Sermon For Trinity 15 Yr B 2018
All of us love to be noticed, to be recognised, to be understood, and to be loved. We actually need this.
True enough there are times when we want to be able to blend into the background, and to pretend we are not there. It is sometimes not nice at all to be drawn out when you would rather be inconspicuous.
But to be loved and recognised for the person we are is, I think, a basic and important human need.
Today in the gospel reading we see an interesting exchange between a woman from Syrophenicia and Jesus. It would appear that Jesus reacted to her very badly… we might want to say out of character. He was acting in what today would be described as a racist way… not something we wold in any way condone.
Yet the woman answers calmly and realistically and Jesus recognises the positive response and her daughter is healed… drawn into that place of loving and acceptance, and in drawing the daughter in to this place the mother herself is of course also included and drawn in.
Heading on to another notorious region, the Decapolis, Jesus encounters a deaf man who had a speech impediment.
There are various curious parts to this story of healing, including of course the seemingly unseemly method of healing by sticking his fingers in his ears and then touching his tongue… but the one thing that stands out to everyone who reads this story is the word “Ephphatha” .
The word is equally odd in the Greek as in the English… a bit of a tongue twister … pun intended!
It is quite interesting to note that Mark uses the Aramaic word spoken by Jesus… his mother tongue if you like on a number of significant moments.
We hear Mark using Aramaic words here when healing this man in today’s gospel,
When he is talking about prayer and teaching his disciples how to pray “Abba”
When he is on the cross speaking to his Father in agony “Eloi Eloi Lama sabacthani”
And when he is raising a little girl from her death bed with the words “Talitha Koum” (Little girl get up)
It is noticeable that in each case they are moments of intimacy and closeness. There is something significantly personal going on.
They are private and not public moments… even if others seem to be able to overhear.
So today we are drawn into a private encounter an intimate moment and we are allowed to hear the word spoken “Be opened”
Many commentators ask the question about this and similar passages, how are we the hearer also hearing the words spoken as if to us… in other words we also hear Jesus speaking as if to us “Be opened”.
Furthermore this would be Jesus as if it were speaking quite privately to us and intimately… “be opened”.
I know when I stop for a moment and get into that space and hear Jesus speaking to me “Be opened” I know what it is I am keeping “closed”.
I may be able to speak and I can usually hear too… but I know there are things “closed” which need the recognition and healing to be “opened”.
We have then encountered today a private moment with Jesus… a time set aside from the crowds when we come face to face so to speak and are invited to hear Jesus and to be recognised by Jesus for who we are. A moment when we can deep down beginning to feel the Love surging towards and through us.
It is intimate enough even perhaps to feel the fingers in our ears and the touch on our tongue… very personal stuff. And lets not forget Jesus uses his spit too!! (A little gross to our sensitive ears?) (
The word Ephphatha occurs elsewhere in the gospels too, notably again on the Road to Emmaus (another private encounter as it happens) and the disciple eyes are opened as they recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread, and in the Acts of the Apostles Lydia’s heart was opened to hear the good news of Gods loving call and acceptance before she then went on to invite Paul into her own home.
We might therefor be able to suggest that this word “Ephphatha” ..“Be opened”… is the heart of the message of Jesus both to his early disciples and to us.
Jesus takes us aside to the place we can hear intimately him saying to us “Be opened” and in this we are enabled to live our relationship with God and with others more fully…