15th Sunday after Pentecost
September 6, 2015
God’s grace, mercy and peace be to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The basis for the sermon today is the assigned Gospel lesson from Mark 7.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Do you remember the TV show “That’s Incredible!”? It aired from 1980 until 1984 on ABC. “That’s Incredible” was kind of a cheesy show that featured people performing stunts and stories of those who overcame great obstacles in life. Most notable from the 4-year run of “That’s Incredible”? A man named Earl Woods was on to show how his young son could putt a golf ball just about anywhere. The boy’s name was “Eldrick,” but you know him better these days as professional golfer Tiger Woods.
When you stop and think about it, we live in an incredible, most amazing time. When I was a kid, if someone had a phone in his car, it meant that he was very rich. Now I bet most of you have a phone in your pocket or purse. When I was a kid, computers took up whole buildings. Now we can hold them on our laps and in the palms of our hands.
Yet what’s most incredible and most amazing to me is that none of this seems to amaze us anymore. We’ve become so accustomed to new technologies and new discoveries and new advancements that they no longer surprise us. By the end of its program in 2011, very few paid much attention when the space shuttle lifted off; “ho hum, just another trip into outer space. No big whoop.” We’re only amazed by our powerful laptop computers or smart phones when they don’t work, or they don’t operate fast enough. That begs the question: what is incredible anymore? Is there anything left to amaze you anymore? Or even worse, have we lost a sense of the incredible when it comes to God? I’ll come back to that in a moment.
Our Gospel text tells the story of a deaf man brought to Jesus by some friends (vv 31–32). Remember over the last 2 weeks how Jesus had been arguing clean versus unclean with the Pharisees (7:1-23)? Well, as if to prove His point, Jesus took off for Phoenicia (Tyre/Sidon), then headed back into the Decapolis or the area of “10 cities.” Both of these regions are “unclean” to the Pharisees! These are all Gentile people – unclean and outside of God’s salvation…so the Pharisees thought.
With a word of command, Jesus heals the man; “Ephphatha…Be opened” (vv 34). And that is what happened! That’s incredible! His ears are completely opened. The man begins to speak plainly, which he had probably not done before in his life. The crowds who witness the miracle are said to be so amazed – they were “exceedingly astonished” in Greek; we might say they were “blown away” – and as a result they won’t stop talking about what they have seen Jesus do (vv 36–37).
How about you? Is Jesus still that incredible to you? Have the years dulled your sense of wonder and amazement and what God can do and does do every single day? In contrast to those who were there that day, we often seem to find it easy to keep our mouths shut about God. Are we no longer amazed by Him? And if so, why?
We seem to find it easier to talk about sports or the latest TV show or the weather or just about anything else than we do about the true God. How the Bucs will do on opening day or who are the best college football teams after week 1 and the latest Facebook posts are easy to talk about and they fill up a lot of our chatter. But what about the opportunities you have had in the last week to express your amazement and wonder at what God has done and is doing for you right now? In verse 32 the word for “speech impediment” is the word “mogilaloV.” That means to have a hard time talking and can also be translated “dull” or maybe even “blunt.”
Has your faith become dull? Rapid advancements and technology no longer blow us away. What seems incredible to you anymore? Has your sense of wonder and amazement at God become dull and blunt? Have you lost your ability (or desire) to love and forgive because you’re just so used to it?
“Pastor, how do I know if my faith is dull”? Well, does your conscience no longer bother you when you do wrong? Have you found a way to justify whatever you want to do or say? Has your word replaced God’s Word as authoritative in life? Has going to church, attending Bible study, or reading the Bible become a chore, that is, something that is easier to skip and not feel bad about? When our hearts are deaf to our incredible, amazing God, then it is no wonder our public witness is mute as well!
And my friends, if and when that happens, there is only one place to go. The deaf man’s friends didn’t take him to a bar or to the beach to feel better. They didn’t go to the mall or their favorite website. This deaf man’s friends brought him to Jesus, didn’t they? They pleaded for Jesus to lay hands on the man (7:32). Through His word of power, Jesus opens the man’s ears and loosens his tongue. While this may have happened more than 2000 years ago, it is still happening today! Our Lord still works in people’s lives through His Word! It’s not always “big” miracles; it’s the day-to-day incredible moments that keep our hearts and lips and lives open. That’s why you are encouraged to worship, to be in the Word in your daily devotion, to attend a Bible class or small group; it is only going to HELP your life!
Through His Word, Jesus speaks His powerful, life-changing “Be opened” to you and to your heart. With and through the Law, He exposes your spiritual deafness. With the Gospel, He tells the amazing account of His love for us in manger and a cross and an empty tomb. With that message, He is able to open your heart and thereby change your life. He makes your sin-dulled ears to hear clearly again the timeless truth and the Good News of His grace and love and forgiveness of sins. That’s incredible! It always has been…and always will be.
So…what incredible thing are WE going to do about what God does for us? In today’s Second Lesson, James wrote “ But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 ESV). How do people see and hear and read and perceive your faith? Does your life reflect God’s incredible love and grace?
In our text, the people were so amazed that, like the deaf man, their tongues were loosed and they couldn’t stop talking about what they had seen Jesus do. Even so can God amaze us, so that we can’t help talking about what Jesus has done. It is truly incredible what God is doing in our lives. The TV show “That’s Incredible” has been off the air for more than 30 years, but our confession of what is incredible never stops! “Ephphatha!” he says to you and me. He has opened your eyes and ears to be exceedingly amazed! May He always unloose your tongue so that YOU – yes YOU – can tell the world the incredible things He has done!