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9/6/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:41 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:41 PM by Terry Brady ]
“…And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly…they were astounded beyond measure saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak…’”

In first century Judaism a physical affliction was evidence of the presence of evil. It is in this context that we hear the stories of Jesus’ healing ministry. Jesus healed both out of compassion and as a way of showing who he was and what we are called to do. Both are critical to his central message – to bring about the Kingdom of God. Consequently, Jesus did not set up a healing ministry or clinic in the cities – acting as a spiritual doctor to all and sundry. Each act of healing was significant far beyond the wellness of the individual.
For salvation to occur evil had to be exorcised and impediments to wholeness needed to be removed. Therefore, Jesus’ healing was both a statement of liberation and an icon for his followers in terms of action. Healing, therefore, lay at the heart of Jesus’ ministry and found its source in the heart of God.
There is a splendid irony for me that this is the gospel for this Sunday. On Monday I went into the city to see yet another foot specialist. His approach was interesting and gave me hope for the first time in many months. However, he does not take my insurance and surgery could be well beyond my ability to pay. Seems he also treated Patty Browning, wife of the former Presiding Bishop, just prior to their retirement to Oregon. He noted that he was raised as an Irish Catholic but now attends the Episcopal and Congregational churches. He commented: “I am hedging my bets.” As a result, he will take whatever my insurance gives him. Needless to say, my relief was palpable, and I only await a couple of tests to determine what comes next.
This is all happening in the context of the health care reform debate in this country. The extent to which it has gotten out of control is astonishing. As I rode home on the train I thought of the many people who do not have insurance or adequate health care and would not even have been able to walk into that doctor’s office. If healing and wholeness are at the heart of Jesus’ ministry how can we not find a way to provide adequate care for each and every person? Going further, how can we not assure that all of God’s children are fed, clothed and housed?
The politicizing of basic human needs shows us to be a country with little concern for anyone except ourselves. It would be wrong, however, to over simplify what is a very complex problem. Still we are charged by our faith, to work together to find viable solutions.
The Episcopal Church has joined with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Sojourners, The National Council of Churches in Christ, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in attempts to mobilize supporters of health care reform and to correct the rampant misinformation that exists around it.
I learned in New York City that, privileged as I am, I still could have to forego top quality care because of my financial situation. Very few people are fully immune. Our efforts here at St. Margaret’s to feed and care for the homeless as well as our participation in other outreach and justice initiatives lie at the heart of our faith and at the heart of the Gospel.
In Mark’s Gospel this morning, Jesus exorcises the demon from the daughter of a Gentile woman and opens the ears of a deaf man. The latter was brought to Jesus by the man’s friends, again affirming that the event, though done in private, was communal and important for the entire community. Jesus says: “Ephphatha, be opened.” He says it to the deaf man, to the disciples and to us. We heard in the Gospel for last Sunday that we are defiled by what comes out of us, not what we take in. Here we are challenged to examine what blocks us internally. What inside each of us and inside our community needs to be opened so that we can hear and act more effectively? Think of those things that keep us from hearing – those things that we think, feel, dream and fantasize about. We are to identify them and take them to Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus wants health and wholeness for all of God’s people, not perfection!
Removing blocks to hearing is not an unmitigated blessing. It allows us to hear the voice of God, but it also lets us hear the cries of those in need. When our filters are removed, we can truly hear. We are then no longer able to stand mutely by – we must act.
Jesus says to each of us as he touches our ears and our mouths: “Ephphatha, be opened.” What do we need to be opened in ourselves, here at St. Margaret’s and in our community? AMEN
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