Bob Dylan sang, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin,’ This was true at the song’s release in 1964…and it is true today. I was watching a documentary on CNN with newscaster and commentator, Fareed Zakaria, who noted that the United States is rapidly becoming a secular society. Denominational churches are diminishing in congregants on an annual basis. Many churches have been forced to either close or to shrink their paid staff and often they are unable to afford a full time paid pastor. Yet our country is full of sad and lonely people who feel unfulfilled and unloved. Many of our fellow citizens can relate to the thousands of Covid 19 victims who died alone in their ICU hospital beds. They would cry…but there is no shoulder, other than their own…to cry on.
Our neighbors have heard of the love of Christ…but many have not seen or felt the illustration of it…accept in a Bible Story Book. We that are still members of churches…often have our own little club that we like very much. The music is just like we want it and the pastor preaches what we want to hear…and not longer than we specify…or we are sure to correct him before the next Sunday service. We see the throngs outside of our church doors…the hungry and the homeless and those who have neither coat nor cloak…and their barefeet are soiled from their journey on the rocky road of life. We wonder what we would do…if they wanted to come in.
Easy it is to relate to the Biblical injunction to feed the hungry and house the homeless…but what about our neighbors who are different than our comfort level allows? What about our neighbor who enjoys hearing an old spiritual song or someone who plays upon the drums or the Tamborine or the harp? What about our neighbor who has not attended University or who is not a professional degree holder…does the gospel of Jesus include them…or was Christ vision a segregated christian faith?
The recognized faith communities of Christ time on earth…did not accept him…they were waiting for the Messiah…fashioned in their own image and a recognized dues paying member of the club…
‘Now Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.’ II Kings 5:1
‘When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: ‘Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’ But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage. II Kings 5:11 – 12
‘Naaman servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet would have told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’ So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.’ II Kings 5:13