A Nation of Need
“The servant girl said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!'” – 2 Kings 5:1-19
Picture this: Naaman, a Syrian general reaches out to Elisha, an Israelite prophet.
Or picture this: Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his anti-immigrant stance, seeks out a Mexican curandera (healer).
Or this: Televangelist Pat Robertson receives a blood transfusion from the Grand Marshal of the Gay Pride Parade.
The first encounter really did happen. The other two not yet.
The first story is told in the Second Book of Kings. Naaman, the Syrian general, goes to Samaria to meet the Israelite prophet Elisha. In so doing he reaches across deep divisions of race, religion, status, and nationality. But why?
Was Naaman deeply committed to social justice? Did he see all people as children of God? Maybe, but that was not his motivation. He reached out to Elisha because he was a leper. His wife’s Israelite slave girl had told him of Elisha’s powers to heal, so Naaman reached out. The Syrian general needed the Israelite prophet.
Our scriptures are filled with such unlikely relationships: the Israelite Naomi and the Moabite Ruth; Matthew the tax collector and Peter the fisherman. People willing to cross the divisions of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, class, because they need one another.
On this day before the national celebration of freedom, it would be good to remember how we’re also connected to one another. Just like the Syrian general and the Israelite prophet, we need one another in this country. And like Naaman, that need might lead us to a new understanding of ourselves, others, and especially this mystery called God. Sheriff Arpaio and Pat Buchanan might not be able to acknowledge that need yet, but maybe the rest of us can.
Thank you, God, for this land and all its people. Thank you for all the ways you bind us together. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.