Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 12 – 2012 and Baptism of Kyle Rumfield

26 August 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 7:31-37

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

There is an old saying: “Minds are like parachutes.  They only work when they’re open.”  Books are a lot like that too.  And in the miracle of the healing of the deaf-mute, we see the Lord at work opening that which was closed, and releasing that which was impeded.  We see a sick man cured, his ears opened to hear the Word of God, his mouth opened  to confess his faith and sing the praises of his God.

Openness is part of what we lost in the fall in the Garden of Eden, dear friends.  God used to walk with us openly.  We were completely open with God to the point of unashamed nakedness.  God openly spoke to us, and we openly stood in His presence.  God opened the ground to us without our having to till the soil.  Our hearts were opened to God’s will, trusting in His promises and open to the blessings He poured out upon us.

But when Adam and Eve sinned, they closed in on themselves.  They enclosed themselves with clothing.  They closed themselves off, hiding from God.  And for His part, God closed off access to Himself, and closed the Garden of Eden for all time.

In time, the Lord would close the world up by covering it with water and closing out His work of creation as it had become so corrupted by sin and violence. 

God closed Noah and his family up in the ark as an act of mercy, and reopened the door when the flood was over.  God opened the veins of sacrificial lambs even as He opened the path back to Himself with the open doors of the temple.  And in the fullness of time, He opened the womb of Mary with a divine Child, who is the One who opens the ears of the deaf and opens the mouths of the mute.

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

And He also opened the way to heaven by opening His arms on the cross, opening the curtained barrier between God and man, and He opened the grave from the inside.  In the words of the ancient hymn, the Te Deum, He “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.”

As a result of this opening, we can open ourselves up to God.  We can confess to Him our sins.  We can pray to Him intimately.  We can open ourselves to His will, to serve Him without fear of condemnation, open to His Word and Sacraments, which in turn re-open the closed path to the Tree of Life.

This is the mystery of the Lord Jesus’s “Ephphatha” – “be opened!” 

The early Church grasped the importance of this opening to the point where baptisms often included the pastor touching the ears and lips of the person being baptized, symbolically showing what Jesus does literally through the washing of Holy Baptism.

Dear Kyle, your path to heaven has been opened in Christ.  For the Lord Jesus has opened the kingdom of heaven to you.  He has opened your ears to hear the Good News.  He has loosed your tongue to confess the creeds of the Church and sing the liturgy of the Church.  The Lord has opened your mind, your heart, your flesh, and your spirit.  And you also have the promise that He will open your tomb!

“Ephphatha! – be opened!”

This is the Christian life in one word of Aramaic, spoken by the Word Made Flesh Himself – and we see the results of the Word of God.  The Lord has opened heaven to all of us whose ears and mouths, hearts and minds He has opened by water and the Word.

At the Lord’s baptism, the heavens were “opened.”  At the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord promised, “knock, and it will be opened to you.”  After His resurrection, the Lord “opened” the “minds” of the disciples “to understand the Scriptures.”  And in His final revelation to the Apostle John, the Lord promised: “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

And though our eyes have not yet been opened to the point of seeing God in all His glory, we have the promise, dear brothers and sisters, that this once-closed path back to Eden is being opened.  And in eternity, nothing more will be closed.  Paradise will again be opened. 

“Ephphatha – be opened!”

Let us ever keep our ears open to hear the Word of God.  Let our minds be open to the revelations revealed in that Word.  Let our hearts be open to hear the Law and repent.  Let our hands be open to receive the Lord’s holy gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Let our arms be open to receive our neighbors in love, drawing them into the open ark of the Church.  And finally, let our mouths be opened, to eat the body and blood of the Lord, as well as to confess the faith that has been opened to us, and to openly tell of the hope that is within us, singing the praises of God and opening the doors of the Church to those of closed minds, closed hearts, closed of hope and closed out of the kingdom of heave.

May the Lord’s baptized people ever be people of the “Ephphatha – be opened!” the command and the promise of Jesus.  Let us always be open to the Lord’s very presence in Word and Sacrament, and ever open to carry out His will in word and in deed.

And on the last day, He who “has done all things well,” He who “makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” will open our graves with that one last great command: “Ephphatha – be opened!”


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

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