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God uses sign language

Mark 7:31-37

Pastor David Ernst

12th Sunday after Trinity
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Aug 30, 2009
13th S. a. Pentecost

Do you know someone who cannot hear or talk? It's difficult to communicate with such a person, isn't it? How can we do it? With gestures, hand signals. That's why there is a language called "sign".

The saddest thing about a person not being able to hear or talk is that they cannot listen to the Gospel and then share it with others. How precious is the Good News of Jesus Christ! Our Lord fufilled the demands of God's Law, suffered the punishment for our sins on the cross, and in His resurrection gained for us the victory over the devil, the world and death itself!

But how do we know this Good News? Through the Bible, the written Word of God. The Bible is God's testimony to us, the revelation of His will, the message of freedom from sin. God has commanded the preaching of the Bible. Many times our Lord Jesus Christ said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." And when the apostles Peter and John were arrested for preaching the Word, they said, "We cannot stop talking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

But what if we cannot hear the Word preached or talk about ? Thanks be to God, there are no limits on what He can do. In one sense, we all are deaf to the Word, because the Bible was not written in our native language, but rather in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. But God in His mercy has raised up servants to translate the Bible into every language in the world.

Futhermore, God uses sign language. In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus took the deaf-mute man away from the rest of the crows. Our Lord had a special message for him in the language that the deaf-mute could understand, the gestures of the hand. Jesus touched him on the ears and lips. Why? To communicate to the deaf-mute that God loved him and knew of his affliction. And, in His compassion, Jesus healed his infirmity.

We know that Jesus had the power to cure sickness without making signs with His hands or even looking upon the sick person. God does not need to use physical means to accomplish His will. The book of Genesis says that in the beginning, God said, "Let there be light!" and there was light. However, at times God does use what He has created to do His will.

We do not understand why God simply does not heal all the sick people in the world with just a word. But, we give thanks that God has given us means to maintain good health and cure sickness: doctors, nurses and medicine. God works by means of these things to help us in our times of illness. And when all the doctors' work does not seem to be enough, we still have the faith in God. So we always pray for the restoration of health for the sick because we have the promise that God will hear our prayers.

We may not dictate in what manner God may respond to our petitions, but we may be sure that He will respond in wisdom and mercy for our own good.

God also does not talk only through the preaching of His written Word, but also in a type of sign language for all of us. That would be through the means of grace, or the sacraments. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper have their visible elements through which the Holy Spýrit works together with the Word of God.

We receive the gift of faith in baptism through water and the Word. When the pastor touches a baby with water, the baby does not need to understand the words at that moment, because the promise is forever. In the Lord's Supper we receive the forgiveness of sins and the body and blood of Christ in, with and under the bread and wine. We do not have to understand this mystery of faith completely, only trust in the mercy of God.

Let us give thanks once again that the forgiveness of sins and gift of faith do not depend on our own strength and reason, but rather on the power and promise of God. Amen.

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