This Sunday’s sermon at Holston View UMC in Weber City, Va., will be “Demons and Deafness.” It will be based on Mark 7:24-37. If you want to view the sermon but cannot be present, the entire worship service will be available through Holston View UMC’s web page.
Today’s preparatory text: Mark 7:32-35 (NRSV)
A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.
Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!
By Chuck Griffin
You’re most likely reading this on the internet in some fashion, through Facebook, email or directly on the Methodist Life site. If you’re like me, this is not always the most conducive environment for slowing down and spending time with God.
A computer or smartphone can buzz with activity. Other windows, apps or browser tabs may be open, streaming music or television. Little pop-ups may be appearing and disappearing, telling you “important email” or alerting you to an incoming text or instant message.
Try something before you read any further. What you’ll experience is really important as we look at today’s text. Find a way to sit in silence, even if just briefly—say, five minutes. It helps to take some deep breaths.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
My premise today is a simple one. We are like the deaf man in our story in Mark. We’re just deaf for a different reason. He had a physical problem. We have an environmental problem that causes spiritual deafness.
Something had stopped up his ears. Perhaps it was a disease. Perhaps it was a head injury. He began to speak as soon as he was healed, so he apparently remembered sound and speech. But at some point in his life, the sound had no longer come in and intelligible words had stopped coming out.
The cure was not a simple one, not even for Jesus the miracle worker. This was no time for a spectacle. Jesus pulled the man aside to a private place. (It strikes me that the deaf man must have had little understanding of what was going on; he had to trust Jesus.)
Put your pandemic-induced anxieties aside for a moment and imagine what it would feel like to have Jesus stick his fingers in your ears. Imagine what it would be like to have him take his spit and put it on your tongue.
Imagine what it would be like to have Jesus pray for you in the common Aramaic his very common followers spoke, a prayer so deep that it comes out in a groaning command: Ephphatha. Open up!
When it comes to hearing Jesus, to really hearing what God has to say to us, we’re stopped up, too. The world is in our ears. We’re clogged with work, sport and school schedules, with plans, with worries, with diversions like television and video games. We’re so stopped up that we’re in danger of remaining deaf to God’s continuing call on our lives until the day we die.
This deafness also makes us spiritually mute. How can we declare what we have not recently heard?
May we go to private places with Jesus long enough that our ears be unstopped. May we hear his message well. And may we declare the message of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior with great excitement.
Dear Lord, give us the same healing command: Ephphatha!