Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost 2015

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost | St Mark 7: 31-37


Back in Eden, everyone heard.
Adam and Eve heard God speak.
And they heard one another.

In Eden they heard, because hearing is what we are meant for.
If for no other reason, we are meant to hear because God speaks.
And His speech has a purpose.

God’s speech is meant to create, and bless; to guide, and to form.
We are meant to hear
Because God our Creator wishes to bless, and guide, and form us.

And that was good for a time.
But eventually Adam and Eve chose to hear the voice of another
A voice that spoke what seemed like a simpler wisdom.
That told them what they wanted to hear.
Couched in phrases like “did God really say?”
And as they embraced that message, deafness entered the world.

The physical loss of hearing is a result of that fall into sin.
Just like disease, death, and every sorrow,
it is the opposite of what we were meant for.
We were never meant to die, get sick, be sad, or lose our hearing.
We were meant for life and joy, to hear our Lord speak, and to speak back.

But since that day in Eden, when Adam and Eve covered their ears, we’ve all been deaf. Some of us even know it.
Yet it is into a world broken by sin and deaf to God’s Word that the Word Himself, Jesus Christ, comes – today in the region of the Decapolis, to a crowd of anxious people.

They’ve brought Him a man who has not heard a sound or spoken an intelligible word in his entire life.
And knowing Jesus to be a healer, they ask Him to lay hands on the man.

But Jesus has something slightly different in mind.
Certainly He could have healed the man by laying a hand on him.
Jesus could have fixed the guy by speaking a word or praying a prayer
right then and right there.
But He doesn’t.

Instead Jesus pulls the man off to the side, away from the crowd
And gets very…personal.
Jesus sticks His fingers in the guy’s ears.
And then He spits on them and reaches into his mouth to grab his tongue!

To us looking on, of course, it seems a bit much,
but Jesus goes to all that trouble because this is not any old disease.
Hearing and speaking is what we were always meant for.

But, as it is, like Adam and like Eve, we would not hear Him.
When it comes to the things of God, we are as deaf as the man Jesus touches today.

For most of us, our ears are functional;
But they are…finicky.
Your mother calls it “selective hearing.”

You and I tend to hear what we want to.
Jesus speaks and says one thing, but we hear another thing;
Which, in a way, is worse than hearing nothing at all.

We choose to hear that it is all ok:
Love of our money, and our free time.
our favorite sins that we don’t think hurt anyone
our little lies, our secret hate

And as we look for excuses to justify ourselves
We cover our ears, and deaden the voice of Jesus,
Refusing to let Him have His way with us.

Eventually, some can no longer stand to hear that Voice at all,
so they find preachers and teachers who will tell them what they want (2 Tim 4:3)
And suddenly we are right back in the garden hearing those familiar words:
“Did God really say?”

But that is not the life Jesus wants for you.
God actually made us with ears for a reason.
You and I were meant to hear His Voice.
And even though we’ve been stubbornly covering those ears ever since we left Eden,
God Himself has come to open them.

That is what Jesus is doing today.

First Jesus touches the deaf man’s ears. And then He touches his tongue.
It’s Divine sign language!
It is Jesus speaking to the man in a way he can understand.
And what that means is just what He says:
Jesus speaks “Ephphatha.” Be opened!

And just like that his ears were opened,
his tongue was released, and he began to speak plainly.
And this is great!
He can hear! He can talk! What a world!

But then Jesus does an even stranger thing than spitting on his fingers and grabbing someone’s tongue.
To the man He has just made able to speak
Jesus tells him not to speak.
Because what would he say?
After all, he doesn’t really know that much.

Hearing has to come first.
That probably seems obvious,
but just this week a man told me that he had never read Holy Scripture,
and at the same time thought it was his duty to tell me what it meant.
Hearing first. Speaking second.

You see the point, I’m sure.

You and I are naturally deaf to God’s Word and will.
So when Jesus speaks to You, He also makes sure to touch you.

It starts there in the Font.
Jesus touches you with Water and Word
Just as He touches the deaf man in today’s Gospel.
He gets in your ears and your mouth;
He grabs them and pries them open.

That’s why in Luther’s baptismal rite,
he would put his fingers in the ear of the child
spit on them, touch the kid’s tongue and say
“Ephphatha. Be opened.”
Because he wanted to show that’s what Jesus was doing.

(Side note — I dare you to be the first family to let me do that!)

Again, pay attention to the order.
Ears first – tongue second.
Which means that Jesus would very much like for you to hear with your new ears
before going out and speaking with your new tongue.

It’s why you come to church and Bible study every week
You need to hear
It’s why you listen God’s Word
Learn Scripture and the Catechism by heart.
You need to hear.

It’s why the prayer office of Matins begins,
“O, Lord, open my lips.”
That is Jesus’ job!

Simply put: if you are opening your own lips,
what comes out is bound not to be so great.
Best to leave it to Jesus
His Word is speech therapy for us who do not know what to say or how to say it.

Here in this place, Jesus puts His Word in your ears,
And then He draws it out through your mouth.

That sounds a lot like Confession & Absolution
And praying the Psalms
And singing hymns,

It’s saying back to Jesus what He first says to you.
And then it is sharing that with others.

Sharing with them the news that by His cross and passion
Jesus has purchased and redeemed us;
That by His resurrection we have been justified;
that by His Holy Spirit He has us a new heart to receive Him,
New ears to hear Him,
and a new tongue to confess Him to an unhearing world;
so that all would hear Him and know Him
and that Jesus would bring all of us back home again to Eden.

Praise be to Christ. He has done all things well.


About Pastor Hopkins

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