September 5, 2021

Faith, healing and the holy secret

Passage: Mark 7: 24-37
Service Type:

St. Andrew's Salmon Arm BC

Sunday, September 5th, 2021

Welcome to our worship on line.  Thank you for your continued attendance with us as we worship in this unique way.  For the next month, we will not be posting any videos of the service.  Our videographer is on a long-delayed vacation, but as soon as that is over, we will resume the videos.  Peace be with you all.

 

Lighting the Christ Candle

Announcements:

  • Thank you Rev. Ena van Zoeren for leading us in worship today.
  • Check the recent posts for an update about Septembers Loonie Offering. I will post the info as soon as it become available to me.
  • Prayers for all returning to school or higher learning this coming week.

Call to Worship:

Jesus brought healing love to all people.
They talked and marveled about his miracles.
But they really didn’t understand him.
They wanted the healing, but not necessarily a change in their lives.
Jesus brings us transforming compassion.
Lord Jesus, keep our minds and our spirits open to your life-changing words.

Hymn:  499 Tell me the old old story

 

Prayer of Approach:

Lord of mercy and compassion, be with us this day as we hear of the healing love of Jesus. Remind us that we are also recipients of his compassion and we are called to bring the same hope and love to others. Prepare us for service in His Name.

Lord of healing and restoration, listen for the words of our hearts as we bring before you our own awareness of sinfulness.  Remind us of your mercy and show us that in Jesus we have been given the whole loaf, and restored to the whole kingdom of heaven.  We pray together confessing…

Prayer of Confession:
Patient Lord, you know us so well. We are fascinated by healing and can talk all day about the miracles, but we do not understand the compassion of Christ. We often say, “Just heal us; or Just make me rich; or Just make things go better at work” or other such deals and then we promise our faithfulness and witness. But in our hearts, we just don’t get it. Please forgive us, Lord, when our greed and fear get in the way of understanding. Help us to know the transformational power of your love. Get us ready to be faithful witnesses to you in all that we say and do. It is in Jesus’ Name that we pray. AMEN.

Assurance of Pardon:

We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God.
May we understand the grace and forgiveness bestowed upon us by God,
that others may find the Kingdom within us and among us.

Let us share the secret:  In Jesus Christ you are forgiven.

Sharing the Peace:

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Hymn:  498  Sing them over again to me

Scripture:

Mark 7: 24-37

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.[a] He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[b] 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.  (NIV)

 

Sermon:    Faith, healing and the holy secret

Sometimes when reading Mark, you get the impression that things are moving at warp speed.  He comes, he teaches, he feeds, he heals and tells everyone to say nothing, and immediately he leaves for elsewhere.  Then with some variation he teaches, he heals, he feeds, tells the people to say nothing and then immediately he goes elsewhere.

The sense of urgency that insists that there is no time to be wasted, fills every story.  Every moment wasted is a person not yet healed and not yet invited into the glory of the kingdom of God.   And yet, that urgency to greet, meet, and heal the people seems at odds with the caution to tell no one.

Heedless of his words, the people tell everyone.  This is good news that is just too good not to be shared.  Have you heard of Jesus?  He feeds hungry crowds.  He touches people and they are healed.  He speaks a word and demons flee.  He teaches about God with such authority.

And so the word spreads, so much so that Jesus can go nowhere in Israel without the people flocking to see him.

 

In today’s reading we see him slipping into Syria.

This is a significant detail that we need to consider.

Why go to Syria?

Surely the Messiah was only for the people of Israel.  Surely salvation is only for those who are follow the laws of Moses.  What do foreigners, outsiders, sinners, and people who seek other gods have to do with the grace and mercy of the Holy One, the God who is the creator of the universe?

What indeed?

Jesus goes into Syria.  Is he wanting to get away for a break?  Or is there a significant teaching about the extent of God’s mercy that is to come.

He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. (NIV)

It would seem that Jesus, his deeds and his compassion are not only known in Israel; but also, throughout the countries that surround Israel.  Countries that have sometimes been enemies, sometimes uneasy allies.  Countries that follow other gods.  Countries that eat strange unlawful food, and don’t follow the laws of God.

In this country, Jesus is also known, and sought after.

In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia  (NIV)

The woman was not Syrian, but Greek.  Born in Phonecia, at a time of Syrian control.  She herself was a stranger in this foreign land.  Was she in exile?  Or a refugee?  Was she brought here as a slave?  Was she a concubine of a Syrian official?

The background does not tell us any of that information.  Perhaps it is insignificant.  She is a foreigner, living in Syria, and she has the audacity to enter another’s house and demand to see Jesus.  She is here not only to speak to him, but to ask him for an exorcism for her daughter.

The ensuing conversation is difficult to understand.  Is Jesus insulting her?  Is this a racist supremacist statement about the people of Israel?  Given what ultimately happens, no.

This exchange is for the benefit of those who travel with Jesus.  Earlier in Mark, before coming to Syria Jesus made a proclamation about clean and unclean food, asserting that it is not what goes in by the mouth, that makes a person unclean, but what comes out of the heart and mouth.

This encounter is a completion of that teaching.  Coming to Syria was a part of the process where the disciples learn that God’s grace is for everyone.  He is here to fulfill the commandment of God that is often overlooked, that the people of Israel are to take care of the stranger, the foreigner, the widow, the orphan.

Many believed, including the disciples, that the gifts of God are meant to be only for the people of Israel.  That belief persisted into the days in which the disciples were forming the church.  What do we do with Gentiles?  What do we do with people who eat the meat from the market place?  Those who eat unclean foods?  Or, even those who are uncircumcised?  The fledgling church nearly split over these arguments.

Jesus exposes their thinking as he addresses the woman…

First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” (NIV)

The message is clear—grace is for everyone.

Then he goes on with his journey.

When they return to the region around the Sea of Galilee, the people recognize Jesus and bring to him a man who cannot hear and barely speak.  They beg him to touch and heal the man.

The people know what Jesus is capable of.  A slight touch and healing happens.  A woman touches the hem of his robe and healing happens.  He speaks and miracles abound.  So the request to simply touch the man seems reasonable.

But Jesus does something else.  He takes the man away, and finds a private spot…or at least a more private spot.

He puts his fingers in the man’s ears.
He spat on the man’s tongue.

Wait, what?  Do we want to say “eww”?

One thing we often don’t link with all the miracle stories is that they are all different for a reason.  Jesus looks into people’s hearts.  Some he touches.  Some he speaks to.  Some he challenges.

In this case, Jesus knew that this man, so cut off from everything and everyone by his disability needed to feel that healing in a profound way.  He also knew that unable to hear what the crowd wanted, the man was likely bewildered and feeling lost and confused in the crowd.

Privacy.  Fingers in ears.  Spit on tongue.  These actions fed the man’s need for understanding and the need to feel intimately what others only needed to hear.  Jesus gave the crowd more than they asked for, but he gave the man a gift of healing born of an intimate understanding of who that man was.

Isn’t that exactly what he did for the Syro-Phonecian woman?

Isn’t that exactly what he wants to do for you and me?

Jesus looks into the heart of a person and knows their deepest need and brings them hope, healing and salvation in the way that makes the most sense for them.  There is no one size fits all miracle.

Sometimes we the people, forget that what we need isn’t always what we want.  Spiritual answers do not fit with the things we can demand.  That’s why Jesus always warned the people not to talk about the miracles.

Simply because he knew that many would flock to him seeking the miracle they desired.  He knew people would look at him as some sort of a magician who would give them everything they asked for.

When that happened the ministry Jesus was called to would become ineffective.  Perhaps that’s also why he so quickly moved on.  Meeting people’s needs was what the teaching and the healing was about.  Meeting people’s wants was not something he would do and this would be perceived as a failure and the people would then attack.

Far better to be attacked for speaking God’s word boldly.

Yet, there is also something very important about the ways in which the crowd told the story.  Quickly, urgently told the story.

This was good news of the mighty healer of God and it needed to be told so that all who believed would have their needs supplied.

What is our greatest need?

Salvation, forgiveness, compassion, love, acceptance.

The miracles were only signs of the greater gift yet to come.  The gift for which Jesus died on the cross.

Are we with the crowd?

Are we going about telling all that we know of a man, whose life was the greatest miracle of all time, and that his name is Jesus?

Are we going to tell the crowd this man is where salvation, forgiveness and peace is found?

Are we going to proclaim the great secret of God’s grace?

The answer lies within our hearts.

Amen

 

 

 

Hymn:  64 Be still and know that I am God

 

Prayers of the People

Not one of us is worthy to approach you, O God, Creator of the universe, holy and all-powerful.  Yet you have approached us and have shown us the human face of your love given in Jesus.

He revealed your love and mercy by living as he did—serving others and accepting them, regardless of race, class or status, as people made in your image and likeness.

He pointed us towards a world in which each and every person could realize his or her identity as a precious child of yours.

Then you gifted us with the Holy Spirit so that the very fabric of our existence is woven with the thread of his life.

For that reason, we ask that this time of prayer be a reflection of our joy found in you, and our sense that you call us forth, to care for others, in this building, in this community and the whole world.

Lord, you know how great our needs are. In these difficult times when the future seems uncertain, an election looms, the Pandemic seems never ending, families are experiencing great stress, come and bring your healing love to us. Help us to place our trust in you. Remind us again of how you transform lives, not just with healing, but with a spirit of hope and compassion. Keep us hopeful. Teach us not to give up when things are going wrong. Give us faith that can move mountains. Give us hearts that are ready to be of service to others in all times and in all places. As we have lifted up people and situations which concern us and have asked for your hand of healing, remind us that that same healing hand rests on us also. Enable us to be people of compassion and trust; as we bring you our prayers for those we know, and those whom we do not know.

Requests

Nursing homes as they re-engage with community to bring programming
Anita travelling
Federal Election
Children going back to school/university
Vaccination Passport, smooth start up
Front line workers, especially all hospital staff

Hurricane Ida/Louisiana/NE states/Atlantic Provinces
Haiti

 

 

 

 

Prayers for the Peace and Prosperity of the Nation:

WE pray for our MLA, Our Premier, the BC Parliament, Public Health Officers.

We also remember our city government.

Lord’s Prayer:

Hear us as we continue to pray saying:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.   Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

Offering:  We pause to recall all that we have brought into God’s storehouse.  Our wealth, our talents, our service to God in so many ways.  Today we also pause to bless our mission offering, which reaches out and blesses so many.

Let us praise God as we sing of his blessings.

Doxology:  Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Prayer over the offering:

All that we do is in your holy name, O God.
Even as we share the riches of our labors,
may we continue to honor your name
in all that we do.
Bless these gifts given freely,
that your justice and mercy may prevail
in a weak and weary world. Amen.

Hymn:  747  There is a balm in Gilead

 

 

 

Benediction:

Go now, and wherever people will hear you, proclaim the life-changing love of God.  Do not fear your weakness, for when you are weakest, Christ’s strength is known.

And may God be your protection and safe haven;
May the power of Christ Jesus dwell in you;
and may the Holy Spirit be your guide forever.

Benediction Song:  May the peace of Christ be with you

Online: Take oh take me as I am