2 Kings 5: 1-10 (CEV)
November 12, 2023
Lori reads:L, Mike reads:M and Liturgist Butch reads bold print
M: I’ve asked Lori to help me to share this message about healing.
L: “In 2015, in anticipation of a rough year, I signed up for a St. Ignatius Spirituality Class at the local convent. In the spring of 2016, we learned this chant…”Life does not accommodate us, it shatters us. Every seed must break its container or there would be no fruition.” I think my container is being broken this year.”
This is from my journal: “Friday, February 10, 2017
My phone rang. It was Jennifer, the nurse navigator. Yes, she confirmed the diagnosis of malignant Invasive ductal carcinoma in both the right breast tissue as well as in the right lymph node. And so it begins…the long journey of me realizing I am mortal. The first decision I felt I had to make was how am I going to deal with this…who am I going to tell? My instinct is to keep it all to myself, but eventually, I realize it is not fair to keep this information from my family. I tell mom and dad first. Cancer is not a stranger to our family. My father had melanoma in 1979 and amazingly is still with us. My mother has been living with leukemia for almost 15 years, and my brother-in-law died of cancer less than two years ago—but there is no history of breast cancer. After telling my parents, I tell my kids. In my fantasy mind—I see myself flying out to where they live and telling them face to face, but it was so much easier to tell them in a sucky email—which is what I did. Michael had called each of them after our initial talk with the doctor to give them a head’s up, so I knew the email would not be a total shock.
My mind keeps going back to Jane. Jane was a young lady at one of our churches who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and I remember her saying, “I started out asking God ‘Why me?’ and then one day it hit me, —‘Why NOT me?’” With 1 in 8 women having breast cancer—I can say the same thing and there is no reason I deserve to be exempt from suffering.
M: Let’s listen now to our biblical story told by Naaman.
I notice the little red dots on the top of my feet one day when I’m bathing. I think at first they might be caused by my sandals. So I go to the marketplace in Damascus and buy new sandals. But the spots don’t go away.
Soon the spots start spreading to other parts of my body, like my hands and face. It’s embarrassing to say the least. Here I am, the commander of the Syrian army, with this skin disease.
I visit with a few different doctors in town. They all tell me the same thing.“Naaman, you have a skin disease some call leprosy. There is no cure.”
I tell them, “But I’m the King’s right hand man. Money is no problem. I just need to find a solution to this.”
The doctors tell me, “General Naaman, all your power and wealth will not get you a cure because there is no cure.”
So here I am. At a dead end. No answers. No healing.
During these days our number one enemy is Israel, which we call Samaria. We’re fighting over the boundary lines between our two countries. I’m in charge of our armed forces.
We’ve been very successful. On one of our expeditions into Samaria we capture a number of prisoners. We bring them back to Damascus to use as our slaves. One of them is assigned to assist me as my secretary. They are a great worker.
One day as we’re finishing work they turn to me, “General Naaman, I hope you don’t mind me asking a personal question.”
“I was wondering about that skin disease I was noticing on you. What is it?”
“I don’t really know. Some call it leprosy. The doctors say there’s no cure.”
“General Naaman, if you would excuse my brashness, I believe I know who could heal you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“There’s a prophet of God in Samaria who could heal you of that skin disease.”
“You’ve got to be kidding? How could some prophet be able to do what no doctor could do? Anyways, he’s from Samaria. As if I would have anything to do with a Jewish Samaritan? But I appreciate your concern.”
“Sir, I’ve met this prophet and I know the God he serves. You’d be amazed at what I’ve seen God do. God is healing people in odd ways.”
“Why would the God of Israel heal me, the General of the Syrian Army that is killing his people?”
“Sir, I can’t explain our God. I just know what our God is like that. I’ve seen God heal some odd people, even Syrians. God wants to heal you.”
“Maybe I’ll try it.”
I talk to my King who talks with the Israelite King. They arrange for me to secretly meet this prophet in Samaria. I travel many days and finally knock on his door. His servant answers. I tell him, “I’m Naaman, the Syrian General. I’d like to meet Elisha, the prophet.”
“What is the purpose of your visit, sir?”
“I’ve come to be healed. I have this skin disease. A young Israelite girl told me that Elisha could heal me.”
“I will relay your message to Elisha.”
“No, you just call for him. I’ll talk to him myself.”
“General Naaman, I will relay your message.”
A few minutes later the servant comes back.
I ask, “Where is Elisha?”
“Elisha told me to tell you the following message, ‘Go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then you’ll be cured.’”
“What? Why doesn’t he come out and talk to me? I thought for sure he’d stand in front of me and pray to the Lord, his God, then wave his hand over my skin and cure me. Why didn’t he tell me to wash in our Syrian rivers? Our rivers are just as good as any Israelite rivers.”
The servant shrugs his shoulders. I storm off…
L: At 4 am, I woke up and was reviewing in my mind if I had everything packed for New Orleans since we were leaving immediately following my second biopsy if they were able to do it successfully in the office today.
As I lay there, I mentally went over the clothes that I packed when I suddenly realized I had forgotten to empty the drawers in Frakes where we stayed Sunday and Monday night. We left so suddenly on Tuesday morning when I realized they had scheduled me for a biopsy on my left breast on the first of March, Michael packed most of my stuff and neither one of us emptied the drawers which held all my warm weather crop pants and my favored “man jams” that I like to wear if I’m really cold.
“Oh no,” I said aloud.
M: “What’s wrong?”
L: “I forgot to get the clothes out of the drawers in Frakes, KY. What am I going to wear in New Orleans?”
M: “Don’t worry about it.”
L: I got out of bed and stood up to go to the bathroom when all of the sudden I burst into tears. No, not tears exactly—I started wailing like a child in the middle of a Walmart aisle who desperately wanted something her mother said “no” to.
L: “I can’t do this. I can’t travel, I can’t deal with cancer! I just can’t!”
M: “Come lay down. Let me hold you.”
L: I continued to wail. I went to the bathroom and wailed the whole time. I went to the living room hiccuping as I wailed. I don’t think I even have to explain this, but the wailing probably had NOTHING to do with the clothes I left in Kentucky. I sat in my chair and was only crying now. Michael decided to get up and have a bowl of cereal. I cried a while longer and finally was able to calm down long enough to ask Michael what was on my mind.“Why does God give you so many people to love if He’s going to just take you away from them,” I cried.
M: “I don’t know”
L: He gave me the yogurt I was supposed to eat for breakfast and I ate it slowly, so so scared about the day to come. I had written a note to a friend, saying: “I don’t even know what to wish or pray for since I can’t control it and whatever happens is what is supposed to happen.” Her response was loving and accepting, “and when you cannot pray, that is when we all are lifting you up and supporting you with our prayers.” I felt loved.
So as I went to my appointment and lay on the table for over 2 hours while they figured the plan for a biopsy on my left breast, I felt anxious. They were going to go for it, so that meant I would probably get to go to New Orleans. They left me in the room while they organized the team. I lay there trying to find some peace.
L: “The sea of life is raging, the storm clouds around me roll. I’m tossed about in turmoil, it’s growing very cold. By myself I’d never make it, but this one thing I know…when I say the name of Jesus, the storm clouds have to go. When I say Master, my sorrows disappear, When I say Father, He wipes away my tears, When I say Savior, My blinded eyes can see, When I say Jesus, He speaks peace to me”
It is a song I have sung for 40 years when I am alone, driving in the car, taking a shower, or working around the house. When I don’t know what to sing, this is the song I sing and I’ve never really understood why I loved it so much as I have not had much “raging” in my life, but today as I lay on the gurney alone, waiting for the team to return, I quietly sung that song.
Afterwards I felt a peace beyond description and I thought to myself, “I guess that really IS a prayer.”
So the biopsy was done. The Dr. said the samples did not look as “suspicious” as the ones on the right side had—which is good. And then we left for New Orleans.
As we were driving around Louisville, KY. I shared this experience with Michael and as I looked up, I saw a LOT and I means hundreds of “God rays.” and my heart opened to hope, tossing out the fears that had gripped me only this morning and I felt God’s message loud and clear…I heard that prayer, Lori Tupper, and I am with you.
M: Let’s continue that biblical story:
“General Naaman, General Naaman.”
“Servant, what do you want?”
“Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. So why don’t you do what he said. Go wash and be cured.”
I stand there for a while. Then I say, “You’re right.”
We head off to the Jordan River. I wade in the water and stoop down into it seven times. Right away, I’m cured. My skin becomes as smooth as a child’s.
I scream out, ‘Thank you God. Thank you for your amazing healing.”
Right away I go back to Elisha. This time Elisha comes out to greet me. I say, “Now I know that the God of Israel is the only God in the whole world. Sir, would you please accept a gift from me?”
Elisha answers, “I am a servant of the living Lord. I swear that I will not take anything from you.”
“Are you sure? I brought along a lot of my wealth I’m willing to give you.”
“General Naaman, God’s bill to you for this is nothing. God’s healing is a free gift.”
L: I wrote this in my journal shortly after my diagnosis in February. We were travelling for a week’s vacation in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Now, I’ve always pictured my entrance into heaven a little bit differently than most people. In my mind, I am greeted by my black lab, Jezebel, and as I walk up to Jesus – we do a little secret dance/handshake (high five, shimmy, hip bump, skin, and fluttering fingers). Now, after my day yesterday, I think He will lean forward with His personal message from God and whisper “Holy Crap” in my ear. We will both laugh loudly, and then my eternity will begin with my dog.
As sad as I was yesterday, I had a “moment.” It happened at the Miami airport. We were rushing to a gate and all of the sudden I saw a Black Lab to my right. I immediately sensed it was there for training and that for some reason, its owner was unhappy with it.
As I was gazing at the beautiful black lab, I continued to walk pulling my luggage. Suddenly, I felt the floor soften, looked down, and realized I had just stepped in a pile of fresh dog poo. It all happened so quickly and I’m not even sure how I didn’t stop and check out my shoe except that I knew we were on a mission to get to the next gate…and then I forgot about it.
On the next flight from Miami to St. Croix, I sat between Michael and another young man to my right. As I sat there the thought ran through my mind, “Wow, I think he might have eaten something that is not digesting too well…whew!” He did not say a word to me and just kept to himself the entire three hours, ignoring Michael and me.
We arrived at our destination, with great relief picked up our luggage, talked with our hosts for at least 20 minutes and then it was time to go to bed, finally. After I put on my pajamas, I noticed my one shoe had leaves and grass sticking out of the side of it. I picked it up, suddenly remembering the black lab. I smelled my shoe…Dog crap!
I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning every groove of my beloved shoe to restore balance to my New Balance.
It was in the middle of the night that I woke up laughing at the irony of the situation and the analogy to my life. While in the midst of experiencing the happiest moment of my day (looking at the Black lab), I stepped in a pile of dog crap.
While in the midst of experiencing some of the happiest moments of my life (retirement and traveling with Michael), I am experiencing some cancer crap.
BUT…I took the time to clean up my shoe to restore balance to my New Balance walking and that is what I will do with my health. It may take some time, but it will be okay. It may not always be a pleasant experience and it may cause me to be uncomfortable, but it will be what it is and when Jesus whispers “Holy Crap” in my ear as I enter heaven, we will both laugh loudly as eternity begins.
…I just wonder what stories that young man sitting on the plane next to me is telling about us today?
M: The good news is this: God hears our prayer, comes to our side and brings healing.
For many years I’ve been doing Healing Services.
I ask who or what people would like me to pray for. Some of the time, people pray for a loved one. Some of the time, people pray for a need they have. This could be a physical, a spiritual, a relational, or an emotional need.
I use the oil to put the sign of the cross on the forehead. Then I say a brief prayer for whatever the concern is. Anointing with oil is no guarantee of healing, but it is one of the many tools God often uses to bring healing.
We’ll be doing that right now. Think about what or who you would like pray for. I’ll go around to where you are seated.
Alexandra will be playing while we spend this time for healing prayer. I invite each of you to be praying for each other during this time. I’m going to read this prayer found in our United Church of Christ Book of Worship: