Friday, December 2, 2011

The Struggle for Healing (2 Kings 5:1-3)

                Now Naaman was commander of the army of the ruler of Aram. He was a great officer and highly esteemed. It was at Naaman’s hand that God gave a victory to Aram. He was a mighty warrior. And he had leprosy.
                On one of their raids the Arameans captured a young woman who was an Israelite. She served Naaman’s wife. One day she said to her mistress, “If only Naaman would see the prophet who is in Samaria. He would cure Naaman’s leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:1-3

Naaman the great warrior of Aram lives with the stigma and shame that is attached to the biblical milieu’s dynamic of AIDS. His life will be spent as an outcast. His former friends will shake their heads at a great man in ruins. A disease, which Naaman has no control over, has removed him from proper society. Naaman survived arrow, sword, and spear. He will not survive leprosy.

The first half of Naaman’s story turns on a nameless young Israelite slave. As a slave her life will probably be shorter then her masters, yet she speaks to her mistress of the place where healing can be found. I am too jaded to believe the slave girl’s motives are altruistic. If her master is banned from polite society, what would become of her? On the other hand, if she can help her master, how might her future prospects change? The slave girl’s motivation, though, is no concern for Naaman as long as this path leads to healing.

As the story unfolds we find that while a slave girl speaks up, the King of Israel – enthroned with the title “Son of God” – trembles in fear. Obviously there is a political component to this exchange. If the king fails to deliver, will Naaman the warrior wreak vengeance?

Yet, we must not forget the spiritual element. Shouldn’t this son of God, like the simple slave girl, also be a conduit of the healing touch of the Divine? The irony is heightened when the king sarcastically asks, “Am I God?” No you are not, but you are God’s representative on earth.

The king, like the slave girl, is motivated by self preservation. The difference between the two is that the slave girl believes healing can be accomplished, the king believes Naaman is tragically doomed.

This is often our experience when it comes to most religious communities. Those who fashion themselves as God’s representatives mainly perceive us as tragically doomed whether we have AIDS are HIV+ or HIV-. Like Naaman we are cutoff before we can get to God. The good news is that God finds ways to work around the established religious structures to touch our lives.

Ultimately Naaman is healed by the prophet Elisha. All of us - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender - have an Elisha in our lives. Like Naaman we may not immediately recognize them as the channel of the healing power of the Sacred. But God’s agents are there being a conduit of God’s nurture and blessing.

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