Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Are any of you familiar with the acronym “KISS”? It can stand for several different sayings” "Keep it Super Simple," "Keep it Simple, Silly,” "Keep it Short and Simple," "Keep it Short and Sweet," "Keep it Simple, Soldier," “Keep it Simple, Sailor," "Keep it Sweet and Simple." The form of this acronym I learned as a child was, “Keep It Simple Stupid. It is one of the many acronyms my father learned when he served in World War II. Whichever way you look at it, “KISS” means to simplify or make something simple.
I bring this up because I think Naaman could have had a much easier time when he met Elisha, if he had kept it simple. In today’s reading, Naaman is not willing to do the simple thing Elisha tells him to do—just bathe in the Jordan River. In fact, Naaman was also mad that Elisha wouldn’t even come out and speak to him face-to-face. Elisha sent his servant out to tell Naaman what to do. Naaman was, after all, a great warrior, the commander of the Army of Syria. Who is this supposed profit, to insult him by sending out a lowly servant? To tell him, a great man and a fierce fighter to just go and take a bath in the puny (probably filthy) Jordan River? Weren’t the great rivers in Syria much more powerful?
Looking back to the beginning of the reading, Naaman’s wife was told of a prophet in Israel that could heal him. But rather than just going to Israel, Naaman first went to his king. Apparently, he felt that must be an official state visit with all the pomp and circumstance that befitted such a great man. So much for keeping things simple! And what happens when the king of Israel sees this great multitude coming to him? He panics, tearing his clothes!
Elisha sends word for Naaman to come to him. So, the entire entourage treks down to Elisha’s house, and now this so-called prophet won’t even acknowledge Naaman. He doesn’t even open his door, he just sends a servant with a message! For Naaman, this is the final insult. Not only will Elisha not speak to him, but he sends his servant out with a ridiculously simple message: “Go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” No incense, no fancy prayers, no ceremony, just go take a bath!
Naaman is so mad he decides to leave. And again, it is his servants who run after him. And what they say is profound, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘wash, and be clean’?” And finally, Naaman sees reason, and reluctantly does what Elisha told him to do. And he is made clean!
So, what is the lesson for us in this reading? How can we take this message home with us and use it to serve God and our neighbors… and follow the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves?
When I went to the bishop’s retreat, I wasn’t expecting to learn something so simple and so profound. We cannot truly love our neighbors if we don’t first love ourselves. Our speaker was Rosella White. She is a writer and speaker who focuses on helping people of faith to learn how to love themselves—not in a narcissistic way, which we are encouraged to do by all the media that constantly assails us. What we hear out in the world is you are not good enough to be loved unless you are beautiful and rich and surround yourself with things you probably can’t afford. The love that Rosella White talked about is truly loving ourselves as God loves us.
As Lutherans, we believe that God loves us simply because we are God’s children. God doesn’t care if we are rich or pretty or have lots of things. God loves us just because we are. That’s it! God loves us and sent Jesus, to make plain that God’s love is for all people—the good, the bad, and the in-between.
It is when we open our hearts to receive, and be transformed by, that love that we cannot earn, that we will be able to fully love our neighbors and share with them this amazing idea that they too are part of God’s good creation. So, as you go out today remembering those who we have lost this year and other years, let us love and care for ourselves and all of God’s children. Amen.