“And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, be opened.”
In today’s gospel lesson we hear the story of Jesus healing a deaf man with a speech impediment. For most of us, this is nothing new or exciting. After all, this is just what Jesus does.
Throughout Scripture—time and time again—He cures the sick and heals the lame. I imagine that most of us are so familiar with these miracle stories, that we would be shocked if Jesus did anything to the contrary.
However, the way in which Jesus goes about healing the deaf man in today’s gospel is a bit out of the ordinary, even for Jesus.
Instead of simply stating, “you are healed,” (which He does many times elsewhere in Scripture) Jesus tenderly takes the deaf man aside, away from the prying eyes of the crowd and essentially begins to communicate with him through a series of visible gestures.
Jesus literally shows the man what He is about to do by placing His fingers in the man’s ears, touching the man’s tongue, looking up to Heaven, and then saying something that sounds rather bizarre to us.
He looks directly at the deaf man and says, “Ephphatha, or be opened!” And immediately, the man receives the gifts of sound and speech.
What I find so fascinating about this particular miracle is Jesus’ choice of words. Instead of simply saying, “you are healed” or commanding the man to “hear and speak”, Jesus gets in the man’s face and shouts, “be opened!”
It’s amazing how one odd sounding word can be so powerful (and transformative). “Ephphatha” “Be opened.”
For the most part, being open is considered a good thing. For example, most of us have heard phrases like: “try to have an open mind; it’s good to be open and honest with others; and always try to stay open to the possibilities.”
Yet, as we know, this is one of those things that is much easier said than done. After all, opening ourselves up can leave us feeling exposed, vulnerable, and helpless.
Instead, it’s much easier to stay closed-off, put up walls, and avoid challenges and changes to our comfortable patterns and routines. It’s much easier to stay in our familiar surroundings full of familiar faces.
Unfortunately, from time to time many of us can become spiritually deaf and mute to God’s words and will for our lives. We can unintentionally cut ourselves off from His continual comfort and companionship; and we can unwittingly close the door and refuse His guidance in challenging times.
Like me, perhaps many of you are experiencing a variety of emotions today ranging from fear and anxiety to pain and sorrow. After all, there is a lot of change on the horizon for St. Thomas’.
For the past 6 years God has abundantly blessed St. Thomas’ with an amazing rector. But now God is going to use Fr. Bowhay and his family to bless others.
As we know, things don’t always turn out the way we expect them to. Our expectations and agendas don’t always match up with God’s.
As the old saying goes: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
However, in today’s gospel, Jesus calls out to you and me “Ephaphatha”, “be opened.” Place your complete faith and trust in me and know that I have something wonderful in store for you. Whether we realize it or not, God, our loving creator, has a unique plan for each one of us and collectively for the parish of St. Thomas’.
C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity, puts it like this: “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let [God] take us over, the more truly ourselves we become…He invented – as an author invents characters in a novel – all the different men [and women] that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him.”
In other words, it is only when we open ourselves up to God that we will discover who we are and the abundant blessings he has in store for us.
Once there was an old farmer who had a beautiful horse. The horse was not only his family’s pride and joy, but it was also his family’s only source of income.
One day the horse ran away. The farmer searched for him day and night, but couldn’t find him.
Fellow villagers visited the farmer to give their condolences for such a stroke of bad luck, as the loss of his horse represented a staggering financial blow that would be hard to recover from.
But the old farmer shrugged his shoulders and responded, “Bad luck, good luck — who is to say?”
A week later the horse returned with a pack of 12 wild horses in tow. Again the villagers gathered, this time to offer their congratulations at such a stroke of good luck.
Now the old farmer had 12 more horses with which to make 12 times the income! What a godsend, they said. To which the old man once again shrugged his shoulders and said, “Good luck, bad luck — who is to say?”
A few days later, while breaking in one of the wild horses, the old farmer’s son fell and both his legs were broken. “What bad luck!” the villagers exclaimed.
“Your son has broken both of his legs. That’s terrible. How will you get your work done now? You are too old to do it yourself.” But once again, the farmer simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Bad luck, good luck — who is to say?”
Two weeks later a war broke out and the army came through the village forcing every able-bodied male under the age of fifty to enlist. However, because the farmer’s son was injured, he did not have to go, and it turned out to save his life, for everyone in the village who was drafted was killed in battle.
Of course the point of this story is that we cannot see the whole picture.
There is always more going on in any situation than we can fully grasp. The old farmer had the wisdom that comes from seeing the bigger picture in life. He remained open to the mystery of God that unfolds in the daily events of our life.
As we know, there are so many times in life when God takes something that may seem bad and, by the miracle of God’s grace, transforms it into something good.
Or as St. Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans: “all things work together for good for those who love God, and are called according His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
However, like the old farmer and the deaf man we must first be open.
Perhaps (some of us) we have come here today so full of fear, anxiety, pain or sorrow—that like the deaf man—we are barely able to speak and unable to hear God’s words.
The good news is, just as Jesus met the deaf man where he was by tenderly taking him aside and using whatever it took to communicate with him, Jesus does this for you and me today.
As our collect for today states, “Almighty and everlasting God who art always more ready to hear than we to pray.” Jesus longs to meet each and every one of us exactly where we are.
Today, may we open ourselves up to God and place our complete faith and trust in Him, remembering that He has something much greater in store for us than we can ever imagine.
Today, may the living Christ pull us aside, place His fingers in our ears, touch our tongues, and shout, “Ephphatha! Be opened!”
Sermon “Be Opened”