Summary: Proper 18 B. Christ's eternal Word brings triumph over all manifestations of evil.
Proper 18 (b)
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
In our Gospel today, we see Jesus continuing His ministry. He is in Gentile territory. He has just healed the daughter of the Syro-Phonecian woman, the one who said, “Yes, and the dogs eat the crumbs of the master’s table,” and He has come back to the area of the Decapolis – a cluster of ten cities –at the north of the sea of Galilee.
The people came, and some of they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. It doesn’t not take much imagination to see that the man’s problems were more than his physical disability. Because of his deafness he was, at least to a significant degree, cut-off from those around him. There was a communication barrier, which caused a communications gap. And that barrier and that gap became a relationship barrier and a relationship gap. And because of his inability to hear, his ability to speak was impaired as well. So not only could he not hear and receive the messages and words of others, he was impaired in his ability to speak words and send messages to others.
The man was trapped. He was imprisoned in his own body, in his own mind. He was confined to his own thoughts. Cut-off from those around him. Think of how this affected him. People avoiding him, overlooking him, treating him as invisible, as non-existent, a nobody. Isolated and alone. Closed in. Closed in on himself, by himself.
Some people – presumably family or friends – bring him to Jesus, that He might heal him. They had heard all about Jesus, the Great Miracle Worker. And they are hoping for another Great Miracle. But what does Jesus do? Does He heal him then and there? No. He takes the man aside. The man who was isolated and needed connections, Jesus takes aside, and isolates more. But in cutting him off from the world from which he was already cut-off, Jesus brings him into relationship with Himself. Just the two of them. One-on-one. And He connects with him. He places his fingers in the man’s ears, his thumbs on his tongue. Looking up to heaven he groans, and then says, “Ephphatha!!” “Be opened!!” The man’s ears are open and unstopped. His tongue is set free, he is tongue-tied no more. Jesus has delivered him from sin and from evil. From sin, Pastor? I see that Jesus healed him, but it doesn’t see anything about forgiveness.
Sin is not just a soul problem, you see. Adam and Eve sinned, and sin entered the world, all of creation. We tend to reduce sin to a theological term. To a spiritual problem. There is sin and so there is guilt, and therefore we need forgiveness. And we stop there. But sin does not stop there. Sin is evil. And evil is present everywhere, and it is continuously manifesting itself in the world around us. In and through others. And yes, in and through us. In our own lives: in our actions, and our deeds, in our thoughts, and in our words. Words. Yes, words. To change the rhyme around a bit, "sticks and stones may break my bones, But it’s words that really hurt me."
Evil does not stop at guilt. It brings brokenness, pain, hurt, anger, and rejection, and loneliness. Its brings, no it is, destruction and death. But God’s grace to us in Christ does not stop at forgiveness. Thank God, yes thank God for His forgiveness. But He gives us more. Words really hurt, but Christ’s words really heal. Jesus is no circus act, no magician. Or He would have stayed in front of the crowd, and said, “Open Sesame.” Instead, bringing the man to Himself. One on one, he says, “Open,” to the evil. Says who? Says Me, Jesus. He overcomes evil and all its manifestations. He overcomes the evil which breaks and hurts us, the evil which cuts us off and imprisons us. The evil that finds us isolated and alone, disrespected and rejected, tossed aside, overlooked. Cut-off and imprisoned.
Christ has restored our connection with God. Christ has and is restoring our connections with others and with creation. No longer imprisoned in our thoughts. No longer imprisoned by our emotions. No longer cut-off. Not cut off from God, not cut off from others. He has given us Himself, restoring our relationship, our connection with God. And we gives us each other. We, Church, we are the body of Christ. And in and through His body, that is, in and through us, He is restoring our connections, our relationships, to each other. Yes, by His grace, He is enabling us to be reconnected to all people, to those around us, to those in our community, that is, our work, our school, our town. And even to all throughout the earth. But in the first place, in the primary place, He is restoring our interpersonal relationship to those who have been called to be His people, to those who are the Church – that’s us. You and me.