Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Year B Epiphany 5 WED No Half Solutions

Year B Epiphany 5 WED, 7 February 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“No Half Solutions”

2 Kings 5:1-14 
I Corinthians 9:24-27 
Mark 1:40-45 
40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

The story we started with today is SOOO true to human nature. Naaman, general and leader, wants to be healed of the scourge of the ancient world, leprosy. He had given up hope, and then was given a glimmer that someone in Israel could do something. So he headed that way with a fortune in hand. When he arrived at the king, where any foreign guest might head, the king is clueless and grieves thinking this is a set-up for failure and possibly war with a neighbor. Fortunately, Elisha, the prophet who received the mantle from Elijah, caught wind of what was happening and shows up.

Now here is where the human nature comes through. Elisha tells him to go and dip in the Jordan 7 times. This is how desperate he was, he could not believe that it could be so easy. Nothing worth having comes that easy, and he expressed as much. And his servants, who knew his suffering called him on it. He was so desperate he got in his own way.

Thankfully, he followed the instructions, no matter how simple they were, and he was healed. We get in our own way like that, too many times.

When Betty Crocker started making box mixes they did market tests, and people were impressed with the product but said they were unlikely to use them because it could not be that simple. Everything was in the box, but there had to be more to it than opening the box and stirring. So they reconfigured the recipe so that one had to add an egg. That was enough to make their box mixes “real.”

We are funny creatures, we want miracles, but not too miraculous. Naaman and Betty Crocker. Who’da thunk? We are presented with options and choices, some lead to success and others do not. Not choosing a route is a choice that will eventually lead to failure. That is one of the hard lessons of life.

I have been thinking a lot lately about goals and outcomes. I have been reviewing records for our Annual Meeting and Parochial Report due to the Diocese.

So with that on my mind I have been thinking about incrementalism, that bit by bit approach to doing things. Some things need to be done incrementally. Teaching children to swim; definite stages are involved. Getting kids to the level of calculus; again, definite stages.

But there are some things that we just need to do. Pulling off Band-Aids, for one. Nothing drives me more crazy than the slow pull. Just do it. Just do it.

When we see Jesus with the leprous man, it got me thinking. Jesus did not do it halfway. You simply cannot clean a leper halfway and call him healed. Nor can you wash a dish halfway and call it clean.

As Paul talked about in the Corinthian reading, we cannot run a race half-heartedly. We run it to win it or we do not. His question, reframed in modern parlance, remains: “Are you in it to win it, or not?”

So as we continue to gather and pray and look at the year ahead, I would call us to do that. What we commit to do we do, 100%, no halfways. This may lead to failures, but we will know we did our all.

We cannot build half a swimming pool, nor can we build half a bridge. If we do, we show our hearts were never in it in the first place. And when God instructs us, may we follow them fully. Amen.

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Blessings, Rock