There’s a very physical, down-to-earth tone about our readings today. Naaman has to travel, has to bathe in river water, to get his promised healing. And not just any river, this river, in this land, to be healed by this God. Naaman is so impressed that in the verses following he carts back two donkey loads of this earth so he can have somewhere special to pray. His own corner of a foreign land.
The story is about locality. About the special-ness of places and times. About rituals and ways of doing things. And about easy answers to hard questions.
The moral of Naaman’s story—and Jesus’s too—is that we should take God where find her, enjoy God where he finds us. And not go looking for God in all the wrong places—or worse turn down the God we do meet because somehow the encounter has been too easy. There’s a streak in us that likes our religion tough and our God to play hard to get. But the God we get today is easy, here with us, under our noses.
March 16th, 2004
‘To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs …because we have sinned against you’. The look of shame is probably all too well known to us. Who among us is ignorant of failure and falsehood and the fear of being found out? The look of shame we know too well and the God who is great and to be feared. But shame can be cosy in its own way, an escape from life and love and risk and generosity.
What the gospel asks of us is altogether more difficult than shame—it is compassion, compassion and pardon.
In place of the tit-for-tat of shame and fear there is for us the reciprocity of compassion given and received, mercy given and received, forgiveness given and received, and—hardest of all—generosity given and received. To give is challenging, to receive … embarrassing. Especially to receive the way we are called to receive—full measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, great embarrassing laps-full of grace and goodness.
On retreat or off it, that’s the challenge: to be as generous in receiving as God is in giving.
March 8th, 2004