Sunday November 13, 2022
Life and Work of our Church
The church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing God’s goodness for joy on this day.
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
Carol Rose Ikeler 1959 © 1963 W.L. Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. Used and adapted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. LicenSingOnline#605486
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
And as we light our Christ Candle this morning, we are reminded that regardless of what is happening in the world around us, God’s Light and God’s Spirit are still here, actively at work in the world today. Once again, we commit ourselves to follow and to share that light.
Call to Worship
In a world that can often seem confusing, unpredictable and frightening,
We come seeking sanctuary and comfort.
In a world that seems to demand perfection of us,
We come seeking acceptance of who we are.
In a world where injustice and the abuse of power seem to dominate,
We come seeking guidance to live a different kind of life.
In a world that seems to worship money, power and status,
We come to worship God.
Divine Mystery, so often we come to you seeking great miracles and extraordinary signs of your presence, yet we miss the small assurances and everyday miracles you offer. We long for great and compelling gifts with which to serve you, but we fail to use the gifts you have already given us. Open our eyes to see the everyday miracles all around us, open our hearts to appreciate the gifts you have given us, and open our hands to serve you with all that we have and all that we arehh. Amen.
Gift of Music We Cannot Measure How You Heal #613
We sometimes seem to forget that stories of miraculous healing do not appear ONLY in the Christian scriptures. Today we hear the story of the healing of Naaman, an officer in the Syrian army by Elijah, a prophet of God.
Scriptures – 2 Kings 5:1-15a Good News Translation
Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, was highly respected and esteemed by the king of Syria, because through Naaman the Lord had given victory to the Syrian forces. He was a great soldier, but he suffered from a dreaded skin disease. In one of their raids against Israel, the Syrians had carried off a little Israelite girl, who became a servant of Naaman’s wife. One day she said to her mistress, “I wish that my master could go to the prophet who lives in Samaria! He would cure him of his disease.” When Naaman heard of this, he went to the king and told him what the girl had said. The king said, “Go to the king of Israel and take this letter to him.”
So Naaman set out, taking thirty thousand pieces of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of fine clothes. The letter that he took read: “This letter will introduce my officer Naaman. I want you to cure him of his disease.”
When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and exclaimed “How can the king of Syria expect me to cure this man? Does he think that I am God, with the power of life and death? It’s plain that he is trying to start a quarrel with me!”
When the prophet Elisha heard what had happened, he sent word to the king: “Why are you so upset? Send the man to me, and I’ll show him that there is a prophet in Israel!”
So Naaman went with his horses and chariot and stopped at the entrance to Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a servant out to tell him to go and wash himself seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be completely cured of his disease. But Naaman left in a rage, saying, “I thought that he would at least come out to me, pray to the Lord his God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and cure me! Besides, aren’t the rivers Abana and Pharpar, back in Damascus, better than any river in Israel? I could have washed in them and been cured!”
His servants went up to him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Now why can’t you just wash yourself, as he said, and be cured?” So Naaman went down to the Jordan, dipped himself in it seven times, as Elisha had instructed, and he was completely cured. His flesh became firm and healthy like that of a child. He returned to Elisha with all his men and said, “Now I know that there is no god but the God of Israel
I am truly amazed at the wisdom and courage demonstrated by the young slave girl who served Naaman’s wife. She is the one who first tells Naaman about the prophet Elisha, promising that, if he was to go and see Elisha, his leprosy will be cured. Even making such a suggestion was very risky. If her master was not cured after heeding her advice, she could be held responsible and punished. And there was certainly no guarantee that her master would even listen. For a slave to even suggest that her people might have a prophet who could achieve what Naaman’s people had failed to do, might be interpreted as claiming her people were superior to her captors, which again, could result in punishment. Given the circumstances, the logical thing for a slave to do was to keep her head down and her mouth shut.
But this young woman does not follow the logic of the time. Instead, she quietly and confidently offers her master the chance to be healed. Exactly why she would choose to do this is not clear, but perhaps she was simply doing what she believed was right. Regardless of who Naaman was or what her relationship with him might have been, he was a man who was suffering and she had it within her power to offer help.
I don’t think we often consider this, when we read the story. Let’s face it. If someone kidnapped you, took you away from your family and friends and forced you to work as a slave, would you have been so eager to help. When something bad happens to someone who has hurt us, how many of us have not said or at least though, “Well, it serves them right.”
Yet this young girl is willing to set aside whatever fear, concerns or negative feelings she might have, in order to help someone in need, even if that someone is her slave master. Many years later, a Rabbi by the name of Jesus would say, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” That is exactly what this young woman was doing. Naaman was suffering, and she was willing to help.
But even after Naaman accepts her advice, things don’t go the way she would have hoped. When Naaman went to see Elisha, Elisha didn’t even come out of the house. He simply sends words that Naaman should go and wash in the Joran River seven time, and that, if he did, he would be made clean.
Naaman is not impressed. In fact, he is downright angry. He is a man of great importance who has traveled a long distance to see this prophet, yet Elisha couldn’t even be bothered to come out of his house to see him. Instead, he sends out a servant. The more Naaman thinks about it the angrier he gets. And how can simply washing, cure leprosy? Did this Elisha think he had never washed before in his life? What a wasted trip, and all because some Hebrew slave said Elisha could heal him.
Now you would think at this point that if you were one of Naaman’s slaves you would tend to try to stay out of Naaman’s way. Yet, once again, that is not happens. One of his servants, perhaps even that same slave girl herself, approaches Naaman and says, “If the prophet had told you to do something difficult wouldn’t you do it? Yet all he has told you to do is to go down to the river and wash. Why not at least give it a try?”
Now before any of us start thinking, well if it was me of course I’d try it, perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we are not sometimes a bit more like Naaman than we would like to admit. How many of you have ever purchased something simply because it’s brand name, even if an identical product is available cheaper? How many have ever passed over a less expensive option, because you figure, “you get what you pay for”. How many have questioned the quality of an item that was given away free?
Our society, and perhaps the society in which Naaman lived as well, has sometimes taught us that if something is cheap or easy, it must somehow be of little value than something that is expensive or difficult. We are taught that if you want something that is really important to you, you must work hard and often sacrifice in order to get it.
Yet when Naaman comes to Elisha, Elisha simply tells him to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times. Is it any wonder that Naaman is somewhat upset? He has already tried numerous cures, all of which were more difficult and more expensive, and nothing has worked. How could a free cure that is so simple and easy, possibly work?
But it is a lowly servant, perhaps even a young slave girl who speaks up with a wisdom that Naaman cannot deny. “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Now why can’t you just wash yourself, as he said, and be cured?” Naaman heeded the advice and was immediately cured.
So why is this story so significant? Is it simply a story of Elisha’s power to heal? Is it a reminder that God’s power isn’t limited to what we see as the Christian scriptures? There are many stories throughout our entire Bible where people are healed, cured of disease, or even raised from the dead. So, what is it about this story that speaks to us today as something more than simply a wonderful story of God’s healing power revealed long ago?
Perhaps the significance lies in the simplicity of what is required of Naaman. Naaman is an important and powerful man, and he is willing to give everything he owns in order to find a cure. His king, likewise, is willing to offer a great reward for anyone who can cure this important commander in his army. Naaman is a position where he is able to afford the very best treatment, something that would have been well beyond the means of most of the people of his day.
Yet when Naaman finally encounters Elisha, not only does Elisha refuse to meet with him, he sends Naaman a message delivered by a servant. He does not treat Naaman with the respect that Naaman expects and what he asks him to do is something that anyone could do no matter how much or how little they might have to offer in return.
Not only this, but Elisha demands no payment whatsoever. Surely if the cure was worth having, it should have been expensive. It should have cost him dearly, either in riches or in personal struggle, yet this cure is basically offered free of charge and require nothing more than that Naaman go to the Jordan River and wash.
I believe that this is where the real power of this story lies. It lies in the fact that Naaman is not required to offer huge riches or to do something astounding in order to be cured. He is not required to prove his worth or merit or to somehow, earn his cure. The only thing required of him is that he simply accept God’s blessing.
God’s grace, God’s gift of healing, whether that healing is physical, emotional or spiritual, is offered freely and without price, not because we have earned it or because we have proven ourselves worthy of it. God’s grace comes to us in way and often through people, that we least expect.
But we must be open to the possibility of that grace, and we must accept it. We cannot earn it and we cannot purchase it. Sometimes it comes to us in ways we don’t even recognize. Sometimes it even sneaks up on us, while we’re busy trying to figure out what we’re going to do next. And sometimes it simply washes over us, like the waters of the Jordan, when we are willing to listen, to accept and to do as God asks. Amen
Gift of Music God in the Darkness MV#1
We Offer Our Gifts
In gratitude for all God has done for us, let us bring our offerings to God. Regardless of whether these offerings are the financial contributions to this church or the offerings of our time and talents, whatever gifts we offer, let us bring them before God.
Offertory Response Tune # 549
For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.
And so we offer you, all that we have and do,
To serve and honour you and give you thanks.
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As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Our Prayers of the People for today was written by Bruce Prewer. Let us pray.
We pray for the end of bitterness and violence in all its many forms. Bless all peacemakers: those who negotiate between nations, or arbitrate within commerce and industry, adjudicate in family courts, defuse tensions in school grounds, and counsel conflicting parties striving to find common ground …
We pray for the effective, compassionate care of all who are injured, ill, handicapped, or otherwise in need of medical interventions. Bless all who work in clinics and hospitals: surgeons, physiotherapists, nurses, physicians, oncologists, psychiatrists, dieticians, social workers, dentists, pharmacists and those who offer hospice care for the dying …
We pray for the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the destitute, the housing of the homeless, the reformation of prisons, and the rehabilitation of those suffering from addictions. Bless every agency, church or government, which is dedicated to the care of the disadvantaged and marginalized …
We pray for the provision of systems of justice that that are truly fair, whether they are within our homeland, in other nations, or international courts of justice. May those who are brought to court find equality before the law. Bless with insight and integrity lawyers, judges and all who work in the legal system …
We pray for the church, for all denominations large or small, that we may love one another in practice as well as in prayer. Bless all joint initiatives in worship, fellowship or service to the community. May the world know that there is a grace at work in us which is not our doing but a gift from the One to whom we pray.
May these prayers which we offer today also be a renewing of our commitment to love one another even as you have loved us. Amen!
Gift of Music There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy #271
It is a wonderful blessing to know that we don’t have to earn God’s love or God’s grace. And so, we go out from here today to share that love and that grace with others. But we don’t go alone. God is with us, Christ’s example leads us, and the Spirit guides and accompanies us each step of the way. Go with God.
Choral Blessing #298
When you walk from here, when you walk from here,
Walk with justice, walk with mercy, and with God’s humble care.
© Words and music; 1991 Borealis Music. Used with Permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756