Mark 7:24-37 • September 9, 2018
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.
At the end of their fourth date, a young man takes his favorite girl home. Inspired by the amazing night they had just experienced – a romantic dinner at Dairy Queen followed by an even more romantic movie starring Adam Sandler – he decides to try for that all important first kiss.
Confidently, he leans his hand against the wall of the house on the girl’s front porch, smiling, he says to her, “How about a goodnight kiss?”
Horrified, she replies, “Are you crazy? My parents will see us!”
“Oh come on!” He says, “Who’s gonna see us at this hour?”
“No, please,” she says, “Can you imagine if we get caught?”
“Oh come on, “he persists, “there’s nobody around, they’re all sleeping!”
“No way,” she says, “It’s just too risky!”
“Oh, please,” he continues, “please, I like you so much!”
“No, no, and no. I like you to, but I just can’t!”
Out of the blue, the porch light goes on, and the girl’s sister shows up in her pajamas, hair disheveled. In a sleepy voice her sister says: “Dad says to go ahead and give him a kiss. Or I can do it. Or if need be, he’ll come down himself and do it. But for crying out loud, tell your boyfriend to take his hand off the intercom button!”
In last week’s gospel, Jesus proclaimed all foods clean and challenged his followers – then and today – to take a good hard look at the filth we carry inside. “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:” is what Jesus said to us.
So…today we have two of the great healing stories in Mark’s gospel. And actually, the second one is only found in Mark’s gospel.
In the first of these healing stories, Jesus says to a woman with a daughter in need of healing “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
The children he is referring to are the people of Israel.
The dogs he’s referring to are the Gentiles, like this Syrophoenician woman.
Wait a minute, didn’t Jesus just do what he told us not to do – defile someone with what came out of him? Even in Jesus’ day, it was quite insulting to call someone a dog.
We can probably cut Jesus a little slack here. He’s maybe a bit off his game. He is desperately trying to get away from everyone pushing in on him, requiring his time and energy. He just needs a day off, even an afternoon free of responsibility. Just a little bit of time to rest. And out of nowhere, he’s bothered by another person needing his attention. And this time it’s a person needing his attention who is not even in his circle of friends or part of the Jewish community. Why in the world should he take the time to be bothered by this outsider – she’s a woman and a Gentile woman at that.
One of the core elements of Christian theology – not just Lutheran theology – is that Jesus is human and divine at the same time. He is 100% of both. 100% divine, the holy son of God. And at the exact same time, Jesus is 100% human, born of the Virgin Mary, a human mother.
I think that’s part of the reason why the author of the gospel of Mark wants us to hear these stories of Jesus’ healing a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter and a deaf and mute man in the Decapolis. The woman helps Jesus see his own humanity. And in doing that, she helps him more deeply discover his divinity. Which brings healing to her daughter, to the man and ultimately to all of God’s creation.
Because Jesus is the savior of the world, situations that seemed completely hopeless, now have hope.
The daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit. A human Jesus wouldn’t have given this woman a second glance. After all – she’s an outsider in every way imaginable – gender, race, national origin, religious background, family lineage, etc. etc.
A divine Jesus doesn’t care about any of those things.
The Jesus that you and I claim to know about and believe in will not let stereotypes or walls or anything else that humans use to divide, separate us from his healing. A Gentile woman – a woman from outside Jesus’ known communities– helps him see that. And healing takes place.
After Jesus’ encounter with this woman in the region of Tyre, he returns closer to more familiar territory. He barely has time to say hi to the neighbors before a deaf and mute man is brought to him for healing. Lay your hands on him and heal him, they beg.
Jesus, no longer needing to be reminded of his divinity takes the man aside in private, looks up to heaven knowing full well now that his power comes from God the Father working through him and says “Ephphatha.”
And the man’s ears are opened and his speech is restored.
But, you might be saying, these healing stories are all fine and good pastor, but I’m not Jesus. I can spit with the best of them and stick my fingers in someone’s ears until the end of time and no healing will come from me.
To which I will always respond, yep.
But as the God of all creation works through you, I believe healing can, will, and does happen each and every day. Through you. Through me.
Be opened to the truth that God isn’t done with you yet.
Be opened to the destabilizing wisdom of people who are nothing like you.
Be opened to the voice of God speaking from places you consider unholy.
Be opened to the widening of the table.
Be opened to Good News that stretches your capacity to love.
Be opened. (www.journeywithjesus.net/essays/1907-be-opened)
“Our faith can transform the world and challenge us to leave our comfort zones behind.” is how one pastor describes these healing stories in Mark’s gospel. (Bruce Epperly, Healing Marks: Spirituality and Healing in Mark’s Gospel)
And another pastor challenges us even further by reminding us that, “Jesus, truly human and truly divine, brings with him truth of the coming of God’s new kingdom. Its unfolding brings healing and freedom not only to a specific people in a specific time and place, but to all people.” (Rev. Charles Cowen, www.modermetanoia.or/2018/08/27/proper-18b-humility-and-jesus/)
Ephphatha. Be opened. That’s exactly what the blessing we will receive and share at the end of our worship today is calling us to do and be on this God’s work our hands weekend.
So brothers and sisters in Christ, its ok if we lean against the intercom button once in a while. In fact, to be honest, I wish we would do that more often than we actually do.
Lean against the intercom button and wake the whole house, wake the whole neighborhood for that matter with the love of Christ Jesus.
Lean against the intercom button with the good news of walls being torn down and human divisions being healed with the kiss of God’s unending and unconditional love for all of God’s children through the life, death, and resurrection of the savior of the world Jesus the Christ. That’s why we are here today. And that’s what we are being sent to do with everyone we meet this week wherever God happens to place us.