Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 7, 2003
The Gospel: Mark 7: 31-37
Sermon: "To Be Opened"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
Mark 7: 31-37
To Be Opened
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 7, 2003
"Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha", that is, "Be opened". And immediately his ears were opened and his tongue was released and he spoke plainly." NRSV
We have all seen street mimes. One of the most famous routines of the mime is getting out of the closed box. At a summer camp I watched two girls do a routine where they were both in the boxes. They could not get out. The boxes were sealed top, bottom and sides. Each girl was becoming more frantic to find a way out of the imaginary box. When they could not find a way out quickly they gave up for a short time. They sat and huddled in their boxes lonely and afraid. But then one girl made a noise and the other one heard her. She made a noise back and the two girls began to communicate back and forth by knocking on the sides of the imaginary wall between them. Then one girl went to the side of her box. She started to closely inspect the side from top to bottom. In her search she found a small window. She opened the window. It was just big enough to get her arm through. She tapped on the outside of the other girl's box. This other girl found her small window and the two prisoners were able to touch one another. They were able to hold their hands and comfort one another. They were no longer alone. The boxes were not quite so scary. Their closed prison boxes had been opened.
I imagine the deaf mute in the Gospel story felt he was boxed in and in prison. I imagine he had been taken to many faith healers and doctors. I imagine he felt trapped in his own silent world unable to hear, unable to speak, and finding difficulty in communicating. I also imagine he had very little hope of his situation ever changing. He probably felt forever trapped in his silent world only able to touch and smell.
But something amazing happened. His friends bring him to Jesus. Jesus touches him. He touches his tongue with saliva. He places his fingers in his ears. He looks to heaven and says be opened. He doesn't use a long eloquent prayer. He doesn't use magical potions or incense. He uses touch, saliva and two little words, be opened. The man is able to hear and to speak. This man's prison, his box, has been tom down, removed forever from his life. He is free. Jesus, the Messiah, has come and removed from him his prison forever.
How do we feel about miracles such as these? They sound good in scripture, but do they happen today? We see people in pain and misery. We see others in physical prisons and we wonder if God will heal them. We wonder if God will perform a miracle for them. I believe God will. I believe God will perform miracles for all of us. For Jesus came to let us know that the kingdom of God is near to us. Jesus came to teach us that we have a God of love who wants us to be whole. God works for wholeness in our lives. Jesus wants our lives to be opened.
Being opened might mean a physical healing. Being opened might mean a spiritual renewal or awakening. Being opened might mean moving from this world into the fullness of the presence of God in heaven. Being opened means wholeness.
If we are truly honest with ourselves all of us are like the deaf mute in the Gospel in some way. Each of us has some part of ourselves that is trapped and enclosed. We might have those moments when the world around us feels like it is closing in. We have those moments when we feel inferior. We have those moments when we lose hope and we despair. We have those moments in our lives when we feel helpless and weak. It is in these moments when Jesus is so near to us. Jesus is standing right beside us whispering to us, gently calling to us, to come to him. Then Jesus can touch us and release us from our prison, release us from our fear, and make us whole.
Oh, we may not be healed in the way we want or think we should be healed. But Jesus will be faithful. Jesus will help open us to the indwelling of the incredible love of God. Jesus will open us to hope.
When we recognize the incredible love of Jesus in our lives. When we realize we have been opened then our tongues will be loosed and we will proclaim the wonder and glory of God in our lives. We will share to everyone that God is with us and that God has healed us. I pray we will have the courage to ask Jesus to release us from our prisons and our boxes. I pray we will all have the courage to come to Jesus each day and ask him to open us. Then I pray we will have the courage to share what Jesus has done for us.