Sunday, September 10, 2006

Gracious Transformations

Proper 18B/Ordinary 23B/Pentecost 14B | September 10, 2006
Mark 7:31-37 The Message

31-35 Then Jesus left the region of Tyre, went through Sidon back to Galilee Lake and over to the district of the Decapolis, or Ten Towns. Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man's ears and some spit on the man's tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, "Ephphatha!—Open up!" And it happened. The man's hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.

36-37 Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. "He has done everything well for us; Jesus gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless."

Isaiah 35:1-2a; 5-7 NRSV

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2a it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert!
Sermon Title: Gracious Transformations

What a story we just heard! What vivid images we just saw! About us and about God; about the surprise of grace—God's unmediated, wonderful action in our lives and about the many transformations we and all creation experience from God's grace. Both of these stories are about life basics, too: a healthy environment and community, which typically works the best when people can – and do – communicate. These stores are about transformations from incomplete to complete; brokenness to wholeness and integrity; neediness to fulfillment. They're about God's love and passion for all creation, for each of us. About the here and now – yes; and about God's long-run-long-term provision.

These scriptures are about our mutual need and creation's need. Here in San Diego we know about deserts and oceans and we're increasingly aware of our responsibility to care for our environment and how much healthy surroundings contribute to our total well being. We know our urban environment outside these doors needs to be kept well in order for us to be in good health. It almost seems as if we're supposed to be needy and incomplete so we will need each other and desire community as well as desiring God's presence. Of course, we know there's always a lot of room for change and growth and space for transformation in all of our lives!

We just heard from the Gospel according to Mark. Even before the gospels in the New Testament, gospel originally meant Good News, as it still does for us; a "gospel" was political good news, meaning Good News for the People! We know the Gospel of Jesus Christ as spiritual, heavenly and eternal; the gospel also is physical, earthly and temporal. This Good News of Jesus Christ is something you can touch and feel, you can see and hear, smell and then taste!

Just as in this narrative from Mark, "some people" who already knew Jesus taking the guy and leading him to Jesus is our story, or it can become our story, as we who already know Jesus tell others about him and lead them to him. Here to church, to Bible study and where else can they learn about Jesus?

The Bible tells us we are created in God's image, which is a multi-faceted, multi dimensional one. That Image of God includes love, creativity, community and will, and in the texts we're talking about we, discovered God's first passion and response is for creation's needs, so caring for creation and for each other is part of the Divine Image in which we are created and in which we need to act. We can listen to each other and talk to each other, about their lives and their needs, and not just spiritual, church, scripture stuff. Just like God does for us! We can try our best to understand. Bring people to church, lead them to Bible study—show them the ways to Jesus. Just like in the story we heard, no one of us is self sufficient, and basic needs get better met in community.

What a story about Jesus we just heard, and we've seen images of a blooming desert singing and rejoicing, too! In the story Jesus tells the people to keep quiet, to tell no one about what they're seen and experienced. But after all, this narrative is about a guy who once was deaf and speechless receiving gifts of hearing and clear speech—they probably knew about singing desert in bloom, too! So they couldn't not tell the world and everyone they knew and met. After all again, these people had seem some spectacular happenings and miracles! But Jesus charged them to tell no one, because he knew these miracles and wonders were just a beginning: "you ain't seen nothing yet!" Easter's on its way; resurrection from the dead!

Of the four gospels we know from the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Mark's is the shortest and in many ways moves most quickly and most directly. Mark included no birth narrative but begins with the public ministry Jesus initiated at the age of thirty. In his gospel, Mark concentrates on Jesus' moving toward Jerusalem and toward the cross of Good Friday, so the signs and wonders are almost the least of it: Easter's coming!

Despite the limitations and frequent pain and disappointments all of us have experienced, we've all known and experienced hints and foretastes of Easter's transforming power, Easter newness, hints and foreshadowing of the life we'll eventually know when we're living in God's presence forever. How can we not tell the story! How can we be silent?

I'd like to conclude with a poem by Pastor Brian Wren, who's from the United Kingdom and currently teaches at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia.
Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna!

Christ is risen! Shout hosanna! Celebrate this day of days!
Christ is risen! Hush in wonder: all creation is amazed.
In the desert all—surrounding, see, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding bring a taste of love unknown.

Christ is risen!Raise your spirits from the caverns of despair.
Walk with gladness in the morning; see what love can do and dare.
Drink the wine of resurrection—not a servant but a friend;
Jesus is our strong companion; joy and peace shall never end.

Christ is risen! Earth and heaven nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus: "Christ is risen! Get you gone!"
God the first and last is with us; sing hosanna, everyone!

...Brian Wren...
Christ is risen! How can we be silent! Tell the story of Jesus to everyone you meet; invite them to church; invite them here; drag them to Bible study. Jesus Christ is alive and with us here and now!

To God alone be glory!


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