Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sermon: Trinity 12 – 2011

11 September 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 7:31-37

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.


At some point, everyone has made a journey to a store, a restaurant, a bank, a repair shop, or some other business, only to see the word “closed.” At first, we may not believe it. We may squint at the sign with the store hours, pull on the door a couple times, or even knock in vain on the window, peering helplessly into a dark and empty room.

We are left with disappointment and disruption, with lost time and a failed mission. We have to make other plans, or simply acknowledge that we will have to live with the consequences of not being able to conduct the transaction.

When the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life were closed by God, sealed off to our sinful ancestors Adam and Eve, guarded by an angel bearing a flaming sword – our lives of disappointment of being closed out began.

When Noah was commanded to make an ark in order to be saved from the coming doom, one can only imagine how he was mocked. But when the door was closed, there was no salvation for those on the outside.

Our Lord told a parable about the five foolish virgins who were unprepared for the Bridegoom’s return, and were closed out of the banquet, and heard this from behind the closed door: “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”

Our sins, our stubbornness, our foolishness, and our lack of priority for God’s kingdom shuts the door of His mercy to us. And when the enemies of our Lord crucified Him, they thought they had shut His mouth the way they silenced John the Baptist, even as their ancestors had closed the mouths of the prophets of old whom they murdered.

The deaf-mute from the region of the Decapolis was also shut behind a wall of silence because of his disability. His ears were shut to sound – to music, to kind words, to the gracious Word of God, to the simple conversation of friends. He was shut into a hopeless world of silence. And he was also mute, his tongue being imprisoned behind the same wall of silence, his thoughts shut in, whether the need to cry out in pain or to laugh with joy.

And so a group of people begged Jesus for help for this man. They knew that there was only One who could open the door, who could unplug the man’s sin-stopped ears and unstop his sin-laden lips.

In the beginning, God did not create a world of closed doors, of closed ears, closed lips, closed eyes, closed minds, closed relationships, and closed lives. The Lord came into our flesh to tear open the temple veil that closed us off from our Creator, to fling open the gates of heaven for all who believe, to open the way to peace, to open the path to righteousness, to open the long-closed gate to Paradise. To reopen our communion with the Tree of Life.

We see a little glimpse of this opening in one glorious word spoken by our merciful and blessed Lord: “Ephphatha!” This Aramaic word means “be opened.” In fact, the Greek translation supplied by St. Mark is even better and more forceful: “Be completely and utterly opened!”

For Jesus has not come to merely crack the door open a little, but rather to blast it off its hinges once and for all. Jesus does not just offer a little help, he irrevocably completes the job. “It is finished!” He will say in the aftermath of His total victory over sin, death, the devil, our flesh, and over every impediment and every infirmity.

Our Lord places His fleshly fingers into the deaf man’s ears, opening his eardrums and the pathway to his brain, opening the closure made by sin and its collective guilt, opening the way for the Word of God to sink in and make this afflicted man whole and healthy as he was created to be.

Our Lord uses His fleshly spit and touches the mute man’s tongue, opening his lips and the pathway to his throat, opening the closure that prevented him from asking for forgiveness, opening the way to pray, praise, and give thanks, opening the impediment for God’s Word to ever be on his tongue: to sing and to confess, to shout with joy.

“Be opened!” says our Lord. And it is opened.

“And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”

Dear friends, the Lord Jesus continues to open our ears and mouths, even as he opens our minds, opens our faith, opens our way to heaven and communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He opens our ears with His Word, His divine “ephphatha!” that continues to resound in the Scriptures proclaimed and taught, in the Word that forgives us, heals us, and opens the way to everlasting life.

He opens our mouths to receive the miraculous gift of Holy Communion, the Bread of Life, the very miraculous presence of His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. And we respond to this fleshly ephphatha with a fleshly “Amen!”

No matter what may yet remain closed to us in this fallen world – no matter what disappointments and struggles we may have, no matter our own infirmities and sicknesses – even our own mortality – we know that our Blessed Lord is the One who has opened heaven to us by opening his own veins on the cross, opening the communion rail for us to take part, opening churches around the world – even in places where churches were once closed by the devil’s evil compulsion in trying to close heaven to us. To that we say: “Ephphatha!”

Indeed, we worship a God whose door is always open to those whose hearts are open to His Word. Let us indeed open our mouths in praise of Him who opened heaven to us! Let us continually pray: “O Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will declare Your praise.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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