Modus Operandi
2 Kings 5:1-14 and Luke 10:1-12 ;16-20

Today I want to take a look at our two readings and the modus operandi or MO’s happening in each.  Modus operandi describes a method of operating, a way of going about something.  What we see happening in our readings are two quite different MO’s with similar results.  We can learn from each of them.

Let’s begin with the story of Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram.  This is a powerful and some would say scary man.  Yet he has issues, he is suffering from leprosy.  A young Israelite woman who was a servant of Naaman’s wife told her that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him of the dreaded disease.  Finding a cure was so important to him that Naaman went and sought leave from the king to go and find this man who might cure him.

He went and took with him all sorts of expensive gifts to give to the king of Israel to pay for the service of healing him.  But the king of Israel had no idea how to heal Naaman and thought that the king of Aram was trying to pick a fight with him.  Then Elisha (who must have had his finger on the pulse as to what was happening around the place) heard that the king was in a bit of a bind so he went and offered for Naaman to come over to his place and learn that there was indeed a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman headed off to Elisha’s place with all his chariots and horses and servants.  He was rather annoyed when Elisha didn’t even bother to come out and see him, but sent a messenger out to tell him to go and wash himself in the Jordan seven times.  Naaman had his own idea in mind how this scenario would play out, but Elisha had other ideas.  It wasn’t until Namman’s servants chimed in that he gave in and went down to the Jordan and was made clean.  His leprosy was then healed.

What was the modus operandi in this case?  The whole scenario began when an insignificant person planted a seed of hope in the powerful man’s mind, through a family connection.  He did what he could to get there and see if it was true.  When he got there he had a bit of trouble finding it and then wasn’t happy with what he found.  But with some encouragement from some lesser mortals he ‘dipped his toes in the water’, actually his whole body seven times, and he was healed.

In our second story we find Jesus sending out the seventy to prepare the way for Jesus arrival.  Rather than trying to do all of the work himself, Jesus sent out thirty five pairs of people to show the people the power that was coming.  The people he sent weren’t allowed to take anything with them.  They were to go and offer peace to the places they went.  If their message and services were accepted they were to remain there healing and proclaiming that the kingdom of God had come near.

If they were rejected they were to leave and even shake the dust off of their feet, but they were still required to proclaim that the kingdom of God had come near.  Then the seventy returned to Jesus amazed at how even the demons had submitted to them in Jesus name.  Then Jesus told them that the important thing wasn’t that the demons had submitted but that their names have been written in heaven.

Once again let’s go back and think about modus operandi.  There is a sending out in preparation, the people are proclaiming and healing, then they return and report, only to find that the important thing is what has been given to them, not necessarily what they have given to others.

The two MO’s are very different aren’t they one is about a message being heard and acted upon; the subject of the story has done the seeking out.  In the other one we see people seeking out the subjects of the story.  The common denominator in both is that the subjects receive healing.  Yet they also differ in the nature of the healing, the first story is of physical healing, the second is spiritual.

Both modus operandi are still going on today aren’t they?  Can you relate to either or both of them?

The first occurs in various ways but can be paralleled to a new person coming to church.  There may be many different reasons for them coming, but usually there is a connection of some kind that has brought them.  It could well be that some acquaintance has let them know that there is something going on here that might be of benefit to them.  Then comes the approach to the building, sometimes the person arrives with a bit of pomp and ceremony like Naaman, but in most cases these days the person turns up tentatively, hoping no-one will notice them so that they can come and have a look without feeling too uncomfortable. 

Sometimes that person will come and go and feel angry like Naaman because the prophet inside wouldn’t come out and talk to them.  Hopefully these days it wouldn’t happen deliberately but we can all probably name a time and circumstance where it has happened.

“The harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few”, Jesus said, it seems that when we come to the church building the harvest is limited and so are the labourers.  Sometimes those people turn up, sit through the service, we have no idea how they are impacted or what they have seen and heard because they race out the door before anyone has had the opportunity to even say g’day.

Another scenario is where people come, feel welcomed and then like Naaman think that the message is too simple or too cheap for them to give it any merit.  Surely there is more of a cost to receiving eternal life than believing and being baptised?  Isn’t there some huge and cumbersome process that I have to go through to qualify?  What it took for Naaman was for someone who believed Elisha to encourage him further.  That’s fellowship, that’s showing God’s love through faith.  That faith comes from knowing what they have already received themselves.

That’s the connection to Jesus’ message to the seventy when they returned.  They had been out and brought spiritual healing to the people who had heard and believed and welcomed them.  When they returned all excited and full of the stories of the power of God, Jesus quietly reminded them that they should be rejoicing in the knowledge that they are saved, their names are written in heaven.  They knew that before they went out, they couldn’t go out without knowing and believing in what they were doing and saying.

They went out to the masses with the message.  They didn’t wait for the people to come to them, they went to their towns and villages and houses to share what God had already given them.

Both of these MO’s brought about healing, both extended the kingdom of God through the power of God working through people who were guided by the Spirit.  I think both are still valid today, both are important to be aware of.  We are those people who have the faith who are connected to people in our daily life.  We have numerous opportunities to quietly whisper a possibility to someone, and even opportunities to go and offer God’s peace to households that need to hear it.

God’s word does not return empty, it has power, the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about healing for people who are hurting.  Not necessarily physical healing, but without doubt spiritual healing through faith is available for all who do not reject it.  Find an MO that works for you, and bring God’s peace to a desperate and lost world.

Amen.