Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Protocol schmotocol. So much of protocol serves only a bureaucratic function and slows down my personal productivity. As a result, I skirt it whenever I can. Needless to say, that does not make me popular with the beneficiaries of the bureaucratic function, but it does allow me to be more efficient at accomplishing my daily tasks. Today’s passages recall how some individuals serving God worked around protocol issues.
The passage in 2 Kings could be the plot of a spy novel with the degrees of diplomatic intrigue. Communication lines get crossed. Messages are misunderstood. Cultural differences create angst and distress. The hero does what heroes do and saves the day. Israel was unique among countries in that the prophets did not work for the king, they worked for God and quite often called the king out for various misdeeds. Therefore, protocol required that the Aramean king send a letter to the king of Israel asking for his military commander be cured of his affliction by the prophet of whom they had heard. Because the structure was different in Israel, it caused great distress in the palace because the king had no way to grant the request and saw it as a provocation rather than an earnest request for assistance.
Fortunately the prophet knew what was going on and had the commander come to him, but again did not follow the expected protocol for the Arameans. He sent a messenger out with directions for the great and powerful leader. Worse yet, they were simple directions: bathe seven times in the Jordan. For a society that was guided by strict protocol such simple steps did not live up to the extensive ritual they expected. Nevertheless, when the leader consented and followed the directions, he was healed.
So many points can be made from the passage, but he primary point is that God controls the situation regardless of who is involved. When we follow his direction, everything works. Protocol means nothing, which was Paul’s point in 2 Timothy when he commented about arguing over “words.” The world was being forced to change from a law based religion system of worship to one that was based on a loving relationship between God and the follower. Jesus’s encounter with the lepers further demonstrated the point. Faithful, loving obedience to God’s direction achieves more than we can imagine.
Sadly, the church of today continues to argue over the “words” Paul warned against and to exclude the “foreigner” that Christ so generously welcomed. We often prefer the protocol over relationship because protocol gives us the black-or-white definiteness we seek: yes or no is easier than maybe. Relationships do not give us a that definitiveness we find comforting, but they provide even deeper rewards.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org