Series B                                               Pentecost XV              September 9, 2012

Isaiah 35:4-7a        James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17         Mark 7:24-37


The scriptures’ purpose are to help us understand the reasons for Jesus’ presence on earth.  For ages the world had sought salvation and healing according to human wisdom.  Jesus challenged not only the human way to salvation but also the human criteria for salvation and healing.  When he gave hearing and speech to the deaf man with the speech impediment, the human response was to comment on the good job he had done: “He has done everything well”.  Physical healing was the human stand­ard of perfection in that day, and Jesus must be pretty special if he can heal people.  But Jesus did not want the praise of the crowd.  He didn’t heal people to get noticed.  Every word and action speaks of the kingdom of God, which is now present for all nations and all peoples.  Jesus does not heal people to prove the kingdom or to demonstrate the kingdom; he heals because God’s kingdom IS healing and life for all people.  Paradoxi­cally, the more Jesus asks them not to mention his miracles, the more they spread the word.  The public and the private Jesus become all mixed together as he brings God to the people in a word and a touch.  He does not do anything to amaze or impress; yet his actions are so amazing and impressive that the people cannot keep quiet about them.   “He has done everything well…..” are not words Jesus longs to hear.  He did not set out to do anything “well”, because he did not seek recognition.  He simply set about doing the work that was needed to be done.  For Jesus, that was enough.

But people wanted perfection, and still do today.  Money and power are today’s world’s view of perfection.  When you do things well you get rich and powerful.  When you don’t you go broke.  That is how the world views perfection.  In God’s eyes, the world does not need to be made perfect for it is already complete and sufficient.  When God created it, He created it that way.  His final words were….”It was very good.”  So God’s wisdom, and God’s comfort have always been present and available in the world.  It is human greed that leads to our inability to distribute effectively the material resources of this planet.  It is human wisdom that believes being deaf is not perfect.  Human wisdom creates human definitions for disease, peace, justice, morality and truth: you just have to be watching all the political adds on T.V. to understand how these things can be manipulated by human wisdom.

Jesus performed miracles, not to make the world perfect.  The miracles of Jesus, showed the power of God to create and transform, and that this creating power is the hallmark of God’s kingdom.  Jesus did not do it to affirm some human concept of wellness or perfection. 

So Jesus tells the people healed to be silent.  He knew how dangerous such knowledge of power was for persons without faith.  His miracles were not intended to create faith, but comprise a response to faith that is in tune with God’s will.

Just look at how well mankind manages the forms of power it now has at its disposal.  Atomic energy has the potential for great things.  In medicine and construction, it is unparalleled.  Originally harnessed as an economical means of attaining unlimited and cheap electrical energy, it is also used as a weapon of mass destruction.  The camera provides lasting memories with the power to record history.  Man also uses the camera to destroy lives literally and figuratively, just ask Prince Harry about his vacation pictures in Las Vegas.  If man could harness the power of God, what would we do with it? 

  The faithless person has no use for the church, religion, or God, un­less he can use it to serve his own ends.  For the Christian the difference between believing in God and Jesus and not believing is like the conver­sation between two Taoist philosophers who were arguing with one another.

Said one to the other, “I have a tree that is very large but useless.  The branches and limbs are so twisted that no carpenter can cut them into lumber.  No builder will buy it.  Your teachings are the same — elaborate but useless.  Therefore, no one pays attention to them.”

The second replied, “A cat is skilled at catching mice.  It can crouch low and leap in any direction.  But when its attention is focused on its prey, it can easily be caught with a net.  On the other hand, a huge Yak cannot be caught.  Large and powerful, it stands like stone.  Yet, for all its strength, it cannot catch a mouse.

“You complain that your tree is not useful for lumber, but you can use the shade it provides, rest under its sheltering branches, and stroll beneath it, admiring its character and appearance.  It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.”

It all has to do with our perception.  The people who praised Jesus and remarked how well he had done also hung him on a cross.  Those who witnessed his power could not use it for their own purpose, so they perceived Jesus as useless.

Our message is not miracles.  Our message has to do with light in darkness, truth amid lies, a word in the silence.  Those things are greater than miracles.  Three different people can look at Jesus: one will see only a crucified criminal, another will see only a teacher and healer.  The third will see a savior.

Who is blind … mute … deaf?  It was to force that question that Jesus did not, in fact, heal every sick person he met.  Have you met him?  Have you faced that question in yourself?  Have you sought perfection and missed Christ?  Beware your perception.  We often see only what we want to see.  And the problem is not with Christ, but in us.  The power of God is with us.  Are we seeing it for what it is, or are we more interested in what we could make of that power if it were ours to control?

Jesus says to the deaf man “Ephphatha”, which means “be opened”.  We need to be opened to what God can make happen in our lives, in our congregation.  Things are changing in the next couple weeks.  Try to see what God will do with what will be different.  Be opened to what God can do within those changes, and with you.  God may be moving you in a whole different direction than you think you want to go.  Be opened to what God can make possible, for the power of God is here …, not for us to control, but for us to be saved!