Toorak Uniting Church

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An Opening Beyond the Boundaries

Mark 7: 31 – 37
Rev. Ian Brown
7 September 2003, 9.00am

I wonder what sort of images came to your mind as you heard the reading of the deaf - dumb man’s healing. Who or what were you thinking about as his remarkable story unfolded.

One of the people I thought of was a little girl I know, with cochlear implants, I heard last week in fact that her language skills are coming on very well and she will begin at a regular school next year. A wonderful story, from deafness to hearing!

To open this Bible story, to get a feeling for the context of this event of Jesus helping people we need to get our minds around the politics and geography involved here. He’s been off on a not so packaged tour of the lands to the north of Israel; out of the Galilean home territory to Tyre and he helped the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter. It was Jesus first venture out of the traditional "chosen by God Almighty patch of Jewish homeland" - no fences and barbed wire in those days, but still very significant social and religious boundaries, and crossing them had serious consequences.

Jesus, in our day would be doing the equivalent of being a Mexican, crossing into California to help the homeless in the US, or like a Catholic from East Timor, crossing into Muslim, Indonesian West Timor to help their poor. Or like an Iraqi asylum seeker, out of Port Headland helping sick Aussies.

"Be opened!" said Jesus to the man’s ears and tongue.
To that which had been closed, had closed him off from so much of the world’s richness, comes Jesus command to be different, to be made new.
Jesus took the deaf man aside to heal him, and he warned those who knew to be quiet about it. It was a scandalous and obvious sign of God’s presence, for the deaf to hear, and more so that it happened outside of what they thought of as "God’s Patch". Jesus disciples had heard all his teaching - but it seemed that they were better at misunderstanding it than they were at preaching it to others. But the deaf man’s tongue is loosed! He shares the good news about Jesus, even as he is told to keep quiet.

But the news would not be silenced!
Good news of such a nature will not be quieted!
He had been overtaken by the incredible grace of God.
If it is true in our times that many ears and eyes are opened by doctors doing their routine work - what sort of "shocking new openings" might God be speaking through in our times?

Where is "gobsmacking grace" stopping people in their tracks and than setting their tongues wagging in these times as a sign of God’s presence still working in our world today?

I thought of a humble man who had spent 27 years in prison, not made bitter, but came out seeking peace and reconciliation for all his people; black and white, for South Africa. I thought of Nelson Mandela. A man of true grace, who worked tirelessly to help others find it too.

In our world today, we have so many wonderful advances that bring new openings to people who were otherwise shut out.
Medicine has followed the great healer Jesus in discovering how to bring new freedom and to open that which would have been shut.

You might have thought of Desmond Tutu, or Oscar Romero, of Dr Graeme Clark, or Fred Hollows - such people who seen the closed things of our times - the oppression of racism or affliction and have shouted "effatha!" "be opened!" People who have seen the bondage of hatred and mistrust or needless limitations of physical conditions and have shouted "effatha!" "be opened!"

And lastly the story asks us, the hearers - "where will we find that which is bound and closed and needing God’s new freedom - where can we lend our "effatha!" "be opened!" - may our eyes and our hearts be open.

Amen.

© Rev. Ian Brown, 2003


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