Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost


Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 18)
September 9, 2012

Text: Mark 7:24-37
            Our Lord breaks all the social rules in our Gospel this morning.  He does not behave in the way we expect our God to behave.  He dismisses a poor woman whose daughter is demon-possessed with a racial slur.  He calls her a “dog” and makes her beg Him for help.  Then, much to the chagrin of the Jewish authorities, He goes and hangs out in a Gentile region known as the Decapolis (the Ten Cities, southeast of the Sea of Galilee).  There they bring to Him a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment and Jesus does all sorts of gross things to heal him.  He puts His fingers into His ears, He spits and touches the man’s tongue.  Couldn’t He have just waved His hands over the man or spoken a few magic words?  And to top it all off, He commands the man and His disciples not to evangelize, not to spread the good news of the healing.  What’s going on with that?  No, our Lord does not behave in the way we’d expect a god we worship to behave.  Which, first of all, exposes our idolatry.  Far be it from us to judge the ways of God, which are higher than our ways, or the thoughts of God, which are higher than our thoughts (Is 55:9)!  And second, this shows the grace of God, that all His ways are for us and for our salvation.

            But His ways are not what we expect.  What do we expect from God?  How do we want Him to behave?  Well, first and foremost, we want Him to be nice… nice by our standards of niceness.  We don’t want Him to be harsh or offensive or demanding.  We don’t want Him to do gross things or to get too up close and personal.  We certainly don’t want Him to use physical stuff, flesh and blood stuff, to accomplish His purposes.  We don’t want Him to be too involved in our lives.  We like knowing He’s there, but we’d also like Him for the most part to leave us alone.  Right?  Because there are things we like to do that we know He doesn’t approve of.  We don’t want Him to be so judgmental.  We like knowing that God is here at church waiting for us whenever we want to come make use of Him, but when we don’t want to come, we’d prefer He didn’t ask questions about what we decided is more important than He is.  We get tired of Him telling us what we should believe and what we should do, and how we don’t believe and do it, and how we need His forgiveness if we are to be saved.  That’s not what we want.  What we want is “our kind grandfather who art in heaven,” who winks at our “mistakes,” and puts His arm around us and tells us everything will be alright when we’re having a difficult time.  We do want the occasional miracle in a time of crisis, but we want it to be done our prescribed way at our prescribed time.  What we want is a god in a box whom we can trot out whenever we need or want him, and safely stow away the rest of the time.  But such a god is not the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Such a god is an idol of our own making, a false god.  Beloved, repent.

            You see, we can only deal with God on His terms, in the way that He comes to us.  And He comes to us in the flesh, the Son of God born of Mary, Jesus of Nazareth.  He is a flesh and blood God.  He is a God who becomes one with us, gets down and dirty with us, gets messy with our sin.  He has no sin of His own.  He fulfills the Law of God without ever stumbling.  Not even once.  But all we do is stumble.  All we do is break God’s Law.  Jesus takes our sin upon Himself.  He exchanges our sin for His righteousness.  He gets dirty as He cleans us up.  We get all the credit for His perfection and He takes the damnation we have earned by our sin.  He takes our sin all the way to its wages; death and hell on the cross.  He dies for us.  He dies in our place.  That is our death.  We should have died there.  We should have suffered hell.  But we don’t, because He did.  Because God comes to us in the flesh.  God dies.  God is laid in a grave.  We would NEVER have done salvation this way.  It’s so harsh, so offensive, so gross!  And here is the surprise ending.  This God, Jesus Christ, who died, is risen from the dead.  Bodily.  Flesh and blood.  And you know what?  He continues to come to us flesh and blood.  He comes on His terms in His way. 

            He comes to the Syrophoenician woman (a Philistine is what she really is) on His terms, in His way, flesh and blood Jesus.  He comes to her calling her a “dog” (Mark 7:27), what Jews called the Gentiles, the unbelievers.  He makes her beg, like a dog begging for scraps from the table.  Is this how God should act?  Beloved, what we’re seeing here is Jesus exercising the faith of this Gentile child of God as she prays for her daughter.  It is like when you pray earnestly in a time of crisis, and God seems to be ignoring you.  He is silent, or worse, perhaps He rebukes you, slanders you.  The situation gets worse.  The harder you pray, the more it seems like Jesus couldn’t care less.  But is that really the case?  Of course not!  Jesus died for you.  That’s how much He cares.  Jesus died for the woman in our text.  That’s how much He cares for her.  Jesus exercises your faith just as He is exercising the woman’s faith.  He wants you to trust Him even when all seems hopeless.  He wants you to hold Him to His promises.  Which is what the woman does in our text.  She knows Jesus is the Savior of all people.  She also knows she is a dog, not because she is a Gentile, but because she is a sinner.  She confesses it, and she hopes in Jesus Christ in spite of it, because she knows He is her Savior from sin and her daughter’s savior from demonic possession.  All she needs is crumbs falling from the Master’s table.  And Jesus gives so much more than crumbs.  He gives Himself.  you may go your way,” says Jesus, for “the demon has left your daughter” (v. 29; ESV).  Faith receives Jesus as He comes for us, receives the gifts He gives, as He gives them.

            Jesus goes on to the Gentile region of the Decapolis, the same area where He had previously cast out Legion from the demon-possessed man into a herd of pigs (Mark 5:1-20).  They bring to Him a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment (7:31-37).  Now, again, couldn’t Jesus have healed the man with a simple wave of His hand or a Word or even a glance?  He could.  But He doesn’t.  What does He do?  He takes the man away from the crowd.  Ministry is not to be a spectacle, not even a healing (take heed, Church of God!).  He puts His fingers into His ears.  Awkward.  He spits and touches the man’s tongue.  Yuck.  He sighs, and then He speaks: “Ephphatha,” an Aramaic word, “Be opened” (v. 34).  And it works.  The man can hear.  The man can talk.  Jesus strictly charges the man and the bystanders to tell no one.  Why does He do that?  Again, ministry is not to be a spectacle.  It would be a distraction.  Evangelism must happen God’s way, according to His Word.  And what about all the gross stuff Jesus does in healing the man?  Jesus heals on His terms.  It is a flesh and blood healing.  Real fingers stuck into the man’s ears.  Real spit on a real hand touching the man’s tongue.  The sigh of Jesus, the breath of life.  Words, THE Word of God, spoken by a human voice, the first Words the man has ever heard.  Freedom, real and true freedom, given by a real God in real flesh and blood.

            And this is what Jesus does for you.  He comes to you on His own terms, in His own way, flesh and blood.  He sighs His Spirit into you and opens your ears in Baptism, by water and the Word.  “Ephphatha, be opened.”  He speaks to you with a human voice, the voice of your pastor in Absolution and preaching.  He sticks His body in your mouth just as surely as He sticks His fingers into the mouth of the man in our text.  He sticks His body and blood into your mouth for the forgiveness of your sins.  Gross.  It’s gross when you think about it.  Except that it’s not, because it’s Jesus.  And sometimes He makes you wait for His answer to your prayers, just as He made the Syrophoenician woman wait.  Sometimes He makes you beg.  Sometimes He sends you even more affliction.  Because He wants you to hold Him to His promises.  He will deliver.  He will heal.  He will drive the devil away from you.  The proof is that He has come in the flesh.  The proof is the marks of the nails and the spear.  The proof is that He gave His life for you.  He is risen and lives for you.  He comes on His terms, in His way.  He does not behave as we expect Him to.  Thank God, He does not behave as we expect Him to.  That would be an idol.  Not our God.  He’s in your face.  He’s flesh and blood.  He’s real, He’s earthy, He’s death and resurrection for our us and for our salvation.  We would never have done it His way.  That is why He had to come His way.  To do what we never would have, nor could have done.  He came as one of us, to save us.  And He comes as one of us to cast out Satan, open our ears to His Word, and put His body and blood in our mouths.  For the forgiveness of our sins, eternal life, and salvation.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                     

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