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"O Lord, open Thou my lips"

Mark 7:31-37

Rev. Alan Taylor

Pentecost 15, Proper 18, series B
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, Sep 6, 2015 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It was an ordinary day.  By His incarnation Jesus entered into the devil’s domain.  Consequently, through His ministry He continually encountered people who were bound with all sorts of afflictions.  Some couldn’t see.  Some couldn’t hear.  Some couldn’t speak and some couldn’t walk.  With a heart filled with compassion, Jesus looked to heaven and sighed, not, mind you, in hopelessness, but in sorrow over the mess the devil had made of God’s good creation.

Unlike Jesus, the devil sees human suffering in a cold and dispassionate manner and he rejoices over the havoc he inflicted on God’s creation.  Where suffering abounds he gains a brief and shallow quenching of his otherwise insatiable thirst, for it’s been said, “the devil thirsts for the tears of the righteous.”

It was just such an ordinary day when Jesus arrived at the region of Decapolis, that is, the region of the ten cities near the Sea of Galilee.  Some people brought to Him a man “who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.”

What joy the devil must have derived from the man’s suffering.  He couldn’t hear anything and, if he could speak at all, it was with a great deal of difficulty.  His condition left him unable to hear the word of God and to sing God’s praise in response to it.  He was locked up, if you will, in a world of silence and the key to his freedom had seemingly been thrown away, leaving him without the hope of a new day, a day in which he might sing God’s praise.

Jesus didn’t enter the devil’s domain though to simply intrude as some sort of a pesky thorn in the devil’s side.  Rather, He did so to conquer the devil, to leave him impishly weak, craving, as it were, those tears that would no longer satisfy his morbid thirst.  Consequently, while the devil looked on in horror, Jesus took away the impediment in the man’s tongue and he opened his ears.  “Ephphatha!” He said.  “Be opened!” And the man could hear and speak. 

Hopefully you see in this miracle a parallel with other miracles in Scripture where God spoke and the deed was done.  For instance, by His word God created the heavens and the earth.  By His word He calmed the sea.  By His word He cast out demons.  And by His word He opened the ears and mouth of this man who was locked up in a world of silence.  When Jesus spoke and the miracle was done, we are told, “(the people) were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.””

There is another parallel though to this miracle we dare not miss.  This one is between the man’s inability to hear and speak and the condition that afflicts all of us when it comes to God’s Word.  Jesus often addressed that condition with the phrase, “he who has ears to hear let him hear.” He used that phrase particularly when He taught in parables.  The inference was pretty clear.  You could be hearing, that is, you could be a person with your sense of hearing fully in tact, and still not be able hear the message Jesus preached.  And the fault didn’t lie with the message either.  Rather, the fault lies with us, who, too often, refuse to hear. 

In the end, an inability to hear the Gospel of God’s redeeming grace in Christ isn’t really an ear problem.  It’s a heart problem.  As the Scriptures say, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’” In a way, you could say every one of us is born into this world with heart disease, a disease that causes us to close our ears to the word of God.

There is good news, however, in this case.  Just as Jesus shook up the devil’s kingdom in His earthly ministry, opening ears and tongues to hear and sing the praise of God, He does the same thing today.  His word of grace and forgiveness is proclaimed along with the admonition, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” We recognize our inability to hear, even as we recognize our unwillingness to listen.  And yes, we recognize our warped desire to critique and question what God tells us.  It’s not really an ear problem that afflicts us.  It’s a heart problem. 

But, that room, wherein you were locked away from the will and ways of God, was opened.  Your heart was enlightened with the gift of faith, faith in the crucified and risen Christ.  God’s word, which accomplishes the very thing of which it speaks, had its way with your heart.  You saw the light of day for the first time and you heard the sounds of redemption as they came from the lips of the crucified and risen Lord.  “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” “I have bought you with a price.  You are mine.”

God makes the unwilling willing.  He turned your heart of stone into a heart of flesh.  He awakened you to your sin and He directed your thirsting soul to the river of life.  As you have often sung during the distribution of Holy Communion, “on sin parched lips the chalice pours the quenching blood that life restores.” And you begin to speak of things you never desired before.  Yes, “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.”

With ears that now hear, your heart and lips cannot but sing the praise of God, who bought you with price, who loved you unto death, even death on a cross.  “O Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.” Those words are probably pretty familiar to you.  The Orders of Matins and Vespers, the morning and evening services of the Church, begin with that very phrase.  As a child of God you sing those words recognizing that you are completely unable to “sing God’s praise,” to worship Him, to follow Him, to love Him, apart from His opening your lips.  You see, what went along with your deafness, your inability to hear, is dumbness, your inability to sing the praise of the Almighty.

“Ephaphtha,” Jesus says.  “Be opened.”

Praise, all you people, the name so holy

Of Him who does such wondrous things!

All that has being, to praise Him solely,

With happy heart its amen sings.

Children of God, with angel host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! 

Alleluia!

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +





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