Sermon, September 18, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

September 18, 2022

“Well, That’s Surprising”

And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 

Luke 16:8[i]

            There are passages of the Bible that ring with moral clarity.  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” is an example.  But here, in this 16th chapiter of Luke, one can be forgiven if the first reaction is to throw up one’s hands.  At first reading, it seems to be filled with moral ambiguity.  We don’t know what to make of it.  Indeed, it might have been easier if I had stayed away from this passage.  After all, there were several other lectionary options.  But I have never understood what Jesus is trying to say and I’m getting older by the day.  If I am ever going to discern some redemptive element within this text, I’d better get at it!  So, here we go.

            I am going to make four points and attempt to make them relevant for us today.  First, Jesus was born into a time and place.  Seems obvious, but unless we understand the circumstances Jesus and the common men and women of His day are dealing with, this passage remains opaque.  Second, God is bias for the poor and this passage is no exception.  Third, the action of the manager may have restored not only the manager’s future prospects but the owner’s moral virtue.  Fourth, living in the world when called to bear witness to the unseen kingdom of God, may require seeing the world anew.

            First, Jesus was born into a time and place.  As stated above, this seems obvious.  Anyone who has listened to a sermon knows we preachers often talk about historical context. After all, unless you know the history confronting Jeremiah, his prophecies of judgement against his nation make little sense.  Right? 

Think of it this way.  Suppose you were from Mars visiting the earth for the first time.  You turn on the television and a documentary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes on.  Being a Martian, you have no knowledge of the struggle for civil rights.  You don’t know about Jim Crow.  You don’t know Bull Conner, Strom Thurman, Rossa Parks.  None of it.  So when King says he dreams of the day when his children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, you have no idea what he’s talking about.  But we’re not from Mars.  We know exactly what Dr. King meant.

I begin, then, by making this first point.  Jesus was born into a time and a place.  He is speaking in a world vastly different from our own.  We are like the Martian trying to figure out Dr. King.  Unless we know something about the culture of Jesus’ time and place, this passage makes little or no sense.

All of that brings us to our second point — namely, God is bias for the poor and this passage is no exception.  Is there anyone who would like to argue against this point?  You wouldn’t be alone.  The success gospel of our day is a reminder that there are preachers who will tell you faith will bring you wealth, that following Jesus makes good business sense.  Lost to them is the reality of the cross, the words of the prophets from the old Testament, and the warning of Jesus found in our reading this morning: “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Now I could go on.  I could quote passages ad nauseum.  All of it would go to prove that I believe God has, and always will have, a bias in favor of the least and the lost, that when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor…” Jesus means it.  So I ask that we carry this fact with us as we explore this passage.  God has a bias in favor of the poor and powerless.

Third, the action of the manager may have restored not only the manager’s future prospects but the owner’s moral virtue.  To understand this point takes a little doing.  When I first read this passage, I thought the manager was a liar and a cheat.  But I did a little digging and I discovered that in the 21st century time frame, that is exactly what the manager is — a liar and a cheat.  He is cheating the owner out of what is due him.  Right?  In our world, he would be seen as skimming off the top. So why is Jesus commending him? 

It turns out that Jesus’ day is not like our day.  It was common practice to cheat the poor and powerless out of house and home.  That was how wealth was garnered.  Oh, the Jewish law forbade charging interest.  But there were ways of charging interest without listing it as interest.  When the manager reduces the amount the debtors owe the owner, he may be evening the score.  When he tells the one who owes 100 jugs of olive oil to write down that he only owes fifty, that may be far closer to what was actually owed.  What the manager may have been doing is showing mercy.

And note this.  If I am right, the owner was breaking the Jewish law code.  He was getting rich off those who had little.  This was a common practice in the first century.  Barbara Rossing[1] in her commentary informs us:

Rich landlords and rulers were loan-sharks, using exorbitant interest rates to amass more land and to disinherit peasants of their family land, in direct violation of biblical covenantal law. The rich man or “lord” (kyrios, v. 3, 8), along with his steward or debt collector, were both exploiting desperate peasants.

By reducing what the peasants owed, the manager is not only putting himself in the good graces of the peasants, he is elevating the status of the owner.  He restores not only himself but his master.  It truly is a stroke of genius and little wonder that the owner commends his manager.

            In our own day there are people who have amassed vast sums of money.  Indeed, governments around the world recently seized the property of many Russian oligarchs.  We got to see their yachts.  I, for one, didn’t have much sympathy for folks who made their fortune serving an oppressive regime.  Did you?  And in our own country Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, confessed that he pays less in taxes than his secretary.  Even he thinks there is something wrong with that. 

            So maybe we can begin to understand that within the economic system of Jesus’ day, there was an unjust structure that kept the poor poor and the rich rich.  If God does, indeed, have a bias in favor of the poor, this parable only serves to emphasize this point.

            Fourth, living in the world when called to bear witness to the unseen kingdom of God, may require seeing the world anew.  To make this point, let me get personal.  This is a picture of our home on Grand Isle.  I am hardly hurting.  I am sharing it because I am reminded of what Augustine said, “The superfluities of the rich are the necessities of the poor.”  Simply put, I could live elsewhere, and the money spent to provide this home could have been used to assist those who have no home.

            I am far from a perfect follower of Christ.  I live in a world that often is at odds with the world Christ envisioned.  We all do.  Compromises are made and our imperfection remains.  To be honest, I have no intention of selling our home and moving into a more modest dwelling, of taking the prophets and donating it to Habitat for Humanity.  That is a fact. 

            In the end, I must rely on God’s forgiveness sealed in the cross.  I stand in constant need of being saved.  I have and always will, need Jesus.  My hope rests not in my virtue, but in God’s grace.  And you?

[1] Barbara R. Rossing is professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where she has taught since 1994. Ordained in 1982, she served as pastor of a congregation in Minnesota, director for Global Mission Interpretation for the American Lutheran Church, pastor at Holden Village Retreat Center, Chelan, Wash., and chaplain at Harvard University Divinity School. Rossing has lectured and preached widely, including at synod assemblies and global mission events for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), as well as at ecumenical theological conferences. She has served on the executive committee and council of the Lutheran World Federation (2003-2010), and chaired the Lutheran World Federation’s theology and studies committee. Her publications include The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation (Basic Books, 2004), a critique of fundamentalist “Left Behind” theology; The Choice Between Two Cities: Whore, Bride and Empire in the Apocalypse (Trinity Press, 1999); two volumes of the New Proclamation commentary for preachers (Fortress Press, 2000 and 2004) and articles and book chapters on the Apocalypse and ecology.

[i] Luke 16:1-13

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.10“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Sermon, September 11, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

September 11, 2022

“Lost And Found”

“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?”

Luke 15:3[i]

The answer to the question is “No one.”  The Pharisees and the Scribes may have been many things, but they were not stupid.  Who would leave the 99 (in the wilderness, mind you) and go and search for the one?  No one.  It makes no sense.  Why not cut your losses.  You are going to lose sheep — some to illness, some to predators, some simply drift away and are lost.  Now you don’t control the drifters.  It happens.  But you can work to reduce the risks of disease and loss to predators.  That you can do.  Leaving the 99 to search for the one that is lost does not make sense.  Work at controlling what you can.  Right?  Indeed, let’s suppose that the shepherd in question is not the owner of the sheep, that at the end of day, this shepherd must answer to the owner and explain why the 99 were left to themselves.  Even if the lost sheep is found, if I were the owner, I’d fire the shepherd!  99 were left at risk and I could have lost everything.  So, this makes no sense.

            But Jesus is not attempting to make sense.  He is making a point — not about sound business practice, but about the joy of God.  That is what makes this story so shocking.  Jesus is implying that God would do what none of the Pharisees or Scribes would.  The question I have is what does this story have to do with us? 

The first thing to note is we are part of the 99.  The shepherd’s attention is taken off us and focused on the one that is lost.  How’s that make you feel?  Are we being taken for granted?  The answer is “Yes.”  God has gone after the lost and we are expected to remain.  That may not be fair.  After all, we’ve been “slinging the hash.”  The church, the body of Christ, doesn’t run itself.  It takes a core of committed believers willing to do the unglamorous work of making an institution run.  Oh, it can be fun, but it lacks glory.  Jesus, the shepherd, is taking the loyal 99 for granted.

Why?  Because Jesus can.  We’re going to stay.  We are not here to receive some reward or accolade from God.  We are here because we believe we have found the truth, that in pursuing the cause of justice we open the door to peace, that in proclaiming the love of God for the least and the lost we participate in advancing the Kingdom of God, that in proclaiming a crucified and risen Christ we proclaim both the reality of suffering and its inability to win the day.  We keep opening the doors to this church every week because we want to be a part of God’s mission, and today we learn that the joy of God is found when we, the 99, can do our job that together with God we might reach the one who was lost.

As if to reinforce this point, Jesus now tells the story of the Prodigal Son.  Remember, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and Scribes.  They cliqued their tongues at Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners.  He then tells the story of the one lost sheep and the lost coin.  But He isn’t done.  Our reding stopped at verse 10.  In verse 11 we see Jesus making sure the point of reaching the lost and rejoicing in their being found is sealed by the story of the Prodigal Son.  You remember the story.  I don’t have to repeat it but let me cite one of the closing sentences.  The father, speaking to the disgruntled older brother who refuses to join the celebration of his brother’s return, says:

 ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

It is one thing to sit in this holy place and take stock of our virtue, but we are doing nothing more than what God expects of us.  God’s joy is found when we welcome in those who are lost.

            It does not take much to find them.  They may be among us.  Perhaps the biggest challenge facing modern America is prosperity.  It has led to a love of things often at the expense of ideals.  Listen to this warning from Louis J. Halle in his book, Civilization and Foreign Policy:

Men who have lost their belief in anything else will, perforce, live by bread alone. They will not deny themselves the satisfac­tion of their animal appetites in order to uphold a dignity which they no longer understand. Nothing will be left that is as important to them as material abundance; they will therefore accept any form of political organization that offers them such abundance and will reject any that leaves them unsatisfied in this respect. The consequence is that as vision is lost it becomes increasingly difficult for any political leader to prevail on the people to accept material sacrifices which may be necessary for defense against their external enemies. They will prefer to follow his rival who promises less taxation and still higher standards of living.[1]

Modern man and women may be captured in this warning and it is the calling of the Church to call us back to something greater than “stuff.”  When justice is less important than prosperity, those who think themselves to have been found are lost.

          In his book, Modern Schism, Martin Marty comments on the Puritan’s coming to America and the gradual loss of our religious moorings:

“These newly-rich at first seemed to want the benefit of clergy for their passage.  They had not inherited blood or land, but they had been successful traders, speculators, and merchants. The Puritan had been told to be suspicious of the rich. The evangelical had been told to be content if he was not rich. The American in the mid-nineteenth century was beginning to be told to get rich. In 1836 the Reverend Thomas P. Hunt in The Book of Wealth wrote that ‘no man can be obedient to God’s will without becoming wealthy’.  The Congregationalist, forty years later, in rather bizarre metaphor revealed the extent of materialism that resides under the veneer of religiosity in subsequent American religion: ‘There is no sleeping partner in any business who can begin to compare with the Almighty.’”[2]

You can hear it on your television.  The gospel of success proclaims Jesus will make you a worldly success, a person of means.  Meanwhile, one in six children in America worry about their next meal.  The plight of the poor and marginalized is the business of the church.  We the 99, are called to lift the 1.

          I call us all, clergy and laity alike, to remember who it is we are called to serve.  We have pledged our lives to follow in the way of Christ.  No one, not one, has done it perfectly, but when we do the possible the one who is lost is found, a party takes place in heaven and God’s joy is made complete.  The task awaits.  Let us pray…

[1] Louis J.. Halle, Civilization and Foreign Policy, p 168 & 169.

[2] The Modern Schism, Martin E. Marty, p. 123.

[i] Luke 15:1-10

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Sermon, September 4, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

September 4, 2022

“What Are We To Do?”

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:26[i]

Wow!  This is a hard reading, one that I find unexpected.  Did you come into church this morning expecting to hear that if you want to be a disciple of Jesus you have to hate your family?  I doubt is.  We go from:

“Jesus loves me,

This I know,”


“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

That’s a problem.  Indeed, this whole passage is a problem.  Not only does it seem too draconian, we simply are not going to do it.  I have not and I will not, literally carry the cross.  It may be true that I sometimes don’t like my family, but I have not and will not ever “hate” them.  Finally, I’m not going to sell all that I own.  I’d be homeless and my family, too.  So, what are to do?  We say we love Jesus.  We say we want to follow Jesus.  We meet each Sunday and proclaim Christ’s message.  But we readily admit that we aren’t going to “actually” do all He suggests.  So, again, What are we to do?

            It seems to me we have two options.  First, we can dismiss these troubling words.  We can say they are “inauthentic” that they are the creation of the author of Luke and not really said by Jesus.  This would remove their status and authority.  But this is a dangerous proposition.  Are we to take this course of action every time we don’t like what Jesus is saying?  And how does one determine which saying can be dismissed and which are to be retained?  The second alternative is to take a wider view of scripture.  Fact is, this is not the only place where Jesus seems at odds with common sense. Matthew 5 offers another example:

27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

If we took Jesus literally, we’d look like a remake of Peter Pan — Captain hook without a hand, pirates wearing eye patches.  I don’t know a single person who would follow the admonitions in Matthew 5:27-30.  And if this is true, can we not also suggest that the words of our text are not to be taken literally?  I know that for myself, I can’t take these passages seriously if I take them literally.  But that leaves us with a question, “If they are not to be taken literally, what is Jesus trying to communicate?

            Actually, I think the message is clear.  Namely, “God first.  All else second.”  If we with that as our guide, our lives would be shaped by the following standers:

  • Revenge has no place in the Kingdom of God.  I have been hurt enough by the action of others that I must remind myself of this principle.  I can live trying to calculate when I have bested my foes.  But this is no way to live.  It makes me small and robs my life of joy — not to mention that it is opposed to the way of God.  Imagine if revenge was God’s driving force.  We killed God’s only begotten Son.  If God lived out the calculous of revenge, we would be swept away.  Revenge has no place in the Kingdom of God.
  • Forgiveness reigns irrespective of the offense.  There is not a person here today who has not needed to forgive.  You already know the power of this principle.  Without it, we are doomed.  But the affront of the Kingdom of God is that forgiveness is extended independent of the original offense.  This is a high bar for us to reach, but it is the bedrock of our faith.
  • Kindness abides.  There is no place for making others feel small.  Christ did not just die for you.  Christ died for us all and when I cause another human being to feel small, I deny the gift Christ gave to us all.

I close with a warning.  Who we are is what we embrace in our heart.  This is why Jesus is right in saying, “God first.  All else second.”  Let God be your guiding star and you will find your nobility.  In the end, faithfulness is more about the strength of one’s will than it is about one’s beliefs.

We began by asking, “What are we to do?”  Put God first and else second.  Let us pray…

[i] Luke 14:25-33

25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Sermon, August 28, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

August 28, 2022

“Quenching Our Thirst”

…for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:4-13[i]

These words from a poet who died in 1939:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity.[1]

My friends, Jeremiah’s age was not the first or the last to have lived through a time when things fall apart.  His people will be crushed by a foreign power.  He will flee for his life to Egypt.  The best and the brightest of his nation will be taken captive by the conquerors. 

            And we awakened this week to discover that a former president of the United States stashed government documents in his basement, some so highly sensitive that their disclosure could cost friends of our nation their lives.  We wake each morning to learn of new disasters – famine in Africa, war in Ukraine, drought in Europe and here at home, our environment in peril.  Some seek escape from the news, but ignorance of what is happening does not change the fact that it happened.  Some fall into a state of helpless despair, but if the psychologists are right and despair is “anger turned inward,” than we have embraced a maladaptive escape that robs us of agency.  We would rather be crippled by our inward anger than engage the sordid mess before us.   You heard the words from Jeremiah.  Are we so different?

            Look about you?  How many are with us this morning?  I have just outlined a host of problems that beset us.  Would you not think that at such a time as this, people might feel compelled to seek the aid of God?  Is it our cunning and intellectual skill that has led us to seek the gods of our culture rather than turning to the living waters of faith?  In our hubris we have sought to solve the problems of our own creation.  We turn to the god of science and work for a technical fix to the destruction of our sustainable future failing to recognize that science, corrupted by sin and greed, has helped to bring us to this place of impending doom. 

            Add to this malaise our collective inability to embrace the truth, and our impotence is complete.  We live in a time when “facts” are thrown aside and opinion reigns.  When asked why the then Press Secretary for the former administration had uttered verifiable falsehoods, an advisor to the then president, Kellyanne Conway, never answered the question but spoke of “alternative facts.”  We seem incapable of living in a world centered on truth.

            What is needed is what faith can offer.  Just as Jeremiah spoke of a nation that had lost its way, so, too, have we.  Unless we take seriously the nature of sin, unless we recognize our need to repent and set all things to the service of God, we will continue to twist our science to our advantage and seek to outwit our foes by using science to develop the next precision weapon rather than seeking to bring science to the service of creation.  In our sin, we twist all things to our own ends.  This will not stop once we have returned to seeking the guidance of God, but an acknowledgment of the pervasive force of sin will help us acknowledge our need to repent.  As it stands now, we think ourselves clever enough to untangle the twisted mess we have created.  What we fail to see is that we cannot untangle ourselves.  What is needed is the straight line of truth and a renewed commitment to walk where it leads.  It comes by way of a transcendent referent whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways.

             But I fear that I am “preaching to the choir.”  You who have gathered this morning already quest for the transcendent, already acknowledge God and have walked by the light God’s truth provides.  I am not reaching those who need to hear what I have to say.  They are not here and don’t much care to know what is being said. 

            In Jeremiah’s day, his nation would be defeated.  Many of his fellow citizens would be carried off into captivity.  Yet a remnant remained, a faithful few, and though the world was dark, the light of God’s truth sill burned.  Perhaps this is how we should view ourselves — a faithful remnant that remembers God’s demand for justice and God’s bias for the poor, that reminds the world of a truth bigger than ourselves.

            It may well be a lonely place to reside.  We may be seen as irrelevant fools who speak of things of old while the world presses on to what it perceives as the new.  But there looms a question.  Do you think faith to be foolish or our ultimate hope?  Do you think the world can set itself right if it never turns to walk in the way of God’s justice and peace?  Oh, it may well be that we are the voice crying in the wilderness but cry we must before we cannot cry at all.  Let us pray….

[1] From The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats.

[i] Jeremiah 2:4-13

4Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? 6They did not say, “Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” 7I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. 8The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.

9Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children. 10Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing.11Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. 12Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, 13for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

Sermon, August 21, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

August 21, 2022

“A Word, a Touch — Freedom”

When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

Luke 13:12[i]

It happened to me again.  I am in the presence of bright, maybe even brilliant, young people, and invariably they tell about suffering from anxiety.  The people I am talking about have a great deal going for them.  They are from loving and supportive families, employed, often in a stable relationship, have shelter and food.  Still, they speak of an anxiety that can be crippling at times and often robs life of its joy.

            Below is a table from the National Institute of Health.[1]  It is small and hard to read.  For our purposes, however, it is offered as a visual aid.  Simply look at the upper most line. By its steep incline, it shows those suffering with anxiety rising over a ten-year period.  Let me point out that the upper solid line represents those 18 to 25 years of age.  The raw percentages for this young age group are troubling.  From a low of 7.9% in 2008 to 14.68% in 2018.  In ten years, those suffering from anxiety doubled for this age group. 

            This steep rise may have some underlying causes that would surprise no one.  This is the age group that has been inundated with the cold facts of the world’s condition.  They may rightly wonder if there is a future for them.  They see those of us who have held the reigns of power as either being impotent or incompetent when it comes to creating a sustainable future.  And if they are attuned to the discord and hostility that exists within our nation, they may rightly fear the violence which seems all too prevalent.  I mention this because part of the solution to the social phenomena of anxietie’s rise rests with us.  To speak about the problems that are before us is not enough.  We must take personal and collective action to change the picture our young people are seeing.

On a sabbath long ago, Jesus encountered a woman who we are told had been suffering for 18 years.  She was bent over.  She could not stand up straight.  According to one commentator, she was most likely suffering from ankylosing spondylitis.  We can only guess at her level of physical pain and at the social isolation such a condition would create.  I can suggest that in the holiness codes found in Leviticus, many who suffered from disease would have been ostracized, shut out, isolated.  One can only hope that she had a loving and compassionate family because the culture as a whole was probable not too inviting.  And if all that is true, then note that despite her disease, she sought out Jesus.  How many times had she come to synagogue?  How many prayers had she lifted to God?  18 years is a long time to wait.  But this day, her wait was over.  Jesus called her over and with a word and a touch freed her from her ailment.   

            It isn’t the same as anxiety, of course.  Jesus cured a physical and visible disease with a word and a touch, and while anxiety may not be the same as a physical ailment, cannot the One who cured a woman unable to stand up straight, offer a curing word to those that are anxious this day?  Indeed, if one thing is clear in the gospels, it is the healing power of Jesus — the woman with the issue of blood, the demoniac, the boy with epilepsy, the man born blind, and many others.  I would challenge you today that if you believe in the risen Christ you must also believe in the Christ who healed.  So, our first question is what does our Christian faith have to offer those who live in an anxious state?  And our second question is what is required of those seeking release?

            The first question is what does our Christian faith have to offer to those who live in an anxious state?  Here is what I came up with:

  • A historical perspective.  I believe anxiety is, in part, created by failing to look at the long ark of history.  This is not the first age to face monumental challenges.  In my own lifetime, I contended with the Dooms Day Clock that marked how near we were to nuclear annihilation.  I have seen American cities on fire as the pain of red-lining and racial disparities fuled a raging anger.  I have seen the rise and fall of tyrants.  But beyond my own life or nation has passed through a Civil War, has fought against satanic forces in Europe who unleased a holocaust against the Jews, we have passed through the shame of imperialism, the shame of the Spanish Inquisition, the suppression of scientific truth by a Church that felt threatened.  We could go on, but my point is this.  We are not the first to pass through existential crises.  We will not be the last.  Gain some historical perspective and note that in each case we may not have come through the crises perfectly, but we came through.
  • Trust in a loving God.  This may be a hard sell because many young people question God’s existence.  Still, we are asking what the Christian faith has to offer and this is chief among them.  God has not abandoned us.  God sustains us.  God nurtures us.  God guides us.  Yes, all of that, but God commands us.  Where there are abominable conditions, God expects us to act — whether it be in the realm of human culture or environmental issues.  The love of God is not some fluffy sentiment devoid of a demand.  It is the guiding principle for our life together as Christians.  Rest in that love and trust in its promise but know this: it is not passive resignation to the status quo.  It is a call to effective action.
  • God is not done yet.  On the darkest day in human history, on Good Friday, Satan thought the victory was sealed.  Jesus, silenced and dead, was no longer a threat to evil.  Goodness had been vanquished.  But it was not so.  Sunday was coming and Jesus ripped away the stone that had sealed Him in.  He stood triumphant while Satan quivered.  God has never been done and God is not done yet.

There is undoubtedly more that could be said but let us now turn to our second question — namely, what must be done by those seeking release from their anxiety?

  • Jesus healed with a word.  In the example of the woman bent over by disease, part of her healing came by way of a word spoken by Jesus.  Did she need to actually hear the words or would the healing have come even she never heard Jesus speak?  I don’t know.  I do know there are examples of Jesus healing others who were not present to hear Him speak, but in her case, she heard.  I would suggest that those who live in an anxious state, listen for the healing voice of Jesus.  Pray for it.  I am sure that this woman prayed for 18 years.  No, it did not come immediately and “no” I don’t know why.  But through the prayers she was made ready to hear it when it came.  Faith is not an end point but the beginning of a journey and through prayer we make ourselves open to the possibility that an answer awaits.  Jesus may have healed her with a word, but she was ready to hear it.
  • Jesus healed with a touch.  In the section that we read this morning, Jesus not only speaks, Jesus touched her.  She not only had to hear the word, she had to be in Christ’s presence.  Now I know that this is not physically possible for us today.  But the truth remains.  Being in the presence of Christ requires a quickening of one’s senses and an ability to see beyond one’s self.  Can I not marvel at those whose lives are changed by an encounter with the living Lord?  It may not have been my experience, but it is sheer arrogance to deny that it was not someone else’s.  All of us would do well to seek the touch of Jesus.

Long ago a woman suffered from a crippling ailment.  Trust that Jesus will heal again.  Let us pray…

[1] National Institute of Health  Notable differences in trends in anxiety were found by age (see Fig. 2 and Supplementary Table 1). Among 18 to 25-year-old respondents, 7.97% in 2008 versus 14.66% in 2018 reported anxiety (p < 0.001). Significant increases were also noted among 26 to 34 and 35 to 49-year-old respondents (ps < 0.001). The increase was significantly more rapid among those ages 18–25 years than any other age group (differential time trend p < 0.001). In contrast to the younger age groups, anxiety remained stable among those ages 50 and older (3.60% in 2008 to 3.76% in 2018, p = 0.128).

[i] Luke 13:10-17

10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Sermon, August 14, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

August 14, 2022

“Whatever happened to our Sweet Jesus?”

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”

Luke 12:51[i]

            It is hard to square the sentiment contained in the words of a Christmas carol — “Away in a manger, no crib for His head, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head” — with the harsh words of Luke 12:51 — “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division!”  Whatever happened to our sweet Jesus?

            Indeed, this passage is so shocking that we who have pledged to seek to serve and to follow Him forever, must take a step back and gain an understanding of what this passage portends.  Do you agree?  I couldn’t just read this passage and move on.  I had to look for an avenue of understanding, so I turned to a commentary and found that she shared my concern.  Jerusha Matsen Neal[1] is an Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School.  This is her opening paragraph:

During a season of aching division in church and society, this passage seems to affirm precisely the wrong tendencies in human communities. It also seems off-point for a gospel that begins with an angelic promise of “peace” on earth (Luke 2:14). But the specter of division has always been present in Luke, even in those early nativity texts. Mary’s Magnificat delineates the powerful from the lowly (Luke 1:46-56), pointing to God’s just sorting of power and privilege as a manifestation of faithfulness. Simeon describes Jesus as a sign that will be “spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

What she sees in this passage that we find problematic, is a continuation of the distinction between the way of humanity and the way of God.  Rather than these words being out of place, they belong exactly where we find them.

            But she goes on:

The child is a sign that will pierce even Mary’s soul. Raymond Brown argues that, in Luke, this piercing does not refer to the pain of her son’s death. It points to the judgment that Mary will undergo in struggling to respond faithfully to God’s Word. Jesus will be a sign that divides one’s motives and inclinations like a sword, requiring a piercing spiritual discernment. When Mary and Jesus’ brothers are rebuffed by Jesus’ redefinition of family as “those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21), the cost of this discernment becomes plain. Even the hallowed category of “family” is rearranged in light of God’s larger covenantal priorities.  

Even Christ’s family is pierced by the division Jesus brings.  And what was true to them ought to be true for us.  Look at this world.  It is a place of great beauty and brutality, a realm of light and darkness, good and evil, life and death.  One can choose to ignore the sordid and see only the ethereal, but Jesus stands as an uncomfortable reminder that the cross demands a reckoning.  One cannot say one follows Jesus and then step out of the way He trod.

            This is how Jerusha Matsen Neal ends her commentary:

The fire Jesus describes is costly, but it serves the purpose of life and love.  It does not, however, serve the purposes of comfort. Jesus’ fire is not like the fire of a hearth, safely controlled and tightly bound for the somnolent pleasures of a single household. In the words of Mary Oliver’s “What I Have Learned So Far,” this is not light that leads to “indolence.” It is light that leads to “action.” This fire of love burns away our obsession with self-preservation, our idolization of kinship, and our false sense of control. It is a fire that, like Simeon’s piercing prophecy to Mary, tests the heart—revealing the thoughts of many and calling for a baptism of commitment. Oliver minces no words: “Be ignited, or be gone.”

Oh, there is a place for a softer Jesus, one who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  He, too, is here.  But today we are reminded that Jesus was more than kind.  He was demanding, that wherever He went, division followed.  As we come to this table to commemorate His death and to take stock of His life, remember, too, that in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup, we bear witness to a burning vision of a kingdom not yet fully come.  Let us pray….

[1] Working Preacher

[i] Luke 12:49-56

49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;53they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Church Yard Sale




As in the past it will be held in the church vestry on the following days:

Friday, August 26, 2022– 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Saturday, August 27, 2022 – 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

We are soliciting items to be delivered to the church vestry. You may drop contributions off any time or wait until the week of the sale as the vestry doors will be open daily Wednesday & Thursday, between the hours of 9 – 5. When dropping off, please place your items on the tables marked “yard sale donations” located on the left side corner of the vestry.

Items in clean, good condition such as, but not limited to:

Small Furniture; Nick-Knacks; Pewter; Silver; Tools; Collectibles; Kitchen Items; Arts & Crafts. (PLEASE NO CLOTHING, BEDDING OR BOOKS).



This years CHURCH BAZAAR will be held on October 15th from 9am-2pm.

When donating to the yard sale we often save things for this event. If you have items that you think should go in the bazaar instead of the yard sale, just put them in a box and mark them “for the bazaar” and we will save them for later.


Sermon, July 17, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

July 17, 2022

“God Will Not Be Mocked”

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

Amos 8:5b-6[i]

In a time when the January 6th Special Committee explores how very close we came to losing our cherished democracy, when Europe is experiencing unprecedented temperatures and wildfires[1], when children are being gunned down simply for going to school, when the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, when lies are embraced as truth, the words of Amos echo in our ears.

He lived in an era of relative stability and prosperity, but he saw the engine of decay at work within his culture.  The rich and powerful used the tools of corruption.  The poor had their meager farms repossessed, some were sold into slavery and the powerful of the land ignored the plight of the powerless.  He warned that God would not long endure such iniquity, that the scales of universal justice would be rebalanced, Judah and Israel would be crushed by foreign powers, the voice of God would fall silent, and God would not act to deliver them from the whirlwind of judgment.  The words of Amos are not easy words to hear.  They are words that on many days I would seek to ignore or brush aside.

Nevertheless, here they are.  I did not put them in the Bible.  They are here because they were found to be true.  Robert Frost once commented that “Something there is that does not love a wall…that wants it down.”  Something there is within the justice of God that calls for injustice to be challenged.

I think you know me well enough by now to know that I have difficulty with this view of God.  I come to the central symbol of our faith — the cross — and I confess to having difficulty squaring a God of wrath with a God who would die on a cross rather than meat out the punishment for sin on those of us who are yet sinners.  The two images of God do not fit nicely together.  But before we reject Amos in favor of a more compassionate God, let us work to find the truth in what Amos is saying.  We do this not merely to deepen our understanding but because the stakes of the present moment are too high to ignore the judgment that might await us.

I don’t know how you would square the cross of Christ with the words of Amos.  All I can do is tell you how I would move forward.  I begin by proclaiming divine purpose at the moment of creation.  It goes far beyond the biological purpose of survival.  It is grounded in the nature of the creator.  As such, justice is woven into the human experience.  To trample on the principles of justice is to go against existence itself.  Such an action will, by necessity, have consequences.  When lies are told as truth in order to preserve one’s political power, when the welfare of nature is ignored and greed becomes our god, when we fail as a people to protect our children from violence in the name of freedom to bear arms, there will be a price to be paid.  A culture that ignores the claims of justice will soon find itself in a death spiral.

Some will object.  Some will say that religion has to do with salvation and the heavenly realms.  But Jesus ended up on a cross because He was a threat to those who had a stake in the status quo.  If we are indeed called to carry the cross of Christ, then we who are Christ’s body in the world must take on the bloody history of a world torn asunder.  So, to all those who would object, I say we have no choice.  Our faithfulness to the cause of Christ demands that we speak and requires us to act.

At this point, a moment must be taken to address an issue that many are focusing on today.  Much these days is being said about the separation of church and state.  Some say that such a principle denies the heritage of America.  God, they say, should not find an adversary in the government, but a partner in virtue.  That may sound noble enough, but it is a misreading of history.  The first time the phrase “separation of church and state” was coined it was by Thomas Jefferson writing to the Baptist church in Danbury, Connecticut.  It addressed the problem of taxation.  In Puritan America, the Standing Order, what would become the Congregational Church, held that in order to become an incorporated town in Massachusetts, the town had to have a church of the Standing Order.  In order to pay the salary of the pastor, the people of the town were taxed.  The problem?  Baptists.  Those who held a different theological view formed their own churches and their clergy were not supported by taxation.  This meant that those outside the state prescribed church had to pay the salary of clergy serving churches they did not attend.  So the question became “why should I have to pay the salary of the Congregational pastor when I don’t attend that church or necessarily believe all that is preached from its pulpit?”  And if you look at the religious history of England, a history the Pilgrims and the Puritans sought to flee, it’s a bloody mess because church and state were in bed with each other.  As soon as you allow the church to wield the power of the state, coercion and force become legitimate tools of conversion.  Church and State must remain separate, thus the passage of the very first amendment to the Constitution.  If you think the First Amendment is about freedom of speech and assembly, you are only partially right.  Here is what it actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The very first issue addressed by the First Ammendment is how the stat and religion are to be related. 

Think of it this way.  The state cannot use its power of coercion against the church.  But this does not mean that the church must remain silent concerning the affairs of state.  While the government could pass a law requiring us to paint our church pink, the church cannot pass a law requiring that all town halls be painted pink.  We can suggest it.  We cannot legislate it.  The power dynamic between church and state is and ought to be fundamentally different.

            So when Amos speaks, he is addressing the injustices being practiced by the state and warning that in the end, God’s justice will prevail.  We would do well to heed his words because we live in a time not dissimilar to his own.  The problems before us are monumental.  The future is less than clear, but unless we turn and follow in the way of God’s justice and truth, a price will be paid.  In the end, God will not be mocked.  Let us pray…

[1] New York Times, July 17, 2022

[i] Amos 8:1-12

8This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. 3The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!”

4Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 5saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, 6buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” 7The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. 8Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? 9On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.

11The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Sermon, July 3, 2022

A Sermon


The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton

Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ

July 3, 2022

“Being Open to the Healing we Seek”

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.            2 Kings 5:12[i]

            Naaman wasn’t just any Syrian.  He was a renowned warrior.  A general who stood in good standing with the king of Syria.  And Syria?  An enemy to the state of Israel, an imposing threat on Israel’s northern border.

            But there is more.  He was a leper.  A social outcast.  Respected for his feats on the battlefield, he nevertheless would seldom been invited to dinner.  People would have kept their distance.

            And now as we come to the celebration of our nation’s birthday, America seems afflicted with its own case of leprosy.  This is a sermon meant for me as much as it is meant for you and a wider American audience.  I have come to see some of my fellow Americans as leapers, as those I would seek to avoid rather than embrace.  In today’s New York Times there is an article with this headline, “’Spurred by the Supreme Court, a Nation Divides Along a Red-Blue Axis’.  On abortion, climate change, guns and much more, two Americas — one liberal, one conservative — are moving in opposite directions.”[1]
            Naaman had the good sense to seek a cure.  He went to the shamans and gods of his native land.  They proved impotent, unable to provide the cure Naaman so desperately sought.  But he was seeking the cure in the wrong places.  Could it be his cure resided in a foreign land.?  Could his healing await him amongst the enemies of Syria? 

He would have never known had it not been for a slave girl captured by the Syrians in a battle with Israel.  She knew where the healing powers of God resided.  She knew who could unleash the healing of the one true God of the universe.  It was a prophet living in her native land.  She told her mistress, Naaman’s wife, of Elisha and where he might be found.  From the lips of a nobody came the answer — an answer that led Naaman to the enemy of his people.

            How we wait for the answer to the disease that afflicts our nation by looking to the powerful to lead us out of our demise.  We turn to the movers and shakers of our nation — to politicians, artisans, political pundits, those we deem wise.  But they too often have the leprosy of their ideology.  They, too, are lost souls in need of healing.

            We are not alone in this miscalculation.  Naaman and his patron, the king of Syria, decide to heed the advice of a captured slave, but only in part.  They are men of power, the ruler of a nation, and a man in charge of his nation’s army.  A mere prophet?  He is the one who will unleash the cure?  No.  It cannot be.  Such power resides with the powerful.  So they assemble a vast tribute of gold and garments and an entourage of 50 soldiers and set off to see the king of Israel.  But Israel’s king believes this is a set up, a pretext for armed aggression; for Naaman has come with a letter from a Syrian king informing the king of Israel to heal his servant, Naaman.  These men of power who deal daily in the art of intimidation and cunning, are not the ones who can cure the leprosy of Naaman.  They are not the ones who can cure the leprosy of America.

            Elisha hears of the Israeli king’s torment.  He tells the king to send Naaman to him.  He will cure the man through the power of God.  The first sign of wisdom is the King of Israel knowing that does not have the power to heal Naaman.  When you are a person of power, it becomes difficult to admit the limits of the power you yield.

             Naaman goes to Elisha, but again, like a man of power, he does not go as a supplicant but with 50 men of war and a caravan of treasure.  Naaman halts at the entrance to Elisha’s house, his power clearly on display.  And how does the prophet respond?  He does not even greet this great man but sends a messenger instead.  It is the messenger who tells Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan river.  Simple, right?  No voice from heaven, no thunderous storm on the horizon, no quaking of the earth.

            Naaman, the leaper, the one in need of being cured, is now in a rage.  The prophet did not even greet him personally.  Is his cure so mundane that a messenger delivers the means for the cure?  In front of his men, he is told to do what anyone could do.  Take a bath.

            Naaman and our nation may have something in common.  Filled with pride and assured of our own convictions, we refuse the healing that God’s grace can bring.  I am a proud American who finds himself ashamed of what we have become.  Given over to violence in the name of our convictions, unable to see the humanity in those we oppose, sacrificing truth on the altar of our ideology.  We are falling further away from the promise of democracy and embracing autocracy.  We, like Naaman, may fail to see that in the simple act of humility rests our cure.

            Naaman finally sees, finally obeys, finally baths in the Jordan, finally confesses the power of Yahweh to heal what others could not.  Will we?  Let us pray….

[1] New York Times, July 3, 2022

[i] 2 Kings 5:1-14

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And 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. 6He 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.” 7When 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.”8But 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.”

9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11But 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! 12Are 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. 13But 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’?” 14So 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.