God is with us in Word and Sacrament

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Mark 7:31–37

 ☩ IN NOMINE IESU ☩

Sometimes we feel our fallenness most acutely not in the sins that we commit ourselves, although we do feel it then, but in the sins that we suffer from a fallen world and from the hands of evil people. We realize in those times that it’s not that we need to try harder, that we need pep talks, life coaches, or twelve-step programs. We realize that what we endure because of sin is far bigger than all of that. It is a cancer that infects and destroys everything around us.

And It leaves us dazed, even confused. It leaves us overwhelmed and exasperated. And it makes us tired. So we groan. We sigh. We sigh in pain, in exhaustion, in disbelief. When we watch our heroes grow old, become weak, and die. When our friends or family let us down, when they don’t stick up for us, or worse, when they take advantage of us, when they betray us. We feel the effects of sin. We feel the effects of the curse “by the sweat of your brow you shall eat . . .” and “you will surely die.” Sighing is a fruit of the curse.

And so we try to ignore it. We shrug it off, looking for the ray of sunshine in what is otherwise complete darkness. But some of the things we endure can’t be shrugged off. Somethings can’t be ignored. Either because they are so deeply personal or because they are of such a magnitude that they can’t be. They gnaw at us because we know that this is not how things are supposed to be. It is not how God intended it.

St. Paul says that what we experience is what the whole creation experiences. That the whole creation groans and sighs as it suffers and endures the realities of sin in the world, that sickness and death and evil are part of our daily experience. We live under the weight of sin, the weight of death and loss, the weight of loneliness and betrayal. We live under the curse.

And this is why we sigh and groan. Because we know this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Because we’re tired and overwhelmed, because we’re hurt and confused, because we don’t know what to do. And we sigh.

Our Lord Jesus Christ also sighs. But when He sighs it’s different. He feels your pain to be sure. And He knows your emptiness. But there’s more than that. He knows that there’s a cure. His sighs are more than expressions of the curse made incarnate in creation. His sighs are also blessings. His sighs undo the curse. They overcome and overpower it. His sighs give. For when He sighs, he breathes in the curse and breaths out His blessings. He gives a part of Himself, His Word, His Spirit. Ephatha. Be opened.

And that is why the the friends of the deaf mute bring him to Jesus. They know He can do something about it. They know that He has the cure. They know that the best help they can give is to bring him to Jesus, to hand him over to the One who sighs not out of frustration but out of accomplishment. The one who actually does something about the evil that happens to us and because of us.

Oh, that we would have friends like these. And we do. All of us have been brought to baptism by someone else: by our sponsors or our parents. They brought us to the place where Jesus sighs, where He breathes His word into our ears, where He cleanses us from everything that defiles us, where He makes us holy and gives us His name, His blessing, His love.

Oh, that we would be friends like these . . . even to ourselves. Oh that we would seek Jesus, where He promises to be, where He promises to shut up our wounds and the demons of past sins that constantly assail us, and open us up to receive His Word, His Spirit, His breath, His life. That we would seek out that uncomfortable and awkward place where Jesus takes us away from the crowd, where He invades our personal space, where He prods us with His fingers and and cleanses us, where He sighs and breathes His blessing upon us to lift the curse, to cleanse us of the sins that we have done and that have been done to us.

He gives us the means to do it. For all of us have been given a pastor, whom we may seek no matter the situation. For There is no greater joy for a pastor than to be called upon to do what he has been called to do. To be asked to speak in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. To be asked to apply God’s Word to us and our situation uniquely and personally. For regardless of the reason, there is a specific application of God’s Holy and Cleansing Word for it. God always has something to say.

And so are you hurting, sorrowful, or lonely? Are you guilt ridden, weary and heavy laden? Are you stressed out by work, by friends, by family? Are you anxious or worried? Do you have doubts about the Faith, the Church, God? Are you confused? There’s an app for that. God has something to say. His Word never fails. His Promises never cease. His mercy endures forever. He speaks directly to you. Ephatha! Be opened. Be clean. Be holy. Be still, for I am God.

And He does all things well. But that is the most difficult part, isn’t it? To believe. To trust that whatever you may be going through, whatever you may endure, whatever may befall you, God in Christ does all things well and for your good. But He does. He did it for the deaf mute. He did it for the blind, the leper, and the prisoners. He did it for Lazarus. He did it for the thief on the cross. He does it also for you. He does all things well. And that requires faith, trust in the goodness of God and His promises. And thanks be to God that what He requires, He also gives. What He demands, He also provides.

For His Word is not like our words, like passing sentiments. And His ways are not our ways. His Word creates. His Word does what it says. It brought all that exists into existence from nothing. And from nothing, He creates by His Word faith and trust in Him, in His goodness, in His promises. Your ears were opened Cling to that Word. And go where it is proclaimed. For when that Word is proclaimed to you, your ears are opened to hear. You tongues are loosed to speak back to God in praise and thanksgiving. He has opened your ears. He has opened your lips. And your mouth declares His praise. For He does all things well.

And now he opens your mouths once again, not just to speak but to eat and to drink, so that your sins are forgiven, that you may have life and salvation. That you may be nourished on the only thing in this life that matters, the only thing that does not pass away, the only thing that endures. Ephatha. Be opened. Be fed and filled with the good gifts our Lord won on the cross and delivers in His Supper. He does all things well, indeed. Amen.

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