I have not read the story about Naaman for a long time, but it is in today’s lectionary. A famous and valuable general, he was unfortunately suffering a nasty skin condition, maybe psoriasis. He travelled to see Elisha (read the story in 2 Kings 5) and was met by the prophet’s servant who told him to wash seven times in the Jordan. Naaman was an important man, he was expecting a king rather than a servant, the Jordan was a dirty little river; of course he refused the treatment.
In Galatians 6, another of our readings, Paul exhorts the Galatians “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived”; more trivial stuff, hardly saving the planet is it? Yet Paul describes these humble actions as completing Christ’s law. We forget how much Jesus cherry-picked the Bible of His time to give primacy to the commands of loving.
Today’s Gospel reading from Luke 10 describes Jesus in His team-building mode, sending out the disciples to talk to ordinary people. He issues instructions about how they are to behave: “Stay at one home, taking your meals there… don’t move from house to house, looking for the best cook in town.” Jesus highlighted these basic rules of receiving hospitality as being of primary importance. Disciples were not to seek out the rich and famous, the “community leaders.” His offer of God’s Kingdom was simple and uncomplicated by contrast with his instructions about the behaviour of His evangelists.
What have we to learn from all this? Sometimes, our sickness, whether of body or mind, can be cured by the simplest, non-medical treatment: more laughter, getting out for more walks, showing concern for someone less than yourself, listening to the woes of others instead of going on about your own. In order to complete the law of Christ, we just have to show love in all its forms, loving God, loving people, loving the world. And finally, being an evangelist requires a hefty dose of behaving courteously and demonstrating by our actions how close the kingdom of God can be to each one of us.
The message of the lectionary today is about the presence of God in the ordinary, everyday, relationship between us. We way we behave, the way we accept people in all their glorious variety, the way we listen, the way we experience hospitality with grace. Cures don’t have to be medical. Salvation is to be found in ordinary actions. Attention to the detail of courtesy goes a long way in evangelism.