Mark 7: 31-37 (Pentecost 16 - 2012)
“Lord, Open Our Lips to Speak of your Grace!”
The prophet ministry which Jesus began in Galilee continued. He went from the northwestern corner on the sea cost, passed up his home town of Capernaum, and entered the southwestern region called the Decapolis. The “ten cities” were not that close together. This was a big area on the east side of the Jordan River. News traveled fast. By the time Jesus went about 50+ miles the people living in that area had heard about the miracle worker, Jesus. He once again drew a crowd. One group in particular introduced him to a man who was deaf and had trouble speaking. They begged Jesus to do something. The healer came to town.
The miracle that takes place today illustrates the miracle which takes place in your hearts and on your lips each day. In the service of Word and Sacrament we pray: “Open our lips to speak of your grace.” Jesus answers that prayer today. We see that He gave us our lips. We see that He teaches us his grace.
1. You Gave us Our Lips
We don’t even know the man’s name. But Jesus knew him. Jesus loved him. There is uniqueness to this miracle. Two things: first he takes him away from the crowds. (literally received him personally unto himself.) Jesus gives us his undivided attention! We he deals with you, he deals only with you. Secondly, he spit and touched the man’s tongue and with a deep sigh “Ephphatha” which means be opened.” Jesus shows a personal touch. The man cannot hear. He can hardly utter words. Jesus wanted him to know and feel: “I am here, and I am personally taking care of you.”
As with all miracles Jesus revealed his divine power over his own creation. Jesus does all things well! The man’s ears were opened so that he could hear. His lips were unleashed for speaking clearly. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy for today: “the mute tongue will shout for joy!” (Isaiah 35:6). Jesus showed that he truly is the Son of our Creator God. He gave us lips to speak of his grace!
Moses learned the same lesson from our Creator. Remember when he offered excuses for not going to Egypt? One of those excuses was “I have never be eloquent -- I am slow of speech.” To which the Lord replied “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes the mute to speak?” He promised to give Moses the words to say. He also gave him Aaron as fellow mouthpiece to proclaim the name of the LORD to Pharaoh and to the people of God.
How about you and me? Aren’t there moments when we are tempted to make excuses? Do we embrace the easy out saying “speaking - especially to others about God things - is just not my thing”? Don’t we make our own excuses? We handcuff ourselves from speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4: 15). Our excuses are not excuses. They are sinful rational for our fears of rejection.
See the One who opens the ears of the deaf. He also opens the hearts and ears of the lost to know and believe his Word. See the One who unleashes the tongues of the mute. He is the One who opens your lips to speak of his grace. He created you and your mouth. The One who promised Moses the words to say also promised “The 12” and you saying: “Do not worry about what say, for it will not be you speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10: 19, 20). Jesus gave you your lips. He certainly has the power to use them for his purposes.
This is not a sermon to recruit all of you for the evangelism committee; nor am I expecting all of you to run out knocking on doors. There are few people who have that as their God-given thing. But I am reminding you that all of us get put in our large Decapolis of opportunities to say the right thing at the right time. You often speak up for the truth and may not realize it. The Lord uses you in your setting, with the gifts he gave you, and the voice he granted you in creation. He instilled faith and truth into your hearts. Especially in today’s society, people who have trouble speaking, have tools available to them to reach the people they know with what they believe to be the truths of God’s grace. You apply those truths every time your light shines in this age of immediate communication. Remember the confidence of the Hymn writer who said:
If you cannot speak like angels, If you cannot preach like Paul
You can tell the love of Jesus; You can say he died for all! (CW 573: 2)
“But what to say?” you ask. Know that the Lord teaches us his grace and the Lord moves us to speak of it. Paul told the Corinthians (quoting a Psalm) “I believe; therefore I have spoken” (2 Corinthians 4: 13). As we do in our confessions on Sunday, as we repeat memorized verses from Scripture, as we sing the hymns we know and love, we are speaking the messages of grace in Christ in our weekly patterns.
2. You Taught us Your Grace
Sadly we are all guilty of sin and shame when it comes to our mouths. James clearly warns about the sinful use of our tongues. “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (James 3: 2) -- “out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers this should not be.” We have all spoken crass language. We have all let words slip that later needed recalling. We have all been guilty of betraying a friendship with the use of our lips. Even in the thoughts that never make it out we demonstrate an awful failure at purity. The same lips that have been used for praise, have sadly been used to bring wreckage to our lives.
Remember Isaiah’s call. Isaiah confessed in the presence of Glory “Woe to me! I am man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips!” (Isaiah 6: 5).Remember also the heavenly solution! An angel brings a coal from the altar of heaven and says: “See this has touched your lips your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for!” (Isaiah 6: 7). In the light of guilt removed Isaiah is moved to say, “Here am I. Send me!” (vs. 8).
See today Christ as Prophet and Priest. As Prophet, Jesus speaks the truth in love with perfect purity. Jesus never spoke a sinful word. He never used his mouth to lie, deceive or betray. He never sassed his mother. He always rebuked with love in his heart. He took words and actions in the kindest possible way. Jesus built up others up with his words. Jesus faithfully taught the truth of his Father’s words of grace.
As Priest, Jesus paid the price for the removal of our guilt. Jesus sacrificed his whole body on the cross so that our whole bodies are redeemed from sin. He cleansed our lips from shame. He purifies our thoughts with grace. He repairs our relationship with his Father. He heals the damage our lips have caused and brings peace to those who trust in his forgiveness. He gives his body and blood in the Sacrament so that his love and forgiveness physically touches our lips with the bread and the wine. He teaches us his grace so that we can speak it to others.
The townspeople in the lesson today saw his grace and his glory. They confessed “He has done everything well.” The more he kept urging them to keep it quiet the more they kept talking about it. Because they learned of his grace, they were capable of speaking his grace to one another. Christ has done the same for you. Because you have been taught grace, you are moved and empowered to speak it, in your place settings, with your gifts sets, with the tools available to you -- you can use your lips to speak of his grace!
Paul encouraged the Colossian Christians: “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4: 6). In view of Christ’s forgiving love that is a goal worth setting for our daily use of our tongues. In light of his grace we sing:
Give us lips to sing Thy glory,
Tongues Thy mercy to proclaim,
Throats to shout the hope that fills us,
Mouths to speak Thy holy name! (CW 280: 5)
Or perhaps more simply --
Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee (CW 469:3) Amen.