By Pastor Pete Grassow
Can You Hear It?
It is the Labor day weekend……
And so much has happened: fires on the west coast and storms on the east coast,,
And children going back to school!
So what is the word from the Spirit of God for today?
Using the reading set for today: Mark Chapter 7 – a man who is given the gift of hearing….am reminded that there are so many voices clamoring for our attention: and we all need the gift of hearing the Spirit.
An introduction to the reading:
Jesus has moved north – away from the Sea of Galilee – into the territory of foreigners. Last week I spoke of the Greek speaking woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter – in Tyre. Jesus now wants to return to the Sea of Galilee – but cannot take a straight line: there is a mountain (Mt. Meron) standing nearly 4,000 feet high directly between Tyre and the Sea of Galilee. So he travels north to Sidon to take the pass through the mountains to the Jordan river valley, where foot travellers to Galilee would have fresh water for the trip: I have a riddle for you…“Who is permitted to speak but not able – and able to speak but not permitted”
I am going to read from the Scriptures: and the answer is found in our reading. he journey.
Mar 7:31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
Mar 7:32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
Mar 7:33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
Mar 7:34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
Mar 7:35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Mar 7:36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
Mar 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Here is the story of a man who could not hear. Not only was he unable to hear – he also had difficulty speaking. There is a connection: he was unable to speak – because it requires hearing to speak clearly. Back to riddle for you…“Who is permitted to speak but not able – and able to speak but not permitted”
Here is the man who was permitted to speak – but was not able to do so.
And in the culture of Jesus this was even more painful than might be realized:
The deaf were different: –“they are not mentally well – possibly even insane” So they were chased out of society. Not only were these insane people – but they became “unclean” – the rejects of society.
And then this amazing moment: we are told that Mar 7:32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
This is a powerful phrase: “lay his hand on him” . Those who had watched Jesus knew that Jesus did not see anyone as capable of making him unclean…. Jesus ignored the social stigma surrounding people. Jesus touched people – embraced them – ate with them.
Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus takes this deaf man aside from the crowd privately. Here is Jesus giving him personal care and attention. And Jesus uses signs to communicate – because the man cannot hear. Here is Jesus telling the man that he understood his problem: a series of symbolic gestures…. Not magic – but signs that a man who cannot hear will understand:
This weekend marks the end of Summer holidays – the children are going back to school.
And I believe that this story can help us see our children in a better light – whether you are a parent / Grandparent / Uncle or Aunt or family friend.
All too often we treat children as if they are unable to hear and to speak: sometimes we even operate on the basis that “Children should be seen and not heard”
We make decisions for them – without them. “I know what is best for you” We override their decision making capacity because we are grown ups.
Especially true right now – adults arguing about what is best for the children – and do not see their fear and confusion at the adults arguing over political leaders,
And the Corona virus
and masks or no masks
and our opinions on ending the war in Afghanistan. And every other thing that makes us afraid.
And our children watch us like this man watched Jesus – unable to comprehend….
And they are needing the one thing that Jesus gave this man: he touched him.
Our children need us to hug them….no long explanations – no theory – no lectures – touch them Give them your hugs and reassurance that they are loved.
Do like Jesus: take them aside and give them your personal attention : away from everyone else. Where they know that they are treasured and noticed.
Reassure them that your love them – and that God loves them.
I know that I have been speaking about children – but allow me a moment to speak about the other categories of people that we often treat like children –
I have a friend who has cerebral palsy. Her name is Jenny and she lives in Cape Town. She is extremely bright – but limited in the way her body behaves.
She shared with me her frustration when she is out shopping: the assistant at the store will speak directly to the person pushing her wheelchair – as if Jenny cannot hear. She is perfectly capable of understanding her purchase. It is just that her hands and feet do not work as she would like….but she is treated as if she were unable to hear or speak:
What made it worse was when the carer who was pushing the wheelchair suggested that the store assistant speak to Jenny:
Suddenly there was a need to speak slowly and loudly to Jenny: as if she were mentally slow and hard of hearing.
After one such incident she posted this on her Facebook site:
Jesus shows us a better way: take the time to listen and speak to people who have physical (or mental) challenges – all it requires is a little more time and a bit of patience – and a change of perspective in our thinking.
One more thought:
Jesus shows love to this man and he is healed:
And then this man breaks into language….Jesus can’t keep him quiet!
Back to riddle for you…“Who is permitted to speak but not able – and able to speak but not permitted”
The man was now able to speak – and Jesus tried to keep him quiet!
In fact Jesus tries to tell people to keep quiet – and they just ignore him:
Sometimes this is true of our children – pay them attention and they do not keep quiet!
But this is how children learn.
They are verbal – learn through asking questions “But why” until we wish that we had never started.
I do know that when I take the time to sit with my friend Jenny – she can’t keep quiet: it has been bottled up, waiting for someone to listen. The longest emails I get now are from her: everything in caps but full of joy and interest in life (takes her hours to type with one finger)
But hear the response of the crowd:
Mar 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.
This is the best thing that anyone could say of anyone: “Well done”
Kind of reminiscent of the Genesis account of Creation: when God was finished – it was well done.
This is our goal as followers of Jesus – to do things well: The words found in Matthew Ch 25 ring in our ears – when the master returns and evaluates our work we will want to hear him say “Well done Good and Faithful servant”.
If you are in doubt about this – . Let God open your ears to hear the good news today – that you are God’s beloved. God made you well.
And then the challenge: I invite us to get behind our children / people who are physically and mentally challenged / people who do not do things like you or me / and give them courage – to help them to see and hear clearly that they are God’s beloved.