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Oct 28 2012

Reflections on The Way

Mark 7:24-8:10

There is quite a bit of history that brings us to where we are. Jesus and his disciples have been on an extended journey in the gospel narrative this fall, and recently the shape of the whole enterprise has taken on new dimensions. They left the familiar confines of home, traveling to Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, foreign territory, and it was there that the Syrophoenician woman’s humanity not only touched Jesus but appeared to change his way of being, and his understanding of his own mission and purpose. In other words, God’s power to make us “whole” is at work on the healer as well as the healed. From there Jesus led his disciples on another initially uncomfortable journey, all the way over to what was the “other side of the world” to them, to the Decapolis, where Jesus tended to a man who had a “dullness of hearing” and could “hardly speak”. Jesus touched the man’s ears, entering into his deafness. He spit, and touched the man’s tongue with his own ability to speak the language of love. “Be opened”, Jesus had said (even as he himself had “been opened” in his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman). “Immediately, his ears were opened, and his tongue was released, and he spoke clearly.” Jesus’ followers erupted with praise — “Our Lord is so excellent; look at how he can heal people like these!” Yet it did not yet occur to them, consciously at least, that it was their hearts Jesus was softening and reshaping on this journey, their ears he was opening, their tongues he was releasing to share words of affirmation; their way of being that he was making new.

So it is with us on this journey together, in a holy enterprise and mission that we have historically called “church”, and which we often refer to at St. Andrew’s as “faith community”. It is a path of transformation.

Immediately after Jesus’ power of love opens and releases the man for new life, Jesus calls together a great crowd of hungry people for the feeding of the 4000. It is a massive communion meal for “outsiders” — people who have never “belonged”. Imagine the impact. Jesus was changing the world — expanding God’s people, and the image of God realized in them. Setting a larger table of inclusion. And healing the sight of his closest followers, too!

“Who do you say that I am?”, Jesus asked his disciples. Peter, who had obviously been an exemplary student in Sunday School, shouted, “You’re the Messiah, the Christ!” But the ensuing stories indicated that he was only beginning to understand what that title meant.

Many of you, dear friends, have been able to say with Peter, “Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ”, ever since you were very young. But your experience of what that name means has changed, grown, as your heart has been reshaped in ways ever-new, as your ears have been opened to listen and receive, as your tongue has been empowered with inspired language of love, and your eyes enabled to see God’s realm in our very midst. Your confession of faith is something that others receive as they receive you. Your answer to Jesus’ question — Who do you say that I am? — is not only a statement of who Jesus is; it is also a deep and rich expression of who you are, who we are together, and who we will yet be.

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