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Aug 28 2015

Be Opened

Then looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said to the man, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened”.
— Mark 7:34

“Be opened”. This is Jesus’ prayer on behalf of God’s beloved; it is his gift to those whose lives have been stifled and closed; it is even Jesus’ personal experience!

A man described as having a “dullness of hearing” and “difficulty speaking” is brought to Jesus. The people bringing the man beg Jesus to lay his hand on him. Jesus responds, taking the man aside and attending to him with great respect. Taking care, he touches the man’s ears, entering into his deafness with God’s power to hear. He spits, and touches the man’s tongue. It is as though Jesus is gifting the man with his own ability to speak! Then looking up into heaven, Jesus sighs, and speaking to the man he says, “Be opened”. And immediately, his ears were opened, and his tongue was released, and he spoke clearly (Mark 7:34-35). His disciples are roused, but Jesus orders them not to tell anyone yet; rather, it is time to sit and consider the depth of what they have just been a part of.

This is a powerful story about Jesus’ commitment to improve our capacity to hear the stories of others and to be able to offer our own honest, life-giving speech to a world parched of it. He opens whatever has been our deafness; he releases our tongues for expressions of testimony and love!

September 6th is Faith Formation Sunday, a celebration of our ministry of Christian Education and a thanksgiving that God has entrusted us this way. One of the key elements of our mission is learning and teaching the stories that illuminate our lives. Christianity is a faith filled with storytelling, and the first Sunday in September does not disappoint!

If you read the story for yourself you will realize that before Jesus compassionately opens the man’s ears and releases his tongue for blessing, Jesus himself gets “opened”. He is in Tyre, foreign territory for Jesus and his disciples. A woman whose little daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit comes and begs Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. But she is Syrophoenician, and she and her daughter have not traditionally been considered children of God’s promise. “You’ll have to get to the end of the line”, Jesus tells her. He compares her to a yapping dog.

But the woman stands her ground with the Lord. She says, in essence, “I have heard the substance of your gospel. You are not hidden from me, or my daughter, even if you are having trouble seeing and hearing us. My tongue is released, so I will speak to you clearly. Even if we are at the end of the line, my daughter is worthy of the crumbs of God’ grace. She is a child of God, too, even if I have to help you see it”. Wow! It is as though the woman is looking up to heaven, sighing, and then saying to Jesus, “Ephphatha”. And thankfully, our Lord is willing to receive what she has for him. My friend Lynice says that, because of this woman and her daughter, “Jesus learns something that changes who he is and his understanding of what God has sent him to do!” It is as though Jesus has a “come to Jesus” moment! The blessing will overflow into the life of the man who will yet come.

And so, as Faith Formation Sunday and Rally Day approach, I want to emphasize that our learning about God’s saving, boundless love can and will change our experiences of who we are and of what God is calling us to do. In our Sunday School this year we will “dive deep” into the stories, teaching our children lessons that hold power to open their lives. And our lives, too.

 

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