Hearing and Seeing
(Proper 18B, Mark 6.31-37, James 1.17-27)
September 10, 2006
The people were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mark 6.37)
You know, I am one lucky guy. Sherry and I celebrated 37 years of marriage this week. It seems that I have to say that out loud, because I find it so hard to believe. My how time flies!
I remember that some time ago, our son Robert, who likes to plan ahead, asked me how much it costs to get married. I said, Gosh, son – I don’t know. I am still paying for it.
Anyway, thanks to the fact that we list the anniversaries in the Bell Tower, I saw that I was having one. So I managed to go out and get Sherry a card before the big day.
Now maybe it is my male bias, but I noticed in going through all of the so-called ‘humorous’ anniversary cards that the men always seem to be the ones that the card is making fun of. You guys ever notice that?
The cards invariably show the wife doing something worthwhile like working or cooking or reading, and there’s the man – pictured as an unshaven couch potato with limited mental capacities who would obviously be face down in a ditch somewhere if not for the good fortune of his marriage. And then inside there is some appropriate punch line that adds to the insult.
I got one of those cards for Sherry – she said it looked just like me.
I guess that she’s probably right. When I hit the couch with my magazine and my remote control, I basically go deaf. I don’t hear the phone or the door. I certainly don’t hear any conversations that might be going on – whether they are directed at me or not. I am tuned out of their world and tuned in to mine. And nothing short of a fire alarm can get my attention.
Selective hearing. Or maybe it’s selective deafness. I guess that we all hear what we want to hear to some extent, don’t we? Selective deafness.
Well, in our gospel lesson this morning, we meet a man who is literally deaf. And also unable to speak clearly. But he does have the good fortune to have some friends who bring him to see Jesus.
People, that we assume are part of the man’s community, bring him to Jesus and they beg him to heal their friend. And Jesus does just that. The man’s ears are opened and his tongue released. Miraculous.
After Jesus healed the deaf and dumb man, he told the witnesses not to tell anyone. Of course, that makes no sense to me – as soon as the man spoke or heard something that someone said, the cat would be out of the bag.
So I think what Jesus was concerned about was that if everyone got too excited about the miracles that he was doing, they would lose sight of who he was and what he had come to do.
We read that Isaiah said this about the one to come:
“He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”
Jesus knew that he came to fulfill that Scripture. He is the one who has come to save us all. He is not just another miracle-worker. He is the Savior of the world.
But there is no way that those who were witnesses to what he did that day could restrain their amazement. And in spite of Jesus’ protests, they zealously proclaimed what they saw.
More than that. In speaking of Jesus, they say that he has done everything well. Not just the healing of this one man – but everything about Jesus’ presence brought healing to those who heard him, who were touched by him.
Because, think about what happened. Jesus did far more than just restore the deaf man’s hearing. He also restored him so that he could be a productive member of his community. He was made whole in more ways than just physically. He was given new life.
Like all of Jesus’ healings, this was more than just a cure of a specific ailment. When Jesus healed someone, it gave the person meaning for his life.
In fact I would probably define healing as just that – finding new meaning for your life when things seem the most hopeless.
Often that is what we witness isn’t it? Healing has less to do with the cure, and more to do with how a person begins to feel about himself and about his relationship to God and others. So often, the healing is the restoring those relationships.
Time and again, when I am with people in times of great loss or trauma in their lives, I witness how Christ’s love heals; how it brings them through that terrible time. Time and again, I see that healing touch of Jesus, when all seems lost. I see how the grace of God brings peace and comfort to those who are literally paralyzed, made mute, by the pain of their loss or suffering.
Yes, Jesus did everything well. Our lives are made whole – are given new meaning – because of who Jesus is and because of what he did for us. We are healed. Jesus heals us because we are redeemed, given new life, by his life and death and resurrection. And we are made worthy to stand before the Father.
And like the friends who brought the deaf man to Jesus, that is also what we do for each other. We open our ears to what is going on in the lives of others. We open our ears to what God is saying, and we understand that we are a special child of God.
And we affirm that same special-ness in those around us. And all of our lives take on new meaning.
Now I guess that we could just leave things there – being comforted and made new by the healing touch of Christ. It would be a nice place to end.
Except that we have this reading from James. And James won’t leave it as something that is just up here (in our heads).
James says that it is not enough to have a warm and cozy sense of God’s love.
James wants you to get up and do something about it.
In fact, James says that you really have not heard what Jesus is saying until you act.
And you know what – I think he is right.
The people in today’s story were so taken with their experience with Jesus’ healing power that they could not contain themselves. So taken with their witness of God among them that they could not help but proclaim to others what they had seen and heard.
I don’t read James as saying that we must be doers in order to earn our way into heaven. What I hear from James is that if we are true believers then we will not be able to help ourselves in living that belief.
My experience is that my faith becomes so much more real to me – becomes tangible to me – when it is manifested in some way. Whether it is praying with others, witnessing when someone first accepts Christ, or performing acts of charity, it is the act that gives me the very real sense of God’s presence.
We can talk about loving our neighbors, and we can feel good about giving to the poor; but we really hear and see Christ when we stand behind the tables in Jinkins Hall on Thanksgiving Sunday and serve others.
When we offer food and attention to those who have almost nothing; when we see the effect that the gift of our time and treasure has on someone that is underserved and ignored; that is when our ears become unstopped and we can actually hear the voice of Christ.
When we see the look of appreciation in somebody’s eye just because we take the time to listen to their story; when we walk in their shoes, if even for a moment; that is when we hear Jesus’ message of love and grace in a new way. And we are made new. And we are affected, oh so much more than the person that we presume to help.
That is why all of us are part of the outreach at Grace. No matter what our other ministries; everyone is part of outreach because that is how we truly hear the loving Word of God.
And this Fall offers more opportunities for outreach than we have ever had before. Participate in as many of them as you can. Bring a friend to blessing to of the pets in October. Help with our Thanksgiving Feast in November. Go with us on our mission trip to New Orleans in early November, or commit to be a prayer warrior for those that go. Help us be gracious hosts for Lessons and Carols in early December. Help us prepare an unforgettable Christmas dinner for the women of ADA House in late December.
And I promise you – I promise you that your participation in these things will fill you with amazement at God’s grace. And that you also will not be able to contain your excitement.
And won’t that be great?
Thanks be to God!