I have to say, I didn't know this morning whether to continue reflecting on yesterday's Gospel of the woman at the well or move on to today's liturgy with that wonderful character, Naaman the Syrian. I kind of did both, but kept going back to Naaman. First of all, he kept coming back to me because I have heard his named pronounced any number of ways. Is it NAY-man or is it NAH-man or even NA-A-man? I go with the first option (rhymes with Caanan, a biblical enough parallel).
I like the guy. And he must have been a remarkable character: how else to explain that he was allowed to maintain his military position and his household while he suffered leprosy? It's also impressive for his servants and even the little Jewish slave-girl to have been looking out for his best interests the way they did. And Naaman was up front about his expectations. Probably all the way to the prophet's house, he was imagining the miraculous healing he hoped for: the prophet would come through the door in dramatic attire, maybe waving incense and chanting incantations. Surely there would be an elaborate ritual as he called upon the God of Israel, trying to wrest the miracle from the Deity. And then, would there be supernatural phenomena? Would he hear trumpets, or see the angel touch his wretched skin? It had to be something amazing and worthy of a God...
But no. "Go to the Jordan seven times." That's all?
Naaman almost lost his miracle, because it took such an unassuming approach. His great expectations prevented him from recognizing the way God intended to act on his behalf!
That brings me back to yesterday's woman at the well. God certainly took an unexpected approach toward her! Instead of sending her to the Jordan, Jesus met her at the well. In that brief conversation, he gently awakened her to the truth about her mysteriously unhappy love life. She didn't run away or get defensive. She recognized that whoevere this stranger was, he was a prophet. And that was enough for Jesus. He led her thoughts from "prophet" to "Messiah," and then when she made that act of faith that indeed a Messiah was coming, he revealed to her what he refused to say outright to anyone else in the whole New Testament: "I who speak to you am he." He, the tired, thirsty stranger who couldn't even get himself a drink from the stagnant well of Sychar! And she believed him. She ran off, filled with unexplainable life and conviction, and mobilized the whole town. She left her water jar at the feet of Jesus. She suddenly had a "fountain of living water" springing up to quench her deepest thirst: that thirst that had previously led her from one man to another. She would never be thirsty like that again.
So between the two liturgies, we have two strong, appealing characters, two encounters with a God who doesn't always make a grab for our attention, and two healings involving the most basic element of all, water.
Do you identify more with Naaman or with the Samaritan at the well?