Sermon for Proper 18 following Pentecost – 09-05-21

Psalm 125; Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-10-14-17; Mark 7:24-37

In today’s lesson from Psalm, we see that we, those who trust in the Lord are symbolically likened to Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore. The scepter of he wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. Here the psalmist declared the unshakability of faith and then made his petition. Thus personal prayer becomes public instruction as prayer expresses testimony to encourage others. Petition turns to blessing. In short, God surrounds those who take refuge in Him like the mountains surround Jerusalem.

From Isaiah we told to tell those with fearful hearts, ‘be strong, do not fear; we are assured God will come and with a vengeance and divine retribution he will come to save us.’ God’s Messiah is coming: the eyes of the blind will be opened; the lame will leap like a deer; and the mute tongue will shout for you.’

All those hurting in body, mind and/or spirit, God’s message tells us He intends good for His creation, and He intends to secure it through Jesus Christ (Matthew 9:27-31; Luke 4:16-19. Christians are to be ambassadors for the kingdom of God and therefore, our task to be involved in Jesus’ concern for healing, for the poor, and for those society ignores. Holiness and cleansing from sins cannot be separated. The Way of Holiness is so called because it leads to Zion, the holy place. Those who want to travel on God’s highway of holiness will have to be clean from sin. As humans, we may forget a sin or two, but God does not, He remembers them all and knows that we must be cleansed on His holy highway, to be acceptable in the kingdom.

In the lesson from James, we learn that Christians are not to show partiality, for favoritism in relating to others is sin. We are to treat one another exactly the same, or fall into sin. It breaks the law of neighborly love, which James referred to as “royal law.” He focused on the tendency to be partial toward the rich. Such favoritism results in being manipulated by the rich and insults the poor.

Many years ago I worked in men and boy’s clothing for two Jewish brothers. Occasionally one would show something to his brother and then they would leave the store for awhile, so they could get their Temple priest to give them an answer on something they did. Usually, it was nothing to worry about, but every once in awhile they had to pay a tithe to the Temple for some unintended mistake they had made. I learned a lot from those two men, especially in the area of moral living. There were several times when a man would come in and need some help and they never refused a fellow Jew. Usually when things were worked out, they would tell the man, this is not to be repaid, but there will come a time when someone comes to you, and you must accommodate them. They really lived out their faith daily, something we could all learn from.

Our Gospel from Mark today addresses something that Jesus found hard to do, hide from anyone. He would go off after preaching or teaching, but finding somewhere to go just to be in a quiet place was a hardship. The story tells he entered a house, not wanting anyone to know it, yet a Greek woman recognized Jesus and sought Him out to help her daughter. In this case, Jesus went outside of his bounds to minister to a non-Jew. The woman told Him her daughter was possessed by a demon and wanted Him to remove it from her.

Jesus told the woman to feed the children all they wanted, ‘For it is not right to take the children’s bread and toll is to their dogs.’ Apparently quick-witted she replied, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Jesus said to her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’ She went home and her daughter was lying on the bed and the demon gone. Although Jesus had been sent to take care of Israel, this story and others like it, reveals that God is concerned about all people, no exceptions.

Then another story where Jesus is stopped by friends of a man who was deaf and mute. They simply asked him to lay hands on him and heal him. Jesus took the man aside and spit on his fingers and placed them in his ears. The then did the same with the man’s tongue. He looked up to the sky and said, “Ephphatha! (which meant ‘Be opened’). At this, the man’s ear were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus then commanded everyone not o say anything, as He knew it would draw out even more people, but they were amazed. The people said, ‘He has done everything well.’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.

If you were living in those times, would you believe if you ever heard these two stories? You heard the stories today, have you believed them today? God still performs miraculous acts today, but we don’t always hear about them. Do you believe anyway? Amen

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