Sermon for Pentecost 13, Year B
Based on Mk. 7:31-37
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Today, our gospel gives us a glimpse of healing and hope. Mark’s gospel is rich with stories of Jesus healing people and giving them a new found hope for their lives. In a world where our mass-media seems to focus so much of its attention on negative events, we may have cause to ask some rather hard questions of healing and hope. What is this hope and healing that our gospel speaks of today? Is it still around in our lives? What meaning does it have for us anyway?
John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, back in the seventeenth century, spoke of hope personified in this rather bold way: “Faith says to hope, Look for what is promised. Hope says to faith, so I do, and will wait for it too. Hope has a thick skin and will endure many a blow.” It seems to me that in the midst of so many tragic, harsh, cold realities of life today, we do need this hope with thick skin to endure all of the blows of life. A hope that will buoy us up, and prevent us from drowning in the ocean of despair, hatred, sin, and evil.
The following stories, I believe give us this kind of hope, and with it healing as well.
When Louis Pasteur, the French scientist, lay ill after suffering a stroke, the government stopped work on a laboratory it was building for him. When Pasteur heard this, his condition began to deteriorate rapidly and his friends begged Napoleon III to give orders for the work to be restarted.
Their request was granted and they hastened to Pasteur to tell him the good news. Immediately, he took a turn for the better.
Indeed he recovered and was able to continue with his work for years afterwards. Hope indeed is a wonderful medicine.[i]
This story underscores quite well how “good news” can heal us and give us a new found hope by giving us the will to live for a more meaningful future. All of us are in need of “Good News,” news of hope and healing.
The following story, also speaks of a new found hope and healing, which takes root once new opportunities are explored.
Matthew was six months old when our neighbors brought him home from the adoption agency. He was sickly and small for his age. It was obvious that he had been neglected and might have health and growth problems. As he grew, it was feared that he might be retarded; he was much older than average before he began to speak and walk. Matthew seldom smiled or laughed; he seemed to be living almost in a world of his own.
When Matthew was 31/2 or 4 years old, his parents took him to medical specialists on advice of their pediatrician. Diagnostic procedures revealed that his speech and personality problems were related to poor vision and limited hearing ability. He was fitted with aid and glasses and, once he became acclimated to these devices, his speech began to improve and his personality began to develop. For the first time since he was born he could see and hear—and a whole new world opened up for him. It was much like that with the deaf and dumb man to whom Jesus said, “Be opened!” Nothing could keep him quiet—about Jesus’ gift to him—after that.[ii]
We, like Matthew, are able to flourish, once we’ve been given opportunities for healing and hope. Hope, as it were, is sort of like a
hearing aid and glasses for us. It opens us up too, like the deaf and mute man in our gospel today. It seems at times—from a worldly point of view—that the human race is on the brink of a suicidal destination. Against all of the experiences of death and destruction which pervade our present day—as Christians we trust in God’s promises. We trust that God is still active and working in the world, in our lives collectively and personally. We believe that God fulfills God’s promises.
That’s why—like God’s people of every age—we gather here to hear once again, as if for the first time, those marvellous and refreshing words of our gospel, bringing healing and hope: “Be opened.” The deaf and mute man is able to hear and speak because the Messiah has come to transform him, to give him healing and new found hope for his life. This healing and hope becomes contagious as the crowd witnesses it and praises Christ with these words: “He has done everything well.” Because God in Christ has healed and given this man and this crowd healing and new hope, it is now possible for them to go out into their communities, and the wider world to spread healing and hope there too.
All of us—in one way or another—need this sort of healing and new found hope. All of us—in one way or another—may feel or experience being in exile because of our various forms of sin, illness, blindness and deafness. We may be blind and deaf due to our own prejudices; our hasty or harsh judgments; our indifference to injustices; our calculated silences; our speaking only in politically correct fashion; our sheltering ourselves from the world’s needs and sufferings.
Over against all of this—all of our shortcomings and failures, collectively and individually—the Good News of healing and hope is ours. Jesus touches us and speaks to us to heal us and give us hope too. In our hearing and speaking, may we, in turn, become bearers of Christ’s hope and healing to our world.
May we, like Martin Luther King Jr. have enough hope and healing to proclaim to the world:
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered people have torn down people other-centered can build up.[iii]
Then we, like the crowd who witnessed the Jesus at work giving the deaf and mute man healing and hope, shall be able to proclaim: “He has done everything well! It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our sight!”
[i] F. Gay, The Friendship Book, 1990, meditation for May 10.
[ii] R. Andersen, D. Deffner, G. Bass, et. al., Sermon Illustrations For The Gospel Lessons (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1982), pp. 56-57.
[iii] Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream (New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1968) p. 133.
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