Wonders of the World

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9
July 03, 2016
The Rev. Glenn Chalmers
St. Paul’s Within the Walls


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Often the most important things in life are those that lie right in front of us.  Sometimes the most important truths are hidden from us  – hidden from us in plain sight.

A case in point is the story of Naaman this morning.   Naaman was a great military commander well accustomed to power, prestige, and wealth.  This blinded him to the fact that this did not make him immune to the illnesses and problems that inflict the rest of us.  His social standing did not insulate him from the sicknesses and worries that touch all lives.

Perhaps he thought that common illnesses and common cures applied to other people, but not himself.

That was the same lesson made at the University of Chicago several years ago.  The speaker at a lecture there was Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, an expert in the field of death and dying.  Given the speaker and the topic, the auditorium was packed.  Dr. Kubler-Ross began her talk with a question: “How many people here tonight are terminal?”

That question silenced all the chatter in the auditorium.  Instead, there was an awkward silence.  A few hands were raised.  Then a few more.

The tense moment was broken by laughter from Kubler-Ross.  “I have news for you,” she said, “you are all terminal.”

This realization also came as news to Naaman.  He asked for help for his ailment but thought the proposed cure was too simple, too common, too humiliating for someone in his position.  He got the help he asked for but couldn’t accept him.  The prophet Elisha did not even bother to make a house call and instead called in the prescription – simply dip yourself in the Jordan River seven times.

Naaman is upset.   “Surely such a simple treatment can’t restore me to health,” Naaman fumes. “A serious illness requires a serious or at least costly remedy and surely not to dip myself in a common stream, used by the common people and their animals.”

Naaman’s anger is met by the wise counsel of his servants, “If the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, you would have done it.  But the answer may be right in front of you and free of charge, why won’t you try it?”  

Naaman ignores his biases, follows the prophet’s prescription, and is restored to health.

The answer to what he was searching for was right in front of him all along.

We, too, can be blind to what is hidden in plain sight.  We can also be distracted from the most important things.

This is also one of the insights that our Gospel lesson from Luke conveys.

The 70 sent out by Jesus return.  They are doing incredible things. They are beside themselves with joy over their success.  Everything seems to be breaking their way.   Yet Jesus reminds them that what is most important is not their success.  It is not their failure.   What is most important is their relationship with God and with one another.  It is that that should be uppermost in their minds.

Our lessons teach us to pay attention.  To understand that the most important things often lie right in front of us.  Our assumptions and experience can easily cloud our sight.  We often see only what we expect to see.

This morning we are called to expect the unexpected.  To develop – as is so often heard in the Gospels – those eyes that see and those ears that hear.

A group of fifth grade students were asked to list what they thought were the Seven Wonders of the World.  Through there were some disagreements; the following ‘wonders’ received the most votes:

  1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids
  2. The Taj Mahal;
  3. The Grand Canyon;
  4. The Panama Canal
  5. The Empire State Building;
  6. Peter’s Basilica;
  7. The Great Wall of China

When gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not finished her paper yet.  So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list.  The girl replied, “Yes, a little.  I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there are so many!”

The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.”  The girl hesitated, and then started to read.  “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:

  1. To See;
  2. To Hear;
  3. To Touch;
  4. To Taste;
  5. To Feel;
  6. To Laugh;
  7. To Love

May we too have those eyes that see and those ears that hear.



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