SERMON FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 9-8-2019
Collect of the Day:
Almighty and merciful God, by Your gift alone Your faithful people render true and laudable service. Help us steadfastly to live in this life according to Your promises and finally attain Your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Can you imagine what it’s like to hear with your ears for the first time? Have you ever seen those videos on the news or on Facebook of someone who was deaf, but now hearing for the first time? It’s often recorded on video to catch their reactions. So when the little babies for the first time hear the voice of dad or mom they become wide-eyed. They smile. They’re filled with delight. They laugh and they giggle. The adults who get those hearing devices, and hear for the first time, are overwhelmed. They cover their faces, and cry tears of deep joy. If you’ve seen one of these videos you can’t help but become overwhelmed with emotion and teary-eyed too! How incredible!
This morning’s Holy Gospel is even more incredible. There’s a man who can’t hear. He can’t even speak properly. But thankfully for him, this man has some good friends. Some friends who carry him to Jesus. They beg Jesus to lay his hand on him and he does. Jesus takes the man aside from the crowd privately. Jesus plunges his fingers into his ears. He spits and touches the man’s tongue. And looking up to heaven, Jesus sighs, He groans actually, and says a word in Aramaic, “Ephphatha,” which means “be opened.”
And they were. His ears were opened to hear the Word of Christ. Imagine his face, imagine, his smile and delight, the astonishment of his friends. To see his eyes light up, to see him hear for the first time. And not just that but his tongue also, unshackled, and released to speak plainly, to sing, to glorify and praise God for what He has just done. It must have been an emotional sight – just like those videos I was just talking about. Well, in fact far better, because this wasn’t a cochlear implant. This was no hearing device. This was the word of Christ that brought him health, and restoration. What a miracle!
But guess what? This isn’t just a story about one poor miserable man who received some help from Jesus 2,000 years ago. No, that man in our Gospel is a picture of all men as they all are spiritually by nature. Like that afflicted man, each and every one of us, we’ve all got a very very serious health crisis on our hands from Adam, and right on down. And here’s the diagnosis: We’ve all got a sinful condition, a terminal disease, a corrupted nature that is part of every human being since Adam. It is passed on from a father to his children at the time of conception. And because of this condition we are all sinners. We are enemies of God, spiritually deaf, dumb, and blind toward God.
Like that poor miserable deaf man, Adam and Eve had a hearing problem too. They turned their ears away from the very Word that was the fountain and source of their lives. Mouths made to praise and speak to God, how tragically silent now, hiding and cowering in fear. You’re not so different. Just take an honest look at your prayer life. How open are your ears toward His voice? How much time is spent in prayer and how much is frantic busy-ness, avoiding Him, the God of love who wants nothing more than to speak to you and hear from you.
Oh, we are the children of Adam! We are the deaf-mute man in today’s Gospel. That’s us! Ears blocked and tongue-tied when it comes to our relationship with God. A severe, catastrophic handicap, caused by sin, and lending our ears to the devil’s lies.
But this morning remember that God did not leave man without consolation. He planted a wonderful promise right into the ears of Adam and rebel man. A promise that he would remove the curse of the fall, and redeem us from sin, death, and the power of the devil through the Seed of the woman, His own Son, who by His death would crush the power of Satan and take away the punishment for the sins of the whole world, yes, even including the physical brokenness experienced by the deaf-mute.
This is what Isaiah was preaching about this morning in our Old Testament reading. The day when the Holy One of Israel, the Lord Christ, would come. That day when the deaf would hear and the eyes of the blind would see. Jesus this morning heals a deaf mute. He gives a word in Aramaic, into our ears “Ephphatha,” that is, be opened. Next time Jesus speaks Aramaic, he’s hanging on the cross – giving His life for the life of the world – to heal sinful man and restore His fallen creation. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.” In Jesus’ forsakenness, in His sacrificial death, He is making right everything that’s gone wrong. And then He speaks those words: “It is finished,” it is Ephphatha, the heavens are opened. Communication with God and man open – restored – all so that you can hear loudly and clearly of God’s undying love for you!
Can you imagine what’s it’s like to hear for the first time? Those candid videos, those touching moments of children hearing for the first time, are nothing compared with the joy of hearing from Christ Himself week in and week out here in the Divine Service. To hear with yours ears that Christ the Lord has triumphed over all your sins in His resurrection. What joy is greater than remembering that you are baptized, washed, and belonging to Him who loves you? This morning, Jesus gets His hands on you too. Up close and personal, like that deaf-mute man, to astonish you, heal you, and restore you.
Let him open those ears of yours that you may hear Words of absolution, that your Father in heaven approves of you. Let Jesus, your physician, take hold of your tongue that you might receive His holy body and blood – the medicine of immortality and the antidote to death. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How can you not be filled with joy, crack a smile, or even cry for joy.
Jesus told the folks in today’s Gospel not to tell a soul, but they didn’t listen. You, however, He tells to tell all, and call others to come to Jesus too, that He might heal them as well. And like you, give open ears and praising tongues. So what will we do? May our answer always be: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Author: Johann Gramann, 1487-1541
Translator: Catherine Winkworth, 1827-78 (alt.)
1 My soul, now praise your Maker!
Let all within me bless His name
Who makes you full partaker
Of mercies more than you dare claim.
Forget Him not whose meekness
Still bears with all your sin,
Who heals your ev'ry weakness,
Renews your life within;
Whose grace and care are endless
And saved you through the past;
Who leaves no suff'rer friendless
But rights the wronged at last.
2 He offers all His treasure
Of justice, truth, and righteousness,
His love beyond all measure,
His yearning pity o'er distress,
Nor treats us as we merit
But sets His anger by.
The poor and contrite spirit
Finds His compassion nigh;
And high as heav'n above us,
As dawn from close of day,
So far, since He has loved us,
He puts our sins away.
3 For as a tender father
Has pity on His children here,
God in His arms will gather
All who are His in childlike fear.
He knows how frail our powers,
Who but from dust are made.
We flourish like the flowers,
And even so we fade;
The wind but through them passes,
And all their bloom is o'er.
We wither like the grasses;
Our place knows us no more.
4 His grace remains forever,
And children's children yet shall prove
That God forsakes them never
Who in true fear shall seek His love.
In heav'n is fixed His dwelling,
His rule is over all;
O hosts with might excelling,
With praise before Him fall.
Praise Him forever reigning,
All you who hear His Word--
Our life and all sustaining.
My soul, O praise the Lord!