Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor Day 2009

Sermon – Sept 6, 2009 – Christ Church Greenwich
Proper 18 year B (Mark 7:24-37)

This passage from Mark’s Gospel is a great text for us to look at
here on this beautiful Labor Day weekend?

I mean, we’ve got all the perfect Labor Day themes, if you think about it…
healing – restoration
a few surprises, we like surprises, don’t we – the good ones, anyway.
Fresh hopes and expectations for the coming year

And then what I think is really perfect…
is this -- we gain a very short but clear insight into some of Jesus’ work – his Labor for God.

Mark sets out for us - two of Jesus’ working miracle stories –
first, we are introduced to a very troubled parent, and my goodness who couldn’t identity with this poor frantic woman? even those of us without children, must know what it feels like to care for a loved one who faces serious health issues.

This mother is prepared to do anything in the world for her mentally challenged little girl. She is doing what every good mother or father does for their kids…help when there is a need. But unfortunately, this little girl has worn her mom down, with these relentless, unexplained issues. Anyone living with or aware of someone with Autism today can identify with this mother. She and her daughter are both at the end of their ropes, if ever there was a need for a saving miracle, this was the child.

Then next in Mark’s story he shifts our attention to a second miracle – this time for a much older person. A man who has throughout most of his adult years slowly, but surely lost his hearing. He was frustrated…angry in some ways, I would imagine. Bet some of you can, connect here too. Vision and/or hearing challenges…are no fun.

Well, this guy’s family I am sure and many others must have tried everything to help him regain connection…communication with the larger world. But the day in and day out care for him, like the mother earlier, has worn them all down. He can’t see or speak clearly and they are tired of caring for him. “something has got to give….”
My brothers and I know what that is like right now as we try to care for our failing 86 year old mother…it’s hard.

Well, presumably for Jesus, none of this is new for him. He has seen it all before and then some. Jesus must have encountered hundreds, if not thousands of people just like you and me, caring for our failing parents, people who actually live with significant health issues. The mental, emotional and physical strain on human beings can be enormous at times, can’t it??

But on this occasion in Mark’s story, I suspect Jesus was actually looking forward to his Labor Day weekend..away from all this. He was tired.

He was tired of walking, preaching, healing, eating, traveling around this whole region of Tyre –
and if you sign up for the exciting new trip to the Holy Land with Jim/Rabbi Mitch in February,
you can see first hand that this same area where he walked in the north country of Galilee.
It’s beautiful, very hilly, and certainly hot most of the year.

But down by the lakeside in Galilee, I found it to be much cooler there in the evening…
more olive and cedar trees to provide shade.

Nevertheless, Jesus’ work continued…he moves on and the locals brought him this man who had hearing and speech issues. And what Jesus said to this man is remarkable -- here in this Gospel reading we encounter one of the most amazing words in all of the Bible – it is Aramaic, but our English word sounds like this “Ephphatha”

Actually, the Church’s whole tradition around baptism and our full sweep of Christian initiation are captured right here in this single word. “Ephphatha!,”

Priests in the early church said this to each person being baptized. The presiding minister at baptism would blow on the ears, nose, mouth and eyes of the new person in Christ. And simply say -- “Be opened!”

This was the first word heard after coming up from the waters of their salvation: “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”

Amazing, the power of these words,
for the man presented to Jesus so long ago,
and now for you and me right here this morning.

God says to each and every person in this room – Ephphathal – be open and live.
Live with God fully and completely aware that we are not perfect,
but confident that we are always forgiven and resurrected.

In Baptism, we are empowered for ministry
and every day we draw a breath,
we are transformed and renewed to begin again.
This bread and wine remind us of God’s loving presence.

So, our task on this Labor Day weekend is this – listen for God’s words.
Listen very quietly and prayerfully…
because when we do,
somehow and in some miraculous way,
God says
Ephphata – Be opened…
Be healed,
Be alive in Christ, forever!

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