The Inheritance of God Worship Series: THE INHERITANCE OF TRUST
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost - July 7, 2019
The Inheritance of Trust
Trust is a highly valued commodity these days.
Through the rise of technology, democratized news reporting, and the resulting increase of “fake news,” we now have to decipher which news outlets we ought to trust.
The popularity of text messaging over “traditional” phone calls has now led to the evolution of punctuation, for example. Exclamation marks—once sparingly used—are now the norm in conveying excitement. In responding to an invitation, the reply “Sure” is much more ambiguous and perhaps even ominous than the decidedly exuberant, “Sure!” We have adjusted our punctuation in order to communicate to the other person that they can trust our response.
Due to the polarization of our political climate, if one family member holds a differing political opinion from the rest of the family, they are “marked” in some fashion. Suddenly, their opinion on related matters might not be as trustworthy anymore.
Trust in religious institutions is decidedly low, and for one in five religious “nones,” their distrust of organized religion is why they are religiously unaffiliated. 
In our faith, Jesus’ command to love God and to love neighbor is one of the simplest sounding instructions we have from the Bible. Yet, we cannot even get that right because we do not know how to love our neighbors. Why? Because we do not trust them.
We like to think that we trust our neighbors, but as we see in our unjust criminal justice system, as we see in our crisis at the US-Mexico border, as we see in our denomination, as we see in our local churches, as we see in our school systems, as we see in our families, we do not have trust.
In scripture, we encounter the character of Naaman, a great commander of King Aram’s army. He is suffering from leprosy and is desperate for healing. A young woman, a captive from Israel (the “other,” who lacks power and social standing), speaks with authority and certainty to Naaman’s wife that the prophet Elisha in the land of Israel could heal Naaman. Maybe it was out of desperation, or maybe it was the still, small voice of God speaking to Naaman, but Naaman trusted the Israelite woman and embarked on a journey to the land of Israel to be healed.
Naaman then encounters Elisha (the “other,” from a differing religion and territory). Remember him from last week—with his inheritance of power that came with the transferred ownership of Elijah’s mantle? Elisha gives Naaman instruction to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Despite Naaman’s initial grumblings and discontent with Elisha’s suggestion, Naaman trusts and heeds the advice of Elisha due to the persuasion of his servants (the “others” who lack power and social standing).
Naaman immerses himself seven times, and Naaman is healed.
THREE TIMES in this narrative, Naaman is putting his trust in the “other.” Whether it is the religio-ethnic “other” in trusting the young, female Israelite captive, or Elisha, the prophet of the “other” land and religion, Naaman puts his trust in them. Then, even when Naaman’s trust runs dry upon receiving what seemed to be ridiculous advice from Elisha, he trusted his servants, who were “others” in terms of their social standing. By trusting the “other” in all three instances, Naaman is healed.
While this scripture passage often serves as a prooftext for why Israel’s God is greater than the others (because Naaman is healed by Israel’s prophet in Israel’s land), this passage is equally about trust.
It is about trust in God and it is about trust in the “other.”
Trust is an inheritance from God.
God has entrusted us with the stewardship of the world, everything from the natural realm to our relationships with one another. In turn, we are called to trust God in word and in deed.
In light of this passage, it stands to reason that trust in God leads to trust in the “other.”
This flies in the face of the operant wisdom of the world.
The “other” is misleading; the “other” is wrong; the “other” is so different that they cannot be trusted.
Yet, Naaman trusted the “other,” and his flesh was healed.
Likewise, we are called to trust the Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate One who draws us to the “other” and says “love them,” that the world may be healed.
To love is to trust.
As you ponder this inheritance of trust, what are some instances in your own life where you might do a better job of trusting the “other”?
What would the world look like if we were to operate from a position of trust rather than suspicion?
I also wonder, “Must we be desperate like Naaman to learn how to trust one another?”
- Should it take something dramatic and momentous (like the diagnosis of leprosy) to engender this trust?
- I certainly hope not.
- How can trust of the “other” be cultivated in your congregation? In your community?
In our divided world, in our divided churches, in our divided communities, in our divided families, we could certainly benefit from more trust: trust in God and trust in/through neighbor.
What first steps shall we take?
The transformation of the world hangs in the balance.
 Michael Lipka, “Why America’s ‘None’s Left Religion Behind,” Pew Research Center (August 24, 2016) http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/24/why-americas-nones-left-religion-behind/
Rev. Nelson Cowan, Ph.D., is an elder in the Florida Conference, a scholar of worship, and a member of the Hymnal Revision Committee of The United Methodist Church.