This past January 6, musings over a sermon given this past summer were rekindled. The Feast of the Epiphany is when we celebrate the Light of the world having been born into the world. Within the Church, that day is given to special focus on the three Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana.
The sermon, which Cameron delivered, was predicated on 2 Kings 5:1-14. Naaman, the leper from Syria, was in need of healing. Via a little Jewish slave girl, Naaman learned of a prophet in Israel who was capable of healing him. His journey took him firstly to the King of Syria, who gave him a letter of introduction to the King of Israel. Taking with him the letter, gifts of gold, silver, and rich garments, Naaman journeyed to Jerusalem, where he was ultimately redirected by a messenger to go to the home of Elisha.
During the sermon that morning, I confess, my thoughts turned to correlating two journeys, that of Naaman with that of the Magi. The “star out of Jacob” led the Magi, who were seeking to worship the promised Messiah, to Jerusalem where they asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” Eventually, they appeared before Herod, the King of Israel, and were redirected to Bethlehem and to the Holy Child. When the star was again seen, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” and they entered into the house where Jesus and Mary were and fell down and worshiped the newly born Christ.
Naaman’s arrival at the home of Elisha was very different. Met, not by Elisha but by a messenger, Naaman was not invited into the house. Rather, the messenger relayed Elisha’s instructions to simply wash in the Jordan River. The response of Naaman was one of great pride, indignation, and anger.
Later, after having been healed from leprosy as well as of from a lack of understanding, Naaman humbly and appreciatively returned to the house of Elisha and confessed, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.” Before leaving, Naaman even asked for bags of dirt to be given to him in order to worship God in his home country.
Both parties, Magi and Naaman, were foreigners to Israel. Both were led, whether by silent star or a slave speaking. Both were seeking, one to worship, one for healing. Both first traveled to the capital of the nation: the center of political, legal, economic, and religious power, the city of Jerusalem. Both were bearing costly, material gifts. Both appeared before the then King of Israel, where both were sources of fear and great concern to the respective king. Both were redirected to much humbler environs and much more materially and culturally poor locations of little renown.
Both journeys resulted in joyful worship.
As believers, we are aliens in a foreign land. We are called to walk differently from the rest of the world. Individually, we are prompted by God in various ways and led by Him along different paths. Our paths to Him, similar to those of the Magi and to Naaman, are to us often seemingly circuitous. The end points of our paths often look very differently than we anticipated, and like Naaman, our first response can be frustration, anger, or injured pride.
As exemplified by the two kings of Israel, the chief priests, the scribes, the little slave girl, Naaman’s wife, Elisha, his messenger, and the servants of Naaman, God often places a myriad of people in our paths in order to direct us as He wills. As with the Magi and Naaman, each of whom anticipated finding their help in Jerusalem, we can first turn in reliance to modern day spheres of power and influence or to conventional wisdom to have our own needs met.
When we come to Him first, whether prompted by need or desire to be in His presence, with worshipful hearts and spirits, we receive more humbly and more readily. As with Naaman, our deepest needs are met, as are often our temporal needs. Always, there is grace. As with the Magi and Naaman, our time of worship leads to a desire for the continuation and growth of true worship, and for greater knowledge and more perfect love of Him.
“Epiphany” means “the showing forth of the Light.”
“…in Your light we shall see light.” Psalm 36:9b
By His Grace, may His Light shine in our hearts, upon our paths, and into this world. Amen.