Monday, September 28, 2015

Sermon Sept. 26-27, 2015

Title: As salt in the world, live in service to Christ!
Text: Mark 9:38-50

50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Unamuno, the Spanish philosopher, tells about the Roman aqueduct at Segovia, in his native Spain. It was built in 109 A.D. For eighteen hundred years, it carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of men drank from its flow. Then came another generation, a recent one, who said: "This aqueduct is so great a marvel that it ought to be preserved for our children, as a museum piece. We shall relieve it of its centuries-long labor."

They did; they laid modern iron pipes. They gave the ancient bricks and mortar a reverent rest. And the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun beating on the dry mortar caused it to crumble. The bricks and stone sagged and threatened to fall. What ages of service could not destroy idleness disintegrated.

Resource, Sept./ Oct., 1992, p. 4.

We struggle as God’s children in this world as the temptations of life move contrary to the will of God.

As salt in the world, live in service to Christ!

Temptation is a terrible thing. If we’re trying to lose weight and eat healthier, that extra portion, the cake cookies or chips and junk food are right there calling us to partake and be filled. And if you have time … we do have fellowship with coffee and donuts following the service … for your convenience!

But it’s not the cookies, the donuts or the chips that do it. It’s that little voice inside each one of us that calls us to … “Go ahead, it will be alright! You can start that diet tomorrow!”

Temptation can be brought on by ourselves and we can give in to the voice of temptation inside of us … forgetting that other voice in our head that says: “I’m going to get my life together and watch my weight and try to be healthier.”

One voice saying yes and the other no. Or, is it the helpful Ladies Guild that makes all those goodies for October Fest? We remain bound in sin as we struggle and wrestle through life both as sinner and redeemed; both dead in sin and forgiven in Christ … whether thin or needing to lose a few pounds as I’m sure a few of us do.

But Jesus tells us in our lesson today:

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

To be involved as an agent of sin is very bad in the eyes of the Lord … but especially as it pertains to children. Children remain the most vulnerable people in our society and can be easily led astray by those will ill intent.

When you see children they are many time holding the hands of their parent, grandparent or guardian. We see them in the store, at the park or zoo or walking to school with one who has care of them.

Ill.

I remember when my children were young I had the joy on Wednesday’s, which was my day off, of picking them up from school. I would go and wait with the other parents who were waiting for the bell to ring at Our Lady of the Lakes elementary school – searching with my eyes to see them – and taking hold of them with my hands and walking to the car so we could go home and spend some time together. It was a wonderful time for me and a great memory.

Of course … when Amy was in 8th grade at Notre Dame Prep in Pontiac she took a less joyful view of dad waiting for her outside the school to walk her back to the car, “Dad, I know where you are! You don’t have to come find me!”

But, that’s for another sermon.

Here our hands, feet and eyes are used in a kind and loving way with our children. But, our leading hand, our directing feet and our searching eyes might also be used to lead astray those loving gifts of God that are given into our care.

So, Jesus gives some very harsh directives to the disciples.

If it is your hand that causes you to sin, cut it off, your foot, cut it off, your eye … gouge it out. Strong words to be sure, but Jesus is making the point that what waits in the fires of hell apart from Christ is far worse than a life as one … crippled, lame and blind.

Rest assured that it is not what we do that makes us right with God. But things we do can be used by God in the lives of others.

In our epistle reading for today James says:

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Reader’s Digest had a listing of 60 uses for salt but I’m not going to mention them all … but here are a few:

Keeps wicker looking new, Makes your own brass and copper polish, Removes wine from carpet, Cleans grease stains from rugs, Removes watermarks from wood, Restores a sponge, Relieves stings, bites, and poison ivy, Keeps windows and windshields frost-free, Deodorizes your tennis shoes/sneakers, Cleans your fish tank and so on.

http://www.rd.com/home/over-60-ways-to-use-salt/

Jesus tells us:

50 Salt is good, and then asks, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, or loses its usefulness, how will you make it salty again? ”

Salt has many, many wonderful uses but if it loses its saltiness it has no longer any use, for flavoring and preserving food, and so much more.

Salt is good and being salt in the world, as Jesus directs, is a wonderful and useful thing for each one of us.

49 For everyone will be salted with fire.  The trials of this life will be and are many. You know it and I know it. Do you always do what is good or at times do you cheat to get an advantage, fudge on your taxes for a better return or go against the teachings of Christ and the church as one politician (a practicing Roman Catholic) said when asked the question - when life begins. His answer, “That’s above my pay grade!” Christian integrity and ethics are part of who we are. Granted we all fall short daily, but we have been given the Spirit and God’s law, while not only showing us our sin, but also, by the Holy Sprit’s work in the redeemed of Christ … guides us … so that we love one another (1 John 4:7), love and respect our spouses (Eph. 5:33), and that children might honor and respect their parents. (Eph. 6:1-4)

As salt in the world, live in service to Christ and to others!

Ill.

During the Thirty Year's War in Europe (1618-1648), the King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, was slain while his troops were winning the Battle of Lutzen, in what is now Germany. Sweden was thrown into mourning, and government officials met to determine how to replace the king. Some suggested a republic; others thought the crown should go to Adolphus' cousin, the king of Poland.

The chancellor of Sweden arose and said, "Let there be no talk of a republic or of Polish kings, for we have in our midst the heir of the great Gustavus, his little daughter, who is 6 years of age." Some protested that they had never seen her. The chancellor said, "Wait a minute, and I will show you." He brought in Christina, daughter of the king, and placed her on the throne. One of the representatives who was especially suspicious of the move pressed forward and gazed intently into her face. Then turning to the assembly, he exclaimed, "Look at her nose, her eyes, her chin! I see in the countenance of this child the features of the great Gustavus. She is the child of our king!" From all quarters of the room rang the proclamation, "Christina, Queen of Sweden!"

Unknown.

Look at those around you. Look in a mirror. Your nose, your eyes, your chin have the mark of the one in whose image you have been created. You are the child of the King of Kings! You are God’s child and in him you reflect Christ who through the Spirit’s work called you to faith.

Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Be who God has called you to be in Christ.

His child … with child like faith … loving God … and others, as we also love ourselves.

As salt in the world, live in service to Christ!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sermon Sept. 19-20, 2015

Title: Child like faith receives the Lord’s Christ!
Text: Mark 9:30-37

34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Here is some interesting insight from Pastor Charles Spurgeon:

A heavy wagon was being dragged along a country lane by a team of oxen. The axles groaned and creaked terribly, when the oxen turned around [and] addressed the wheels, "Hey there, why do you make so much noise? We bear all the labor, and we -- not you -- ought to cry out!"

He continues:

“Those [who] complain first in our churches [are the ones who] have the least to do.” He says, “The gift of grumbling is largely dispensed among those who have no other talents, or who keep what [talents] they have wrapped up in a napkin.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon.

At times we all can see the value of our work and service we give as greater than that of others, even though everything that we have is received as a gift from God.

Child like faith receives the Lord’s Christ!

Jesus begins to teach his disciples about his ultimate goal, and the reason for his coming …

… saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

This is a hard saying for the disciples to hear and our text says …

32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Maybe they were thinking, “Who is the Son of Man as this is a reference to God and what about killing him and after three days rising from the dead?”

Certainly a confusing statement from Jesus and not understood by the disciples to the point that they were afraid to ask as we Lutheran’s do,

What does this mean?

As Christians the questions of life and faith are connected to our very being. We at times see God’s word through the lens of our own desires and needs. We value our own opinion and use it to interpret scripture rather than letting scripture interpret scripture. We try to make scripture say what we want it to say instead of understanding it in the context and way that God has revealed it for our benefit.

But Jesus tells us that:

Child like faith receives God’s word and so receives the Lord’s Christ!

But who is the greatest! The disciples want to know and have discussed this on the way. Jesus know, but asks, “What were you discussing on the way?”

It reminds me of a parent asking a child what had happened … and you get the silent treatment … like they know this was wrong but we wanted to do it anyway.

Remember from last week’s reading the father’s voice from the crowd calling out and pleading to Jesus?

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” … they were not able …

And now they argue among themselves … about who was the greatest.

Ill.

Pride can be a terrible thing.

G. Gordon Liddy, Watergate conspirator [upon his] released from prison said: "I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man of great faith, but my faith is in George Gordon Liddy.”

“I have never failed me."

The Christian Century, Sept. 28, 1977, p. 836.

Liddy needed to consult Ben Franklin where he wrote:

There is perhaps no[t] one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Benjamin Franklin, from his autobiography.

In our men’s breakfast bible study last Saturday, we talked about the difference of taking pride in the work you do and thanking God for giving you the gifts and ability to serve, verses the pride of thinking oneself better than those who can’t do or help in the same way as you.

The disciples were seeing themselves with the latter focus rather than the former. How do we each measure up in regards to that same question? I’m sure we all fall short at times.

So it was time for a family meeting. Jesus called them all to gather together.

Child like faith receives the Lord’s Christ!

35 And [Jesus] sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Wow … there’s a turn of phrase for you. To be first requires being last to lead … you must serve all. Parents know that. They lead by serving – first they serve their spouse and as a married couple they become one flesh and think and act with the others needs in mind. And certainly if they have children they do all for their child. They live there life in service to the needs of their children.

Don’t believe me, just ask a parent what they are doing and you will hear, “Well, Monday’s we have dance, or soccer, or confirmation or … you name it. Children are dependent on their parents for everything and parent serve their need at least until they teach them the valuable lesson about taking care of themselves.

So Jesus gives the disciples and us an object lesson.

36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Today/ tomorrow, we saw [will see] a wonderful picture of this reality. We see this as loving parents bring their children to baptism and serve the needs of those who are unable to serve themselves.

The greatest in the Kingdom are those who receive Jesus, and you and I can have great joy as well in the gift given us as we joy in serving the needs of those who we have responsibility over.

Child like faith receives the Lord’s Christ!

Let us not like the wagon axles, groan and make noise daily in the work we do and the way we serve when it is God who has done all for our benefit. Rather, let us like little children, cared for by loving parents and our heavenly Father, joy in all that has been done on our behalf so that we too can, as servants, serve the needs of those who have been place in our care; and care for those that we come across with the love of Christ and the message of forgiveness found only in the gospel of peace.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sermon Sept. 12-13, 2015

Title: God brings belief and comfort through his means!
Text: Mark 9:14-29

21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Life and death and love and caring are human emotions that have been seen and felt in our own lives many times over the years. It may be a dear family friend who passes away, the sickness of an elderly parent or child or dear friends and their children who you’ve seen grow up and felt their celebration and joy as well as sorrow and pain.

At time we are brought into the lives of perfect strangers who we comfort or see their grief from afar. One such image that has recently come to mind is of a father who lost his two sons and wife that drowned. The image of the dad, holding his dead son regardless of the circumstances can cause us all to feel his pain and sorrow as if it was our own child.

As the father said to the reporters and to us:

“My kids were the most beautiful children in the world, wonderful. They wake me up every morning to play with them. They are all gone now."

http://theoslotimes.com/article/father-of-dead-boys-ask-the-world-to-see-plight-ofrefugees#sthash.MVylgKht.dpuf 

Even if we’ve not lost a child we can know and feel his pain but for we who have received mercy and have been given faith:

God comforts and strengthens through his means!

Last week our text showed us the compassionate Christ as he opened the ears and mouth of a deaf mute who then “spoke plainly.” Not only having his ears and mouth healed but being given the gift of speech, immediately, as Mark so often says in his gospel account.

In today’s reading:

14 And when they [those that had been following Jesus] came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw [Jesus], were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Jesus is known to the people as the one who brings peace, comfort, healing and the things that you and I also find of great value when things in our life need help. And here a voice from the crown answers Jesus’ question.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

A father’s pleading for his son. “I brought him to you … but your disciples were not able.”
The disciples fell short! They missed the mark! What was needed … wasn’t given … to a man in distress.

I can relate, how about you? Have you missed the mark? I think we can all agree with St. Paul.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. … 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:18-24

At times we miss the mark by things we do and at times by things we don’t do.

Ill.

Some years ago my boss was going to Italy on a vacation with his family. And while he was gone I was left in charge. He had just hired a new lady to handle some advertising for the company but I had to sign the checks to suppliers as well as payroll and over see the business during the thee weeks he was away.
One area of concern for me was the advertising. We had a big sale planned when the owner returned and I had to make sure all the advertising was in place. I had to make sure that it was right and that when he returned was pleased with what had been placed in the newspapers.

The new lady had designed some pretty ads that were nothing like what we had previously used. Ultimately, I made the decision to use adds similar to the ones we used in previous years that had been effective. Our new ad designer was not happy with me but after prayer and consideration and having the ultimate responsibility to make a decision, I felt if it didn’t work, it was on me.

The ads worked well, the sale was successful and the boss was happy! Had I made a different decision, or not prayed that God would give me the wisdom to discern the right way to go … the results could have been much different.

Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring [the boy] to me.”

What I didn’t want to hear from my boss, the disciples now hear from Jesus … pain and disappointment from the Lord of Glory at their falling short.

God brings belief and comfort through his means!

Jesus takes control, “Bring him to me.”

The solutions for the problems we face are always best helped when the focus is on Christ. Because the evil foe is satin and the forces of demonic activity that perplex and attack us and those who remain lost in the world.

This father is grieving for his son as he has been plagued with this demon “From childhood.” We might reasonably look at our own sinful condition and malady as those brought forth in iniquity … conceived and born in sin. Psalm 51:5

But though we have been freed by Christ Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit, we still remain in our sinful flesh … both Saint and Sinner.

On the one hand we are freed by the grace of God in Christ and have received all things being made new, but at the same time, we are bound to our sinful flesh and wrestle with faith and doubt, belief and unbelief!

The call … “I believe; help my unbelief!” is the call of a believing soul tormented by a demonic foe. We too call daily to God to lift the burden of sin we carry and to comfort us, and bring us peace … the peace … that passes all human understanding.

“You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”

We too are born into this world dead to God, and it is by God’s command:

“19 Go … make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” that we receive life eternal promised from the lips of our Lord.

Having done a number of baptisms of little children, it always reminds me of this passage when they are baptized because when baptized there is crying out and convulsing. The devil cannot remain but must flee. Where light is, darkness flees.

“He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Death, raised to life and caring, through the sacrificial love of the God man Jesus Christ are what God has given you.

The picture in the today’s lesson shows the condition we too are born and wrestle with. But it also shows god love and power to bring us both from death to life through the means he has provided of word and sacrament but also show the picture of the final gift of God when:

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Dear friends,

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:52,56

God brings peace, comfort, victory and belief through his means!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Funeral Sermon for Carlene Constable

Saturday, September 12, 2015
Funeral Sermon for Carlene Constable
Title: Loved and Forgiven

1 Timothy 6:12 (English Standard Version)

12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Carlene,

“You tell the people at Peace that I’m praying for them!” Those were the words Carlene shared with me a number of times on our visits where I would come, talk and bring her the Lord’s Supper. This wonderful mother, grandmother, sister and friend, was committed to those she loved. And that didn’t just stop with family. Carlene loved all of those she came in contact with. She cared for her pastors, Pastor Merrell and myself and little Mocha, better known as “Honey Bun!”

Carlene was transferred to Peace on April 30th, 1997 from Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clarkston and was formally received at Peace that November, but she had been a Christian for many years before that.

She confirmed the faith that God bestowed on her at her own confirmation all the way back in 1944.

For me as a pastor, Confirmation is a joyful time. We get to see our students or Catechumens as they are called, confirm what the Lord had done for them in their Baptism, in front of the congregation. They had been taught, and instructed in the Christian faith, and now it was time for them to confess what they believed. For a pastor the Rite of Confirmation begins:

“You have been baptized and catechized in the Christian faith according to our Lord’s bidding. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Lift up your hearts, therefore, to the God of all grace and joyfully give answer to what I now ask you in the name of the Lord.

And then just before the student’s confirmation the pastor asks:

“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all … even death … rather than to fall away from it?”

Sometime, all the way back in the spring on 1944, Carlene answered to that very same question: “Yes, with the help of God.”

Carlene was a wonderful testament to the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.
Jesus tells us in John chapter 15:
1"I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes … that it may bear more fruit.

Carlene loved to sew and made beautiful quilts for the children who were baptized at Peace. So many smiles I’ve seen on the faces of parents at this wonderful and beautiful gift! And you could see the work of Our Heavenly Father in her, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as she used her gift for his greater glory. One mom in fact said can I have her number so I can call and thank her for the beautiful quilt.

Jesus says:

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides (or lives) in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Carlene bore much fruit, as can be seen in the pictures of her life, especially the children and grandchildren that she was so proud of! But it didn’t stop there, her love was infectious for all she came in contact with and that too includes the members of her church family … but also the many friends she had and even the two pastors who had the pleasure to see her and visit her. I had the joy of seeing Carlene on August 13th. She as usual was in the chair and always would remind me to “Come in, ‘cause I don’t do stairs!”

God comforts us … as we go to comfort others.

This past December I visited a number of our shut-ins with gift baskets and Carlene was on the list. She at times would remind me, “I’m old! I don’t remember how old but in the 80’s somewhere!”

Christ tells us:

7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Carlene told me that she was ready to go to heaven and to be with the Lord. “But, she said, he must not be ready for me as he keeps leaving me here!”

I told Carlene that Jesus will take her to heaven in His time and in his way but for now we who love her need her more and maybe just a while longer he’ll keep her here. But on last Wednesday night … Carlene got her wish and Jesus called her home. Quietly and quickly Carlene went to heaven.

And even though to me Carlene had a good life and a loving family that cared for her she was called away from you … her loved ones, family, friends and this life that she loved very much.

Despite our grief Jesus’ words still can comfort us all:

7 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

I had an opportunity to bring the Lord’s Supper to Carlene on Thursday august 13th and anoint her with oil as a reminder of the Holy Spirit, who lives and works in and through her. She was a wonderful lady who loved life, sewing, her family, friends, and loved ones including Honey Bun the little dancing dog. As Carlene told me a number of times how blessed she truly was.

Today we honor her life, as we say our goodbyes.  But, the grief that fills us all with loss and sorrow who knew her as beloved relative and friend will one day be replaced with our blessed reunion in heaven for all who believe. Our loving God in Christ Jesus will wipe away every tear of sadness that we have today and in that day replace them with tears of joy, as we together rejoice in Heaven with our resurrected Lord who has come to conquer sin, death and the power of the Devil – not only for Carlene - but for you and for me as well.

In Christ, death is not the end for we who cling to the blessed hope of reunion in Heaven one day. But, it is only a time of parting … for a while.

For the Apostle Paul brings great joy when he says in the Epistle to the Romans in chapter 8:
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

Heaven is now Carlene’s home.

You too, who trust in Christ, have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins - is the wonderful Gospel message Carlene trusted and you too can trust. He has forgiven your sin and has called you to faith by the Gospel and through the power of the Holy Spirit, and has given you faith to believe in Christ’s blessed saving work.

There is a place that has been prepared for Carlene that she has now taken possession of and there is a place waiting for you too and for all who believe by faith the Good News that in Christ, you are:
Loved and Forgiven and will be with Jesus Forever!

Amen.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sermon Sept. 5-6, 2015

Title: By Christ you are opened!
Text: Mark 7:31-37

34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

The magazine Credenda Agenda quotes, C.S. Lewis who says:

An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful.  But an open mind about ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical reason is idiocy. If a man's mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.

C.S. Lewis quoted in Credenda Agenda Vol. 4, No. 5 p. 16.

By Christ you are opened!

31 Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus was traveling south and east through Sidon along the Sea of Galilee. As we might remember from some weeks back, the disciples had crossed over the sea after the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus came to them walking to them on the water.

The crowds had followed Jesus who had fed and healed them from illness and he cast out demons and they are now heading south once again in the region of the Decapolis – a region of 10 cities near the southeast corner of the Sea.

32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The healings of Jesus are numerous in the gospel accounts. At times it is by faith in Christ that we see healing: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” The old woman thought to herself who had been plagued by the flow of blood for many years in Mark 5:28.

Or, it is by the healing touch of Jesus and the words of Christ’s own command, “Little girl I say to you arise!” as Jairus’ daughter was raised from death to life in Mark 5:41.

In today’s reading a deaf mute is brought to Jesus. He neither knows nor understands what is going on. He can’t hear and his speech is muted and unintelligible to those who are around him.

… and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

The people knew of Jesus and his healing touch. They who brought him to Jesus begged him to lay his hands on him … as if the laying on of hands from Jesus was the magic formula of healing and required to make one well and whole again.

Jesus sees the problem … here is a man who is deaf and mute. He does him a kindness to make himself, and what he intends to do known.

Ill.

If you know someone who is deaf or have interacted with them before, you know that they communicate in ways their own. Many years ago I attended the installation of my friend Pastor Tom Dunseth as he was installed as staff missionary to the deaf for the Michigan District. As I entered Trinity Lutheran church in Utica, I immediately realized that something was wrong. The place was packed. There were people everywhere. Communication was going on and I heard nothing. People were talking with one another and listening to conversations, but no sound was being made.

Communication for the deaf is visual.

While the service went on there was the speaking of the liturgy as to accommodate those like me who can hear … and there was the signing of the liturgy for those who can’t. There was a deaf choir that signed along with the hymns pumped through a sound system so that those signing were able to feel the tempo and sing through sign language to those listening with their eyes. Some spoke across a distance to others and applause, [waving of the hands] was shared at appropriate moments.

Communicating with the deaf is special and unique.

Jesus understood that.

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.

We can speculate, as many do, that there was something significant about Christ’s touch and fingers in the ears, or that the spit upon Christ’s fingers that touched the man’s tongue … brought about a miraculous healing. But what I believe Jesus is doing here is communicating. He is speaking in a way the man can understand.

Taking him aside privately … away from the crowd … Jesus now can have the man’s attention without distraction. How often have you or I who hear … needed to get away so we can speak to someone privately, so the noise of the crowd doesn’t distract us?

Jesus gets his attention.

The text says he put his fingers into his ears. Again not the healing but showing that he understands what the man’s problem is and that he intends to correct it. You can almost see Jesus show his fingers to the man and reach to his ears as if to say, “I understand your problem.”

And now we read: … after spitting touched his tongue. Again in the language of the deaf Jesus wants the man to focus on the problem of his tongue and lack of speech and that he desires to heal these problems. You can see in the depiction on our bulletin cover the man sees and understands what is about to happen. He is fixed on Jesus.

By Christ you are opened too!

Your maladies are greater than hearing loss and being unable to speak.  You and I and the man who is deaf and mute in our lesson for today are born dead to God and as a result we are unable to come to Jesus and receive the spiritual healing we need and that Christ desires to give. It takes an act of God to satisfy God’s justice and in Christ, God’s wrath has been appeased. It also takes an act of God to bring you and me from death to life by God working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit … working through the word … opening our ears to hear …  so that we believe in him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8

34 And looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed, not as a means to the healing, or a hope that God the Father would answer Christ’s prayer, but as a sign communicating the heavenly healing that he was about to perform, and a point of our own sighing in our own prayers mediated by God.

and said to him, “Ephphatha,”  The common Aramaic language of the home intended by St. Mark to give us the very word Christ spoke … and what it means, “Be opened.”

Jesus has the man’s attention, privately; he shows what he intends to do with his ears and his mouth; that he understands his problem and he is willing and able to help; and he looks up to heaven, the place of all good and comfort, healing and peace and says “Ephphatha, … Be opened.”

By Christ you are opened!

35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

The healing of Jesus is complete, opening the ears and mouth of the man who was deaf and mute. And just as the man was healed and “spoke plainly,” as the gift of language was given him, you dear friends, too have had Heaven opened, the place of all good by Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, and have received comfort, healing, and peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As Isaiah says of the suffering servant in chapter 53:5:

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

Interestingly, Jesus as he does at times tells them to “tell no one.”  And what do they do? They tell everyone! [And] the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

You know that feeling too, don’t you? When we pray for good test results and they come back good what do you do?

You tell everyone! You joyfully proclaim that good news you have been given for all to hear!

There is even better news then the good test results you get and that is the good news that in Christ all things have been made new again. No more sin, death and the power of the devil to fear because Christ has opened heaven to you and me who were once closed to God as his enemies but now have access to him as his children, having been given faith freely in his son.

By Christ you are opened!

37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

And he brings we who were dead in trespass and sin back to life.

He has forgiven your sin and you have God’s favor on account of Christ!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

Amen