True And Laudable Worship
September 2, 2017
Verse: Mark 7:37
Christ Lutheran Church
September 3, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
True And Laudable Worship
And they were astonished beyond measure and confessed, he does all things well! He makes the deaf to hear, and the mute to speak! Mark 7:37
In today’s Collect we learn the primary duty of every man, woman and child, which is to offer “true and laudable worship” to our Almighty and Merciful God. But alas, for man this is impossible, but that is why Jesus was “made man.” To open the ears of the deaf so that they could hear divine truth, and to untie the lips of the mute so that they might worship the Father in Spirit and Truth. (John 4:24)
The first thing we should know about today’s gospel is that we are the man in it. There is no question that our ears and tongues work just fine when it comes to getting what we want. They are two of the chief organs of fulfilling our desires. If a person cannot hear, or speak he either has to find a substitute, such as sign language, or it’s all over. But alas, when it comes to the things most needful: hearing the words of eternal life, (John 6:68) we are as deaf as we are mute.
But why is that?
It is because we are “by nature sinful and unclean,” just as we pray in the prayer of confession each week. To pray this prayer, and to believe it, is not only a confession of sins, but a confession of faith. Certainly not one that the devil, the culture, or sinful nature would approve of. But one perceived and prayed by faith and by faith alone.
The theological fact that underlies this prayer is called “original sin.” It states that all men since the fall of Adam are conceived and born in sin. That each generation inherits the guilt and proclivities of Adam to close its ears to God; and open them to the lies of the devil. You only need to view current culture to see that it is true. But if you close your ears to him no Kyrie’s, Gloria’s or Hosanna’s will ever come from your lips. No prayer, no praise, or profession of the truth when it is needed the most. Nor will you ever open your lips with Eucharistic faith to receive the Medicine of Immortality on your tongue.
The matter is quite simple, dear Christians. As two dogs can only give birth to puppies, and not parakeets; as two cats can only give birth to kittens and not koala bears; even so sinful parents can only give birth to sinful children. Children whose ears are open to everything except the Word of God, and whose tongues throughout a life time will be used for every evil purpose. But not for the best. Which is to call upon the name of the Lord for life and salvation. The thing we are, by God’s grace, doing at this very hour.
Now enter Jesus who opens the ears of the deaf, and unlooses the tongue of the mute so that they might proclaim the mercy, might and love of God. We see exactly this in response to the miracle in today’s gospel, when St. Mark informs us that those in attendance, “were astonished beyond measure and confessed, ‘he does all things well! He makes the deaf to hear, and the mute to speak!’”
We do the same in holy liturgy every Sunday. With ears opened by blessed baptism we listen to the words of eternal life. They enter our baptismally opened ears, and penetrate into the fiber of our being, even into the bones and marrow. And with tongues unloosed by the same sacrament we: hail the power of Jesus’ name, and like the angels fall prostrate before him, and crown him Lord of all. (TLH #339)
But let it be known that Christian faith is not blind faith. Instead it is based on knowledge: the knowledge we get from today’s gospel in which we learn a number of important facts.
First St. Mark teaches the church the ‘where’ of the miracle. It was done in a place called Decapolis, beyond the borders of Israel, which was at that time God’s earthly realm (though it is no more). From this we learn that Jesus did not come for just a chosen few, but he became incarnate to heal all men by his death on the cross, whoever they are and wherever they live. His salvation is universal; open and available to all people. You are those people!
We also discover that the crowd wanted to teach the Lord how to do the miracle. They “urged him,” St. Mark notes, “to lay his hands on the man.” Nothing has changed. Everyone thinks he knows how God ought to behave; and how his church ought to operate. But as St. Paul teaches us that, “the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.” And so the Lord does things his own way. With the spit of his own mouth on his fingers he inserts them into the man’s ears, and then touches the man’s tongue. And then he looks to heaven from whence he came, and with divine authority gives the command: Be opened! And the miracle is complete! The deaf ears are unstopped, and the mute tongue untied; and the man is made whole. Not just in body but in soul, even as we are in the church’s primary sacrament!
Which is why this very miracle formed a part of the church’s baptismal rite. It consisted of the minister touching his finger to his own tongue, and with wetted finger touching the ears, and the tongue of the baptismal candidate. Something for which our modern sensibilities, and irrational fears, sadly have little tolerance.
But underlying all of the Lord’s wondrous works is his cross and resurrection. By these he conquered not only death per se, but all of its ugly consequences such we see in the man in today’s gospel; and as often as we behold our own sad circumstances. What Jesus does in this miracle is but a sample, a down-payment if you like, of what will be universally true when he returns to judge the living and the dead. Then all infirmities will be over! All baptized ears will hear his voice, and all redeemed tongues tell of his glory unhindered, in endless delight. Amen.