Pink blossoms framing a stone status in the Cathedral gardens

2 Kings 5:1-15b

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’

As I write this, fear of the Coronavirus is rampant. The Cathedral has closed for two weeks. Many of us are self-quarantined in our homes. If only we could wash in the Jordan River seven times and be cured of our fears, anxieties and, for some, the actual COVID-19 disease. We are living in unprecedented times.

Something else is amiss. For some reason (could it be climate change?) we barely had a winter, just a patina of snow one day in December and one in January that melted away after several hours. Trees began exploding their blossoms, and daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths began rising from their winter slumber—in the last few days of February. We are in the throes of what the Hopis call Koyaanisqatsi—unbalanced life—and I don’t like it one bit. It’s too early, only the third week of Lent. I prefer my Lenten surroundings brown and fallow, just like my soul, until the Easter morning resurrection.

On Thursday, I did something I’ve never done before during Lent. (Admittedly, I have succumbed to retail therapy over the years when I have given up shopping for Lent, but that’s not it.) After stress-eating an entire bag of Trader Joe’s Licorice, I decided to brighten my spirits with some spring gardening. Instead of waiting until Holy Saturday, I went to the nursery and bought flowers to place in the containers on our front porch. I have to say, they brightened my spirits immediately. God’s beautiful creation has restorative powers!

Friends, we cannot let the realities and projections of the coronavirus cripple our spirits. Imagine instead that you are Naaman, parking your entourage outside of Elisha’s house and asking to be healed. Small gestures—a phone call, a vase of tulips, a walk—can get you through these times. Please remember that nothing is the end of the world but the end of the world, and that we are called to abide in our trust of God. God is with us. God will make us clean. It may not happen by Easter, but we will be raised. This I know.


In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.

-Howard Thurman