God or uncleanness. In other words, for an Israelite to read this passage, he or she might understand the leprosy of Naaman to be an act of wrath or anger by God. Do you think God uses illness to punish? Can you think of other biblical stories where illness seemed to be a punishment? Have our views on illness or God’s punishment evolved since this story was written?
  • Is there any significance in Naaman listening to the servant of his wife? What might it mean that Naaman listens to two servants in this story? Think about cultural traditions and how people with power or status listen (or not!) to others, even today.
  • Have you ever gotten great advice from a surprising source? Are there people in our church, culture, or world who seem to not be listened to by those in powerful positions? Do you think it is important to listen to others who have different life experiences and stories from yours? How can we begin to listen to people we would not normally listen to?

Read 1 Kings 19:11.

  • Like Naaman, Elijah listens for the Lord and finds God in the least likely places. The voice is not in the wind or earthquake or fire. The voice is in the still, small whisper. Do you think God still speaks to the world this way? How can we open our hearts to hear God? How can we listen for God when we interact with a wide and diverse group of people?
  • Naaman was not an Israelite. He was not a part of the inner group of God’s people at the time of the story. God still reached out to him and healed him. What does this mean about people who don’t know God? What might it mean for people today who feel excluded or feel like outsiders?

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

  • Continue with the idea of listening by trying Jimmy Fallon’s Whisper Challenge game. Put a pair of noise-canceling headphones on someone’s head and play loud music (be careful to measure the volume with the student’s comfort). Have another student whisper a phrase or movie title or quote. See how long it takes the student with the headphones to get it right!
  • Ask your students how this might relate to Naaman and the idea of listening to God.
  • Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes


  • Noise-canceling headphones and a music-playing device with Spotify or YouTube
  • A playlist of loud music

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