Mary, my life partner for over 51 years, had to undergo knee replacement surgery this week. Her recovery is coming along fine and has been my focus this week. As a result, I am a bit behind in sermon preparation. This experience has served as a reminder that the preacher never develops the message in a vacuum. We read the scripture and prepare the sermon in the context of both our personal and ministry lives.
We Hear a particular passage differently each time we approach it. The same is true for those experiencing the sermon as they HEAR the passage and our message through the filter of their present and past experiences. This is why we are able to preach many different sermons on the same scripture passage again and again throughout our ministry. How am I Hearing this particular text at this particular time under these particular circumstances. Preacher, what do you Hear?
Mark 7:32-35 They brought to Jesus a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
My assumption is that Jesus spoke the word “Ephphatha” in a loud voice, a commanding voice, a confident voice, a voice that cannot be ignored but can certainly be rejected. What does it mean to “be opened”? What do I refuse to HEAR? The temptation, of course, is to close up, shut out, refuse to hear those things which make us uncomfortable and threaten our sense of security. What are those things that I and the folks listening to the sermon don’t want to be opened to? Maybe the things that most threaten me (us) are exactly the ones that I (we) need to be opened to.
The life of the recipient of this miracle was changed forever by Jesus’ command and compassionate action. If I were to take this command “to be opened” seriously, how would my life be changed?