After this past week, we all know where Aleppo is.
Even Gary Johnson knows.
Aleppo is in northern Syria.
It's one of the oldest cities in the world,
dating back to at least 5,000 years before Christ.
In modern times, it has been the largest city in Syria…
The people of Aleppo are under siege.
They live in the middle of war.
They suffer from the shortage of water, food, and medical care.
Civilians are dying.
Even their hospitals are being bombed.
Their doctors and nurses and aid workers are being killed.
The story in today's reading from the second book of Kings
starts in Aleppo.
The Bible calls the city Aram,
the place where Naaman is an army commander.
Naaman has leprosy,
and there's no healing for him in Aram.
No healing for anyone there today, either.
Naaman takes the advice of a little slave girl,
captured from Israel and serving his wife,
and goes to Israel for healing.
He takes a letter from the King of Aram to the King of Israel,
along with ten silver talents,
six thousand gold pieces,
and ten festal garments
so he can pay for the healing he's hoping for.
Israel's king knows
that he doesn't have the power to cure leprosy,
so he suspects the Arameans
of looking for a reason to attack Israel.
He rends his garments,
expressing grief and anger
because he believes Israel is facing destruction and death.
Then Elisha hears about it
and suggests that Naaman come to him.
So Naaman the Syrian
goes to to Elisha, the Israelite prophet,
hoping to be healed.
Not only are Syrians not part of God’s people;
they are in fact among the enemies of Israel.
They worship an alien God.
But Elisha reaches out to Naaman anyway,
telling him to go wash seven times in the Jordan River.
Naaman turns away in anger,
thinking it's too trivial an action to be of help to him,
but some of those powerless slaves,
Naaman's own servants this time,
give him some advice.
Naaman listens to them, washes in the Jordan,
and is made clean of his leprosy.
That's where today's reading starts.
Nathan is healed,
and he is grateful.
Luke's gospel tells us
about the gratitude of another foreigner with leprosy.
This time it's a Samaritan.
Today we know Samaria as the West Bank,
land designated to be an Arab State
by the United Nations in 1948.
But it's not.
In today's geography
we recognize that 10th leper as a Palestinian.
Realizing that Jesus has healed him of his leprosy,
he goes back to give thanks.
Healing like that is going on right now here in Toledo.
Refugees who can't survive in their homeland come here,
whether it's from Aleppo in Syria
or Hebron in the West Bank,
or Somalia or Afghanistan, Turkey or Pakistan,
Lebanon or Iran or Colombia or some other place
where they are under siege
and attacked because of who they are
or what they believe.
They come here with hope for healing and a new life.
Some Toledoans look at them
like that Israeli king looked at Naaman,
suspecting them of plotting evil, terrorism, war.
They are filled with fear and loathing
and don't want them here.
Many other Toledoans look at them with love and acceptance,
the way Elisha and Jesus did,
seeing in each of them
another child of the one God of us all.
They welcome the refugees
and set about helping to make a safe place for them.
Like Naaman the Syrian,
like the Samaritan leper,
the refugees are grateful.
They come here in faith,
hoping that their lives can be healed,
and their faith makes them whole again.
Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006