Tag Archives: Gospel of Mark

“Ephphatha” 09.09.2018 Sermon

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!”

Image result for front door home intercom buttonOut 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.Image result for syrophoenician woman

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.”

Be opened.

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.

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)Image result for ephphatha

“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.


Be opened.



“The Pangs of Predictions” 11.18.2012 Sermon

Mark 13:1-8 November 18, 2012

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

Wow! What a gospel reading to lead us into this week of Thanksgiving.

The 13th chapter of Mark’s gospel reminded me this week of the story of a young boy who woke up early in the morning of his birthday. He looked out his bedroom window and saw that a large pile of manure had been placed on the driveway of his house overnight. He didn’t know that his father was using the manure that day for fertilizer in the family’s backyard. The birthday boy excitedly jumped out of bed and ran out of the house, grabbed a shovel, and started frantically digging into the manure pile.

His buddy from next door saw him shoveling and came over to see what in the world his friend was doing. “What’s going on?” he asked.

To which the birthday boy responded enthusiastically, “I’m digging out my birthday present. With a manure pile this big, there has got to be a pony in here someplace.”

Which of course brings us to our gospel reading today. This chapter in Mark’s gospel is often referred to as Mark’s “little apocalypse”.

So I’ll honest right away. I’m not a fan of this kind of language or literature, but it is the gospel before us today. It’s sometimes called apocalyptic literature or an area of theological study known as eschatology – the study of the end times. For some reason, human beings for several thousand years have been, and I would argue continue to be, fascinated by this type of literature and thought. Predications of the future consume us. We want to know what the future holds. Not only what will happen later this week, but also what’s going to happen when the world does come to an end as we know it. And we want to know when. I’ve never understood why we want to know when. Is it so we can be ready or something?

Believe it or not, Jesus challenging words in today’s gospel, and the words of similar apocalyptic style writings in the Bible like the book of Daniel or Revelation, are in fact not predictions of the end of the world. For as long as apocalyptic literature has existed, we have skewed its meaning into something that has little to do with what it actually means. These texts often address political unrest during a specific time in history or oppression taking place in society. They’re not about the end of the world or predicting the return of Jesus.

The word apocalypse has little to do with destruction in the Hollywood movie – end of the world – winner take all – kind of destruction that we think will happen when the world ends – in whatever definition for the end of world that you want to use. Apocalypse actually means “to reveal” or “to uncover”. So, what might God be revealing or uncovering.

I think Jesus is inviting us, to stop digging. To stop digging for predictions that we think will tell us the future. To stop digging in the manure pile so to speak trying to find a new pony or a new temple. To stop digging for an answer to a problem that you are trying to fix by yourself instead of reaching out to someone for help. Just, stop digging.

Right before this conversation between Jesus and his disciples in today’s reading, Jesus has addressed issues of power, misplaced priorities, and justice – or rather the lack of justice. It’s been a busy and grueling few days.

Now – travel with me through time from this first century exchange outside the temple walls of Jerusalem to this day, right now, in the temple of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota. Think about all the things that you brought with you to worship in this temple that have caused you to be exhausted from digging. Not much has changed really, has it? Human beings like you and me still misplace our hope in grandiose temples that we build, or individuals that we place on thrones of power, or our never ending quests for more and more wealth, or celebrating the strength of one that defeats another. Life is still chaotic.

In spite of great scientific and social and technological advances over the past 20 centuries since Jesus walked the earth, millions of people still suffer from oppression and injustice, still live in poverty, and still suffer from great violence. If you’ve seen any news in the last week you know this to be true. Wars and rumors of war; famine and gruesome death; earthquakes and destructive storms continue.

I know I’ve been quoting Professor David Lose from Luther Seminary a lot recently, but he has been writing some really incredible things in the last few months. Here’s what Dr. Lose wrote this week in a reflection about our gospel reading this week. “We want to know when, we profess, so that we can be prepared, so that we can be ready. But perhaps that’s the point: we are invited to be ready all the time. We are not called simply to live our lives with no thought of God or neighbor but keenly looking for the sign of God’s imminent coming so that we can clean up our act. Rather, we are called to live always anticipating the activity of God.

We are called to live now, allowing the promises of God about the future to infuse our every present moment. Because when you live looking for the activity of God here and now, you begin to see it. God shows up in all kinds of places, working with us, for us, through us, and in us. You just have to look.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, take time to look this week. God is active today making all things new, giving us hope for tomorrow. Our gospel reading today speaks a word of truth and hope that you and I need to hear. And I’m not talking about terrifying predictions of the end of the world. I’m talking about Jesus words in verse 7. “Do not be alarmed.” Jesus says.

Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed when you hear of wars and rumors of wars.” What wars are raging in your life that only the peace of Jesus Christ can turn around?

Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed when nation rises against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” What kingdoms do you need to let fall right now in order for your world to be turned around by God and made new through his love for you?

Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed when there are earthquakes in various places and famines.” What earthquakes do you feel shaking your very being today? What hunger are you trying to fill by non-stop, frantic digging? Turn around. Come to the table. Be fed.

Do not be alarmed. Jesus Christ, your risen savior and Lord, is with you today and will be with you in every tomorrow. Amen.