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When Gehazi needs a wash

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sermon for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity

What do you think is the most infectious disease in the world?

No disease is pleasant to suffer, but there are some truly terrible candidate out there. Ebola, AIDS, bird flu. Even diseases like measles, mumps and rubella can be more than just a short period of being unwell; they can have lasting effects.

Of course, it is important to get inoculated against these diseases because, if we can stop their spread, they can die out like smallpox and cowpox.

There is, however, a truly horrible infectious disease – one which, if not treated, invariably leads to death.

Eternal death.

It is called Sin.

[PAUSE]

That sounds a bit overdramatic and, to many, laughable. Yet this is probably a fact of the culture in which we live: sin seems harmless. Surely, whatever you do behind closed doors is your own business. As long as you don’t hurt other people, any sins you commit don’t really matter. Sin is passé, old hat, just a way of trying to control people.

How wrong! Every single sin matters. St Paul is clear: the wages of sin is death.

Yes, but who gets to say what sin is? Surely many things which we used to call sinful are okay? Surely sin is an outdated concept?

[PAUSE]

Let us be clear: all sin is a separation of us from God. Every single act of sin drives a wedge between us and the God Who loves us. That’s not His doing, it’s ours. Humanity has contracted this disease from the very first act of disobedience which we see in the Garden of Eden.

We are like Naaman: we have become weakened by the presence of sin in our society. We contract the disease of sin by wilfully separating ourselves from God. It doesn’t matter if we are a great general, or politician, or celebrity, or bishop. We have the capacity to sin and, more often than not, we do sin.

What we see in Naaman is that the cure of this disease is just so easy to do. It doesn’t involve beating yourself up, or whipping yourself with chains, or starving yourself to death. The cure for sin is simply to wash.

[PAUSE]

Our first bath takes place in the font at our Baptism. We are washed from whatever sins we have committed and we are inoculated against the permanent effect of sin. What does this mean?

It means that, if we sin after baptism, there is always a way back, because we are members of the Church from that moment on. Being in the Church means that we have access to God’s grace. When we sin, we turn back to God and we find ourselves clean again through the blood and water that pour forth from His side at His crucifixion.

Just as Naaman’s is restored to that of a child, so are our souls when we confess, repent and receive absolution.

It’s wonderful news! Reconciliation with God is freely available. The trouble is, so is sin!

[PAUSE]

Look how simply Naaman is healed! But look how easily Gehazi falls into sin. And look at how quickly he becomes diseased and unclean.

What we see in Gehazi is just how contagious sin is. Sin moves as rapidly as a tear in a very fine fabric. We think it’s been patched up, but the rip starts again somewhere else. And while Naaman is now cleansed, just a single moment of weakness from as holy a man as Gehazi rips him away from the God he serves.

Is this the end of Gehazi?

[PAUSE]

Grace and Absolution from sin is always freely available. It can be found in the Church and all we need to do is just ask for it sincerely, seeking to make reparation and to rejoin the Body of Christ. It is very likely that we will sin again and again and again, sometimes the same sin more than four-hundred and ninety times. It doesn’t matter. The love of God makes it easy to come back to Him. The hard part is living with the consequences of what we do wrong, and that can sting badly. Even then, by living in faith and willingly receiving the punishment in Time for our sins, we will find ourselves clean and whole for all Eternity in the loving arms of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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