Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

As I Forgave You

“As I Forgave You”

Jesus talks a lot about forgiveness. And perhaps this is one of the hardest teachings of Jesus - along with the loving your enemies part. Actually the two are pretty much tied together because often our enemies are our enemies because of something that needs to be forgiven. This idea that we are to ‘let someone off the hook’ by forgiving them holds us back from having a true relationship with people around us and it is a barrier to a true relationship with God. When we refuse to forgive someone the wrong they have done, or the wrong we perceive they have done - it is always there. It is like this little thing inside of us that never goes away - like a little pebble in our shoe that we feel each time we walk - it is always there, prickling a little bit just enough to keep it constantly in our mind. This person or this act that needs to be forgiven…
What scripture teaches us is that forgiveness has to begin with some self reflection. Scripture tells us that what we need to remember first is our own sin which is why in Presbyterian worship the prayer of confession is at the beginning of the worship. It is reminiscent of the story of Isaiah in Isaiah 6 - which by the way is the basis of Presbyterian worship - Isaiah is called to the throne of God where he is in the awesome presence of God sitting on a throne with angels flying all around him singing Holy, Holy, Holy and immediately Isaiah falls on his face and says I cannot be here for I am a sinner. Before God can relate to Isiah or Isaiah to God there is this moment where Isaiah realizes his sinfulness and admits it - and then the angel of God comes down and places a hot coal on his lips and declared Isaiah to be forgiven and it was then that Isaiah and God could communicate with one another. Our worship is structured the same way - we come before almighty God and sing and then we fall on our faces figuratively in our Prayer of Confession. Basically we say to God, - God I am a sinner and as a sinner I am not worthy to be in your presence. It is important for us to remember that because a big step in learning to forgive others is remembering how much we have been forgiven. In our worship immediately after we confess we are assured of our forgiveness. We come before God, admit we are sinners not worthy to be in God’s presence, God assures us of our forgiveness and then we are called to share that forgiveness with those around us. In Presbyterian Worship the ‘passing of the peace’; or what we call ‘Christian Greetings’ is right after the assurance of pardon to remind us that we have been forgiven and now we are called to forgive others by ‘making peace’ with one another. I realize this is a time for most of us when we just are able to shake hands and let each other know we care about one another - but in the theology of our worship it is strategically placed so that we can come before God in the rest of the service, all forgiven - we have been forgiven and we have forgiven those around us and now the slate is clean and we can begin afresh in the presence of God.
Forgiveness is an important and integral part of our worship because God realizes how important it is for us and our lives and our well being and in our relationship with God and with one another.
Jesus told the parable about a man who owed a great deal to his boss and went one day to his boss and the man told his boss this sob story and the boss forgave the man this huge debt. Then the man goes out and runs into another fella on the street. Now this fella owns the forgiven man a couple bucks - just a tiny amount. But the forgiven man has the new fella arrested and thrown into debtor’s prison for just this little bit. The boss finds out about it and is furious. He calls the forgiven man in and says “Look! I forgave you this huge amount and you couldn’t forgive this fella a couple dollars?” So the boss now sends the formerly forgiven man to debtor’s prison. And Jesus adds “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters
 from your heart.” That is pretty serious stuff. Notice the ‘from your heart’ - not just lip service but with all you are to forgive those who wronged us.
This story comes right after the disciples asking Jesus how often they should forgive someone and Jesus told them 70 X 7 times which in Hebrew tradition means ‘ as many times as necessary’.
Then Jesus puts right into his prayer - what we call the Lord’s Prayer - and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Forgiveness is part of our weekly worship, forgiveness is part of our daily ritual of saying the Lord’s prayer, forgiveness is all through the stories of Jesus, and forgiveness is among the last words of Jesus as he is hanging on the cross - “Forgive them” Jesus says to those who have put him in this place of agony.
Probably my favorite forgiveness story comes from the Old Testament. It is the story of Joseph and his brothers. Going back to Abraham - the one God called to be the father of God’s people. Abraham had a son named Isaac and Isaac had a son named Jacob and Jacob had 12 sons…. Jacob actually had 2 wives - Leah who was the older sister and according to scripture not to pleasant to the eyes and Jacob’s second wife was Rachel who was the love of his life. Both Leah and Rachel had trouble conceiving children so Jacob’s first 10 sons were a mishmash of sons from Leah, Leach’s handmaiden and Rachel’s handmaiden. Finally Rachel conceived and had a son named Joseph and then a son named Benjamin with whom she died in

childbirth. Because Joseph and Benjamin were from his beloved wife, these two sons found favor in Jacob’s eyes and the other 10 sons were pretty much cast aside. Because Benjamin was the son born as Rachel died, he was sort of the 2nd favorite son and Joseph became the son with whom Jacob poured out all his love and blessing. You remember the story of Joseph and his beautiful colorful coat given to him by his father.
The problem came because Joseph was the ‘favored one’ Joseph became a spoiled brat and he would rub it in the face of his other brothers that he was the one his father loved. ‘Dad likes me better than you!” And the sad thing was the brothers knew this was true. Joseph would parade around in his coat and flaunt it in front of the others and then Joseph told the brothers that he had these two dreams where the brothers bowed down in front of him. Well, you can imagine how well that went over!
One day the brothers were out working and of course Joseph didn’t have to work like they did…. Jospeh went out to where they were working and the brothers who had had enough of this bratty spoiled kid captured him and sold him to a wandering caravan on its way to Egypt. Then they told Dad Joseph had been killed and their hopes were now that the object of his affection was gone, Dad would like them. Didn’t work. Jacob just sunk into a depression…
Meanwhile Joseph ends us in Egypt where through a series of events not of his own making he ends up in prison where he stays for many years until God finally rescues him and Joseph becomes the 2nd in charge of all of Egypt.
God gives Joseph the knowledge that a famine is coming and Joseph is able to prepare the nation for this devastation. Meanwhile, the brothers back at home are also suffering from this famine and they hear that there is food to be bought in Egypt so they go down to buy some food to save their family. Anyone coming to get food has to come before Joseph since he is in charge so imagine what Joseph is feeling when he sees before him his 10 brothers - Benjamin had stayed at home with his father. Joseph recognized them but they did not recognize Joseph.
Put yourself in Jospeh’s place. You are all powerful. You can pretty much do whatever you want with to repercussions. Standing before you are the brothers who sold you into slavery and caused you years of misery….. what do you do? Joseph can send them home to starve, Joseph can torture them, Joseph could even kill them. He had that kind of power. At the very least he could tell them what he thought of what they did to him.
But what does he do - he identifies himself and the brothers are terrified because they know what he can do to them and they figure they deserve whatever happens. And Joseph forgives them…… Not only forgives them but gives they oodles of food and then has his family moved to Egypt where he gives them the best region in all of Egypt, the land of Goshen, with beautiful green valleys and plenty of water.
Romans 3 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” I always like to pair this verse with Luke 12. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. We have been forgiven much, so much forgiveness is expected….
Forgiveness is tough. But there is no verse anywhere that says anything like, Forgive everyone except….. What Jesus does say in Matthew is ‘take the log out of your eye and don’t worry about he speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye.’
What all this means is this - each one of us has been given a huge gift, a huge get out of jail free card. There is nothing we can do beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness and that is wonderful! How great is that. You are forgiven……
Now, Jesus says, go out and do the same thing with those around you…… Amen.

Traveling in the Boat

Traveling in the Boat

Why are you here? I”m glad you are but sometimes I wonder what gets you up on Sunday mornings to get dressed and navigate the myriad of things you need to do to get here into this Sanctuary on a Sunday morning. What are you having to step out of from your day to day to be here and what do you head back into when you walk out these door and back into the routines of your life. The demands of family life, the challenges you face as you live each day - of work - for students the studying and homework. Why are you willing to take the time and effort to be here?
I started working at a church almost 30 years ago and it has been that long since I have had to make the choice as to whether to come to worship on Sunday worship. And when leading worship is your job, you sometimes forget that everyone else who joins you here, has chosen to be here. And if I asked each one of you there will be more than one answer as to why you have chosen to get up and get dressed and be here in this sanctuary.
At at the fundamental level the reason we come to worship is because here we get to experience something that is holy. In worship we come into contact with the mystery and the majesty of God and that does something for us. There is something that happens here during this worship that doesn’t happen anywhere else.
Some people say they come to worship, to this place to enjoy the community - the fellowship - to be around people who know you and you know. But really you can be in community anywhere. Work and clubs and organizations you are in provide community so there has to be more here something more that brings you here.
But what is unique about this sanctuary and this experience, in here we practice a weekly routine that helps us to reorient our lives. Not around ourselves or our goals or our wants or our anxieties, but around the God who make the stars, the God that gave us life, the God who is more wonderful than we can understand.
Today as we consider those who gathered over 70 some years ago to create a community of faith, we think about their motivations and their desires and what they felt was critical to reorient their lives around God. They gathered to create a safe space where they could gather in community, in the presence of the almighty God. A place that was, even if just for an hour a week, a place away from the storms and pounding waves of our lives; a place we could be to put aside the chaos and we could feel for a moment - peace, safe and removed from all the drama that surrounds us. So we can remember for just a little what is truly important so we can refocus our lives around the one who is holy for another week.
The church is often compared to a ship or a boat. One of the very first symbols used to describe the church was that of a boat. And one of the best pictures we have of a boat in the Bible is that of Noah’s Ark.
On this Sunday what a great picture of what we have here comes from Noah’s Ark. Noah heard God’s call to build an ark. That ark would be a sanctuary for Noah and his family when chaos breaks out in ‘all the world’.
It is a familiar story. Out of the blue God comes to Noah and asks him to build a boat. And when the boat is done, Noah and his family get on the boat. And inside that boat, while there are storms raging outside, and the water is rising and people are screaming, and inside the ark Noah and his family are safe. They are together. Regardless of the noisy animals, there is peace.
If we think about the reasons we are here, that has to be up there on the list…. peace, safety, security, community. Noah and his family on the ark, safe and secure and together - and we as the family of God, are here together in this sanctuary, this haven, to be in the presence of a God who is huge and majestic and holy.
What a gift from those founders so many many years ago - they built us a ship to come into where we can take time away from storms and waves and noise and be together.
Week to week.
It is good that you made the choice to do whatever it is you had to do to get yourselves here. In this Sanctuary. because it is here that we remember what it is to be in the presence of the one who is Holy. It is here that week after week we reorient ourselves to live and to reflect the awareness of the one who is holy. It is here, together as this community of faith, we are called into this sanctuary to experience something we can’t get anywhere else.


Water, Water Everywhere

Water, Water Everywhere

Water has been a topic of conversation over the last several months. The statement, “It’s raining today” has been a regular part of our conversation - altho the statement, “We had an entire day without rain!” has also been said a few times as well! As a result, we have had water everywhere. More people have commented they have had water in their basement where they have never had it before; creeks and rivers are over their banks; all of our yards are mud! The positive is the news people keep reminding us our water table should be good for the rest of the year and we won’t have to worry about drought!
Water plays a central part of our life and a central part of the stories throughout our Bible. There is a rich imagery of water which we find in stories and the poetry of the Psalms to help us better understand our faith and our relationship with God. We have water at the beginning of creation and the water of life at the end of Revelation. We have too much water like the floods of Noah and not enough water like the drought that forced Jacob’s family to go to Egypt for food. There are over 800 references to water in our Bibles.
Water is used because water is essential to our life. We may complain that we have had a bit too much water recently, but it is something we cannot live without. There is no living thing that can exist without water. Our bodies are 60% water. Before birth we live in water and water remains central to our daily lives after our births. So it is not surprising that water plays such an important part of explaining our relationship with God.
Did you know that for the Hebrews - the writers of the Old Testament - water first and foremost was a symbol of chaos; a symbol of things not being in order. Humans, in general, like things orderly - our Presbyterian mantra “decently and in order”. In the beginning, we are told in Genesis 1, all that existed was chaos, darkness and God. Have you ever thought about that time before creation? Our thoughts go to creation and we think of the creation, the beginning of our world and of animals and of people. But if God has existed forever, then obviously there was a time before the creation of the world - and that is described as ‘chaotic waters’ - the dark over the deep waters - the earth was formless and void and darkness over the deep chaotic water. The picture before creation was this picture of darkness and chaotic waters and then God’s spirit came and hovered over the waters and creation began. From the beginning of time water helps us to see what God can do in our lives. Our lives that often slip into chaos - how easily that happens - our lives kind of spin our of control but we see the difference God can make. Surely if God can bring order to the chaos of the waters of the world in the beginning, he can bring calm and order to our lives. Water shows us that God is in complete control - God took that nothingness and that deep, dark, water and gave it order and purpose and water reminds us that God can do the same with us….. What a great encouragement we get from this picture of water.
So much of the water images in the bible are positive. Water is a visible symbol that we can see reminding us of what God can and will do for us. John Calvin said that “water is the visible symbol for an invisible grace”.
Think about water in the story of Noah. If we only look at the water part of the story of Noah, the water doesn’t give us a real positive feeling. Look what water did - there really was water, water everywhere. Water destroyed the earth and that included every person except for Noah’s family. Horrific. At a youth conference I attended several years ago a professional traveling drama troop showed us quite a graphic, and probably pretty accurate, portrayal of this event. They had this huge boat that started on the stage at the floor level of the stage and as the story progressed, the boat began to rise up with this great blue scenery rising with it and then people begin to appear on the stage. People jumping up and trying to hang onto something so they could rise with the boat and
finding nothing; people screaming, “Help! Help!” “Noah save us!” Which I always assumed is why the story tells us Noah is ‘sealed’ in the boat so that he cannot help these desperate people. But the boat continued to rise and the portion of the stage where we have terrified, screaming people trying go get in the boat begins to go down as the screams and cries for help eventually fade away and once again there is no longer chaos, but simply the calm of water and Noah’s Ark and silence.
Here is where water begins to represent for the readers of scripture the idea of cleansing. While this kind of destruction just shocks us, we see what God has done. So that Noah and his family can remain true to God, the earth is cleansed from sin and opposition to God so that Noah and his family can begin again this relationship with God that God desires with his people. This story of water shows us just how far God will go to continue to be our God so we can be his people. The cleansing waters of God’s desire to be with us.
We read today the story of Moses and the crossing of the red sea. Remember the story - God’s people are in slavery in Egypt. God sends Moses to free them from slavery. Through a series of events, Pharaoh frees the Hebrew people only to find them on the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army quickly in pursuit. Through the power of God, Moses raises his staff over the water of the sea, the sea opens up and God’s people walk across on dry land while for the Egyptians, the water returns to the idea of chaos as the Egyptian Army drowns when they try to cross on that same path the Hebrews had just traveled.
Here we find the idea of ‘through the waters’ we receive salvation. By going through the waters of the red sea, the Hebrews are ‘saved’ and then they become God’s people. God parts the water before the Hebrews enter the promised land; God parts the water for the prophet Elijah to go through before he rides his fiery chariot into heaven; Water becomes the visible sign of belonging to God. God parts the water, the people go through and then they are God’s people or they continue as God’s people.
So we get the phrase, “through the waters of baptism” to help us understand how water becomes that same symbol for us. Water, especially in our baptism, becomes the visible sign of God bringing us through the water where we become his. Water is the visible sign of our belonging to God as
illustrated by all these examples in Old Testament stories.
When we think of church and we think of water, we naturally think of baptism. Our first thought of baptism then goes to the story of Jesus’ baptism which we also read earlier today. Jesus comes from Galilee to John to be baptized in the Jordan River - the same river that God parted so that his people could enter the Promised Land. John is reluctant to baptize Jesus - but Jesus tells John that this baptism is not a baptism of repentance, because Jesus is without sin; he has nothing to repent of - but the purpose of Jesus’ baptism is simply to do what God has asked him to do. Jesus goes under the waters and comes out and we are told that immediately the skies open up and the voice of God is heard proclaiming Jesus to be his son and sending the holy spirit. It reminds us of creation - we have water and the voice of God and the spirit who remember at creation ‘hovered’ over the water to turn it from chaos into the waters of creation. Jesus baptism then for us represents a ‘new creation’. Paul says in 2 Corinthians - Everyone who is in Christ is a new creation - the old life is gone and a new life has begun - a new life is created - our new life as a child of God.
Through the waters of baptism, we are made new and we become part of the people of God.
Water is everywhere through our scripture. The prophet Amos tells us “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” - water becomes a symbol of how we are to live as God’s people - with justice and righteousness. The absence of water in the Bible in times of drought shows us the difficulty of living without the waters God provides, Jesus is on the water calming the storms or using water to bring the Gospel message of love and compassion as he meets the Samaritan Woman at the well.
The bible starts with water, water is throughout all the stories and events and lessons, we belong to God because of water and then scripture ends with water. In Revelation we read about the ‘water of life’. When God brings about the new heaven and the new earth where there are no more tears or no more suffering or no more pain or no more death we read there are no more seas - which teaches us there will be no more chaos in this new heaven and new earth. God will bring all things to a time of true peace - both externally and internally. Coming from the throne of God will be the river of life. No one will ever thirst again - no one will be thirsty for water and no will will ever again thirst for the love of God.

I Chose You

I Chose You!

Nehemiah was a Hebrew during the time of the Babylonian exile and had an interesting job - he was a food taster for the king. It was his job to taste all the food before the king ate so that the king knew the food was safe. After tasting the food, Nehemiah would then serve the King his food. So Nehemiah would be in contact with the king every meal during the day - and Nehemiah and the King developed a kind of relationship; they got to know one another through that daily contact.
The King, Artaxerxes, was the king of Babylon where the Hebrew people had been living as slaves for the past 80 years. Some of the Hebrews were slaves as we would traditionally think of slaves, working for farms and building buildings and such. But some of the Hebrews had been brought into the palace of the King and worked there. If you remember the story of Daniel - of lions den fame - he was one of the Hebrews brought in to work for the king in the palace as was
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - the ones who survived the fiery furnace. This is how Nehemiah became a worker in the palace and his job as the food taster for the king - the official title was ‘cup bearer’.
After about 80 years of slavery, King Cyrus who was king before Artaxerxes, had allowed the former king of Israel, Zerubbabel, to lead some of the Hebrews back to their homeland of Palestine - what we would call Israel today. When they reached their homeland, what they found was devastating. Everything was gone. Their houses were gone, the city of Jerusalem was in complete ruins, and their beloved Temple was just a pile of rubble. The Hebrews were just overwhelmed by finding everything in ruins.
Instead of pushing up their sleeves and getting to work putting it all back together, they fell into a depression and did nothing. They just threw up their hands in defeat. But eventually they did move back to where their towns and villages had been and slowly began to rebuild their own homes. They settled into getting their lives back in order and eventually realized that even though they now had places to live, God did not.
We need to stop for a second and remember that the Hebrew people believed that God lived not in heaven, but in his ‘apartment’ in the temple. So if there was no temple, there was no way for God to be with them - and there was no way for them to worship since true worship also took place in the temple in the presence of God.
By now, the King of Babylon had allowed the priest Ezra to bring another group of Hebrews back to their homeland. Ezra then directed the rebuilding of the Temple.
Now all that was left to do was to secure the city of Jerusalem. All the cities during this time period had walls around them to protect them from foreign invaders. Jerusalem had not had the walls restored yet and because of that the Hebrews in Jerusalem, where the Temple was located, were being tormented by foreign military. The people had rebuilt their homes, had rebuilt the Temple but now just didn’t have the resolve to finish what needed done by putting up the city walls. If they didn’t do it soon, Jerusalem and the Temple were going to be ravaged again.
Nehemiah, back in Babylon, gets word of this and it makes him very sad. He knows that if something isn’t done soon, then his people would be in trouble once again. With this news weighing heavy on his heart, Nehemiah carries the meal to the King. Artaxerxes looks at Nehemiah and immediately knows that something is wrong. “What’s wrong Nehemiah?” Artaxerxes asks. “What is bothering you?” Nehemiah tells the King about the walls in Jerusalem and his concern about his people. Nehemiah says that he has prayed about it and really feels God has called him to go back to Jerusalem and supervise the building of the wall. Then Nehemiah looks at the king and says, “Will you let me go?” The king is reluctant because he has developed a relationship with Nehemiah, Nehemiah is doing a good job and the King trusts him. But seeing the real desire in Nehemiah’s face, Artaxerxes says that Nehemiah can go and take with him more of the Hebrews still living in Babylon.

Nehemiah goes back to Jerusalem and does exactly what God had asked him to do - get the walls rebuilt around the city.
The passage we read earlier from the book of Nehemiah explains exactly how these walls get built. The homes are built, the temple is built and foreign armies are coming to attack and Nehemiah knows that unless they do something creative not only are the walls not going to be built, but once again God’s people will be destroyed by the invading armies. So Nehemiah develops a plan.
First he assembles the Hebrews and tells them “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember we belong to God and our God is great and our God will always fight for us!.” Then Nehemiah divides all the workers into 2 groups. The first group would work on the wall and the 2nd group were armed with spears and shields and bows. While the workers worked on the wall, the others stood around the outside of the wall and guarded it from those who would try to invade. And working together, the wall was built and Jerusalem once again was protected and God’s people could work and worship without fear. And the workers declared, “Our God will work for us!”
Another interesting section we find in the book of Nehemiah, in chapter 3 is a list of all the names of the people who worked on the wall! This section makes an important point - Nehemiah is careful to emphasize that
everyone worked together - the leaders, the clergy, the residents of the city and even those who lived outside the city walls. Everyone working together in the face of difficulty got the walls built and life began to come back to order once again.
The Apostle Paul ran into the same problems as he traveled establishing new communities fo faith. For people who were so use to living in a society where their voice didn’t mean much; for people living in the Roman provinces where everything they did was regulated and directed by others, the idea of each person contributing the the work and worship of God was a difficult concept. But Paul wanted the people to understand that to God, everyone is valued; everyone is important; and everyone is needed to make the church work as God desires.
Corinthians 12 is a favorite chapter to read to help us understand the value of each individual in Christ’s church. The first part of the chapter starts out talking about how each person within the church has received the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of you. And this Spirit empowers you with abilities - scripture refers to these abilities as gifts or talents - and Paul emphasizes that each and every person has a gift to offer to the whole body. Everybody. Everybody….. and then Paul challenges us by saying that that the use of our abilities is crucial for the good of the body.
We are the body of Christ - and Paul says - just like our physical bodies we need each part to work efficiently. We need our ears and eyes and our stomachs and our fingers and our knees and our intestines. Without all these parts doing what they do, as we all well know, our bodies don’t function so well when one of those parts isn’t doing what it does. Our knee quit working and we have to limp along and we can’t do the things we’d like to do or our head hurts so we just feel bad all over.
The point being - all those parts, all of us as the body of the Christ - have a purpose and a place and all of us are needed if the body of Christ, this body of Christ, is going to be able to fulfill what God has called us as the church to do.
Listen to Jesus’ words from John 15 - “You didn’t choose me. I chose you and appointed you…”
Remember those days in grade school where you had to choose up sides and you stood there hoping you’d be chosen - well you have. God has chosen you to be the church of Jesus Christ. You are here because God felt you were needed, you were important, you were vital and you are ‘on the team’. And without you, without each of you, God’s team is not complete.
It took everyone working together to build that wall around Jerusalem; it took everyone working together to get the church established during the first century and it takes everyone working together to be faithful to God’s call to be Christ’s church today.

The Story of Namaan

The Story of Naaman

During this part of the church year our lectionary calls us to look at the events in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Last Sunday was Baptism of the Lord Sunday where we remembered Jesus’ ‘ordination’ into the role he will play as the Messiah - where we saw the dove come down and infuse him with the Holy Spirit as the voice of God was heard saying, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” This act begins the story of Jesus’ life as he obediently follows where God leads him, to reveal for us the nature of God; to teach us the way to live; to offer our salvation on the cross and to deliver eternal life through the resurrection.
After the time of his sending by God, Jesus immediately goes into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days to consider what this new focus of his life is all about. He goes to spend time with God and with himself; a time of prayer and discernment. It is a time to sort of just take a deep breath before he begins what he knows is going to be a tough journey. And then at the end of this 40 day period when he is tired and hungry he is tempted by Satan with all those things that seem so tempting in our life. He was tempted with power, with recognition, with arrogance. Notice he is not tempted by the things in life that we associate with sin - drinking, drugs, sexual sin, theft, dishonesty….. No he was tempted with the things that are even harder to resist - a sense of pride, a sense of self reliance, a sense of God’s care even when we are disobedient to him. It is a time when Jesus is most vulnerable. And Jesus makes it. He doesn’t give in! Can you imagine what that felt like. The humanity in Jesus must have felt pretty good about himself - Wow! I did it!
So he heads home. On the way his ministry begins in full force. He teaches, he heals people. He is invited into synagogues to teach and everyone thinks he is great. On this great success he decides to head home to share this great moment with people he knows! Word precedes him about how successful he has been and how great his message and his healing and he is invited to the hometown synagogue to teach for worship….. He is handed a scroll and reads a prophecy about the coming Messiah and then says, “Look! This is me! I am the Messiah read about in the scriptures. I have come to God’s chosen people to help them turn back to God.”
Well, the people then began to remember who this was - “Isn’t this Joseph’s son? We remember him as a little boy. Who does he think he is? Why is he telling us we need to change?” So they run him out of town. Certainly didn’t go as Jesus expected……
And so it is in our lives. Things certainly don’t go as we expect them to. We think we have a handle on things. We thing we understand what is going on and then it truly rains on our parade and we find ourselves spinning out of control and we don’t know what happened.
In Jesus’ message to the people of his home town he mentioned the Syrian Namaan. And Namaan is another good example of someone for whom things don’t quite go as he thought they would.
Namaan is a Syrian. The time period of this story is back in the days of God’s people as they lived under a series of good kings and bad kings - and the bad kings far outnumbered the good kings. God raised up prophets to help refocus the kings and to help the people know the true word of God. One of these prophets was the named Elisha.
Historically what was going on was the nation of Syria was continually attacking Israel, especially the border towns, and in doing so would plunder the small villages and would kill the men and capture the women and children and take them back to Syria as slaves. In the ‘God can bring something good out of any situation’ category, was a young Hebrew slave girl that had been captured by a mighty warrior of Syria and given to his wife. The mighty warrior was Namaan.
But as big and important as Namaan was, Namaan had contracted leprosy. This was devastating to him because he was powerful and important and things like that just didn’t happen to people like him. The little Hebrew servant girl who saw Namaan’s turmoil was bold enough to step up and say, “There is a prophet of God in Israel who can cure your leprosy.” Now this had to be a very

difficult choice for Namaan. The Syrian’s looked down on the Hebrews as being ‘less than’, not being ‘good enough’ and for Namaan to stoop to going to a Hebrew for healing was almost out of the question. But Namaan was desperate and he was willing to try anything.
He had his entourage headed off to Israel in search of the prophet. And they found him. His name was Elisha. Namaan had brought with him many of his soldiers and advisors and servants. He had brought huge wealth with him because he was sure this prophet was going to charge a great deal to heal Namaan since Namaan was sure his reputation as a great and powerful man had preceded his visit and great and powerful men were able to pay large amounts for healing and Namaan assumed Elisha would charge him great amounts.
He had one of his servants knock on Elisha’s door and Elisha’s servant comes to the door and says, “Elisha says to go wash in the Jordan 7 times and you will be healed.”
Namaan is outraged! Who does this prophet think he is to send some lowly servant to deliver a message instead of coming to me himself.” Namaan declares, “Surely the prophet himself would come out and perform rituals and call on the name of his God in order to heal me.” Namaan was incensed that the prophet hadn’t performed some great act; hadn’t made a great show; hadn’t performed some visual display for someone as important as Namaan!
Namaan begins to move away saying “If he isn’t willing to come out and approach me himself then I’m leaving. Wash in the Jordan river 7 times; how dumb that is. I could have done that with better rivers and clearer water back in Syria.” Off he begins to ride when one of his servants is willing to speak up and say, “Wait! We traveled all this way and you are going to let your ego get in the way of your healing? We are here. We can at least try what the prophet said. What will it hurt?”
It took some doing, but Namaan finally agreed and he and his entourage went down to the Jordan. Namaan went in the water and dipped himself in 7 times and when he came out of the water of course he was healed. He couldn’t believe it. Something so easy and simple.
He goes back to Elisha and this time Elisha does talk to him. Namaan offers Elisha great wealth and Elisha won’t take it - which again doesn’t go as Namaan had thought it would and Namaan and his entourage return home vowing to worship the Hebrew God.
Nothing went as Namaan had expected. Namaan expected some great wondrous ceremony, this great waving of hands and calling on God and the presence of angels and something grand. He expected to have to pay greatly for this huge gesture and the presence of this famous prophet, and it didn’t cost him a thing…
Just like Jesus and Namaan had this expectations of how things would go, God had other plans. The events did not turn out as expected - yet Jesus’ ministry continued, Naaman was healed.
We too often have these great expectations of how things should be. We plan and we consider how we would see the circumstances play out and when they don’t we are confused, perplexed, we wonder what God is thinking? We are sure that we had the path cleared in front of us and we are going on as we see fit and then that path takes a sharp curve and we are lost.
But we need to stop when we see that curve and not see it as devastation, but see it as opportunity. Jesus’ had the opportunity to understand that it wasn’t the right time for him to reveal who he was and it certainly wasn’t the right place but God set him back on the right path and his work and his ministry continued. Namaan had high expectations of wonder and grandeur and God gave him the opportunity to see that around that curve may not be something huge, but something easy and simple and exactly what God knows it should be.
Open yourselves to what God knows is right for you.