Summary: In these times, can anything amaze us? Look to the cross and see the answer is a resounding, YES!
Sermon 090609 Mark 7:31-37
When I was in California for our family reunion had a great time playing with my Nephews. It ended up being a walk down, “memory lane” for me because the toys they were playing with were toys that my brothers and I played with growing up. My Nephew Gabe picked as his favorite, a toy that had been one of my all-time favorites as well. My James Bond car. It was a model of the car used in the movie Gold-finger and it was awesome. It had the revolving license plates, the rear bulletproof pop-up shield, the forward machine guns hidden behind the headlights, and best of all, the passenger ejection seat.
I was trying to explain James Bond to my nephew and found that there was indeed a generational gap. Try telling a kid who was born in the 21st century how awesome all of James Bond’s gadgets are. “In one movie he had a shoe that was actually a tape recorder, in another he had a transmitter hidden in a lint brush. He has watches that are actually two-way radios and all kinds of stuff like that.” Gabe just kind of looked at me blankly. He wasn’t amazed like I was. Because he lives in an era where people carry phones in their pockets, have GPS units in their cars, listen to iPods full of week’s worth of music, and I’ll bet he’s never used a record, or a rotary phone, or maybe even a cassette tape.
It’s not his fault that he wasn’t amazed. I think it’s pretty hard to find something to be amazed at these days. Technology seems to be forging ahead more and more rapidly, and it doesn’t stop to ask us how we feel about it. Two years ago, my dad had a number of surgeries that were the stuff of science-fiction novels just a couple of decades ago. Is there anything left to be truly amazed at!
The answer, we will find in our Gospel Lesson, is a decided YES. We have always had the ONE thing that is more amazing than any technology, or human achievement, or development. What is TRULY amazing in our lives is the Cross. It’s Jesus and his love for sinners. If we aren’t amazed and standing in awe of God’s grace. The problem isn’t with God, it’s with us. My prayer for us today is simply that God would remind us of all that he has done for us, and how amazing his grace is in our lives.
God is amazing. He does amazing things. Before we even get into our Gospel lesson, I want us to go back to our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 35:4-7a), so we can get a sense of how striking the promises of God are. The prophet Isaiah relates the word of God to the Israelites – a group of people who were and would be suffering persecution, and living under constant threat and oppression as they were exiled in a foreign nation. They had a deep and profound sense of hopelessness. And then Isaiah raises his voice with these promises of God:
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
Amazing promises. Bold expectations from God. But true. God did free his people from their oppression and give them a reason to rejoice, and open their mouths, and leap like a deer. He set them free. But these words of rejoicing in hopeless times carry with them meaning that goes beyond the ancient people of Israel. They point to an even greater freedom from oppression that God has in store for all who call on him. They are words meant for our eyes and ears and hearts as well. The ultimate fulfillment of these verses would be rooted in the coming Messiah, in Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel lesson, we find Jesus and the disciples on the move by the Sea of Galilee in a region that was filled with mostly non-Jewish people. And even in this area, where people don’t exactly know all the details there are to know about Jesus, they know that Jesus is powerful, and that he can do miracles. So a group of people, “brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.” And that is exactly what Jesus does. But what I find intriguing is HOW Jesus went about doing this miracle, he took this guy “aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”