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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

Just before today’s lesson, Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain and Jesus was transfigured, He shone with unborrowed light and no less than Moses and Elijah converse with Jesus upon the mountain.  The Father spoke from the numinous cloud of glory and said, This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.  This was a vision bar none. This was a powerful sign of heaven upon earth.  They come down from the Mountain of Transfiguration and the other nine disciples, in Jesus’ absence, are arguing with the crowds, and the scribes are arguing with the disciples.  We are not told what they are arguing about. Argument and dispute by themselves do not make faith, even righteous anger does not, “…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).    And so much of talk radio and television is someone yelling at us in anger about what is wrong.

The disciples could not cast out the “deaf and mute spirit” within the boy.  Peter, James and John were not with their brother apostles, but with them they would flee Jesus after His arrest.  You think Peter, James and John, after the Transfiguration, should have known better after the spiritual high bar none of the Mountain of Transfiguration, but miraculous signs do not create faith.  Neither does hardship, as in, “there are no atheists in foxholes (or as I heard it said, in ratlines)”.  Once the felt spiritual high is gone, and the hardship, as the feeling goes, so goes the supposed faith.

 So what creates and makes faith? Answer: the Word of God, and Jesus is the Word made flesh.   Faith is  not from us and we know what comes from the human heart. The Law of God comes not from us, but from God and shows us ourselves and what we can do in Christ in love of God and neighbor. Faith comes from Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Father, the one God and Lord.  The Father says:  Listen to Him.   

 When Peter, James and John, kneeling on the Mountain of Transfiguration look up, they see Jesus alone, that is, the Word made flesh. Today’s lesson is a lesson as Bible is always about:   the Word of God.  Listen to Him. The Word of God is not about spiritual self-satisfaction but for the Holy Spirit to ever make us holy, to enlarge heart, soul and mind in service to our neighbors, to teach the Gospel, the increase of virtue, not to be saved but because we are saved. The Word of God preached and taught among the towers of Babel today as the Church is to listen to Christ to live His Word in the current faithless generation. And a second time the crowds come running to Jesus when it seems they see Jesus is about to do another miracle and Jesus quickly heals the boy.  They came for the sign, but not for the Word of Christ.  And as Jesus said An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” that is. the sign of the Cross, the sign of His blood and our redemption.

St. Augustine:  “Look now, blessed Jesus, from your holy hill.[1] See your true believers with a throng about them who delight in nothing but to question and contradict and perpetually dispute. Open their eyes, O Lord, that they may see you, and being amazed at the beauty of your truth, come running to adore you.”

In a similar vein, when the Apostle Paul went to Athens and goes to the Areopagus, Mars Hill, Luke reports, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”  We do not know what the scribes and the disciples were arguing about.  We live in an age in which the delight “to question and contradict and perpetually dispute” now can happen in cyber-speed of the internet on countless blogs, discussion groups, chat rooms, articles upon articles.  There can be no cyber-Church, a virtual reality Church, there is only the Body of Christ, here and now and around countless altars and pulpits in the face to face learning in faith. Christ in His Word, His Body and Blood is our only hope in this faithless generation.  Jesus said to the people about the boy: Bring him to Me.   When in the midst of the arguing, they see Jesus down from the Mountain of Transfiguration:  the crowd comes running to Jesus.  May we ever run to Christ! May we ever run to Christ, not for a sign but for His grace, mercy and peace. May we ever run and walk and speak His Word!  May we not be ashamed of Him and His Word in this crooked generation!  May we ever speak His truth in His love!   May we ever learn Jesus Christ so that our ears are open to the Word and our mouths to teach and sing His Word.

They were faithless generation and today education is to teach us to have faith in ourselves but not faith in God: who is more trustworthy?  Men lie, God does not.  But men, even those not of faith, know there is truth.  The lessons are about education, listening, learning and living.  

 The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear (Isaiah 50: 4-5a, Pentecost 16 O.T. Reading) 

The Lord God opened Isaiah’s ear and purpose of listening and learning is living as a servant to someone else, “…how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” Jesus spent time with the Father of his sick son.  He asked about him.  Jesus was sustaining him with a word and he was weary. In a youth group I served, there was young man with epilepsy.  It was his father that cared for him and was weary and worried about him.  It was a  long struggle. Jesus hung in with the Father and his son and us. Maybe the Father’s question to Jesus to “have compassion on us” was off.  Education is not only about “getting a job” but living a vocation in service to others. Itis also about compassion.

Jesus diagnosed the boy’s problem, “…you mute and deaf spirit”.  “O Lord open my lips and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise”, is the opening Psalm verse for Matins or Morning Prayer.  Jesus opened the ears of a deaf man and loosed his tongue.  Education, especially Christian education is about the Lord through His Word, as the Word is the Lord, to teach us to hear His Word, learning His Word and live His Word.  In the banalities of the internet Babel, the endless cacophony of sound bites from pundits, politicians and personalities, our culture has a mute and deaf spirit, as it made the boy, to fall into fire and water, out of control. We can not bring the culture and society  to the Lord, but He brings us to Himself in the good news of our salvation and is Lord of all. It is like Mom or Dad bringing their child to school.  Bring him to Me, said Jesus.  We were brought to the Lord’s house by either family or friend in the very work of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus upon the Cross, risen from the dead.  In Baptism, we first learned Christ, died in Him, rose in Him.  We can bring others to Him.  

The Lord does not call us to preach and teach ourselves but Christ and His Word of Law and Promise.  And James’ Epistle is about teaching and the way the pastors and the all of Christ’s Church are to be careful in what and who they teach and preach.

In the 13th century,  when St Bonaventure was in great repute, teaching theology in Paris, and attracting a general esteem and admiration by his works, St Thomas Aquinas went one day to see him, and requested him to show him what books he used for his studies.

Then Bonaventure, conducting him to his little chamber, showed him some very common books that were on his table. But Thomas gave him to understand that he desired to see the other books from which he derived so many marvelous things.

Bonaventure  then showed him a small prayer chapel, with nothing in it but a crucifix: “There, Father,” said he, “is all my other books; this is the principal one from which I draw all I teach, and all I write.”  If my tongue does not teach and preach according to Christ and His Cross, and the Law of God, then the tongue is like rudder steering the ship in the wrong direction, like a bit that does not guide the horse, like a spark that simply inflames with fire, all heat and no light.  No human being can control the tongue, James wrote.  He knew Who controls the tongue to teach whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things, (Philippians 4: 8) and finally and fully the center of all human history:  the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He teaches us to pray ever in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 


 

[1] Cf. Psalm 2:6; 3:4

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When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?–St. Luke 7: 24

St. Luke 7: 22-23 “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

 Blessed are those who are not scandalized by Me. Jesus is definitely the reason for the season; but the Lord Jesus is also  the scandal of the season.  Why do so many want to take Christ out of Christmas?  Excise Him from the public square?  Excise any mention of Him from public discourse?  No one would dare do that with Muhammad, say.  If that is true, why? One reason, some folks would be scared about a fatwa against them.  The actual reason:  Muhammad is a dead false prophet and the world loves falsehood and lies.  Muhammad can do nothing today.  Jesus Christ is risen.  He changes us by the preaching and teaching of the Word:  absolving, forgiving, filling and renewing. Those holding onto their sin stop up their ears to the joyful noise of the Coming One as did the Pharisees and scribes who would not be baptized by John.  Jesus Christ is the Coming One.  Everyday cannot be Christmas but everyday can be Advent: come, Lord Jesus, come, enlighten the darkness of our hearts.  He sees and blesses in the worst distresses.  Muhammad cannot. There is no agape, love in Muhammad.  Jesus Christ is love’s pure light.  The world knows that and wants to hide Him to be hid from Him. As the Israelites said of the prophets in days of Isaiah (chapter 30: 10-11):

“Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
prophesy illusions,
leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”

The world was scandalized by both John and Jesus because John primarily preached the Law of God and Jesus the  Gospel of God primarily and worse for the world: they preached it truly.  John said everyone needs baptism.  You cannot escape. Flee for refuge to His infinite mercy.  All are sinners, all have been warned about the wrath of God against all ungodliness and those who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Romans 1: 18). but those who were dead, blind, lame, leprous, are cleansed and forgiven and cling to Him in true faith for He has done that, raise the dead, give sight to the blind, the lame to walk, the leprous to cleanse.  Pr. Johann Gerhard preached it well:

“All His outward miracles—as he healed the blind, the deaf, the mute and raised the dead—point to what He wanted to accomplish inwardly for the soul’s health.  With this, He wants to show He had come to heal the inward damage of the soul—the fount from which all these physical ailments flow, namely sin.  He did not primarily and solely come to take care of the body’s well-being; for other holy men of God like Elijah and Elisha also had done this.  They had miraculously healed the physical ailments of the body.  Instead, Christ came to heal the entire person…He  principally came to help the soul from the misery of sin,which no holy man of god had ever done, nor could do.  Tthat’s also why the outward miracles ceased, but His inward work of grace still endures forever. “ Gerhard, pp. 26-27

He comes to us to save us, the coming one to work grace within and by doing so faith, hope and love.  We so need Him these dark days.

 Joy to the world the Lord has come…not joy of the world.  There is little joy in the world, the flesh and certainly not the devil. It is set in upon itself.  Incurvatus se, is the Latin saying describing sin at the time of the Reformation: curved in upon oneself and that is darkness. On a sunny school day in Newtown, Connecticut, this past Friday,  we saw that darkness again:  20 children massacred. When Jesus was born the rage of Herod the Great was such he killed all the male children in Bethlehem age 2 and younger.  The Holy Innocents. Herod the Great was bent in upon himself.  We do not know how many Holy Innocents there were. The Bible does not tell us but it tells us this:  one child murdered is one too many:  in a classroom or in the womb.  The incurvature of the soul is monstrous these days in so many ways. A curved spine is impossible to heal but so is a curved soul but with Him all things are possible. It is the curved soul that wreaks way more harm and horror than a curved spine, maybe not murder, but say infidelity in marriage, or…You name it and it has been named by the Lord in the 10 commandments.  The One who was the only one who ever walked on earth not curved in upon Himself at all can heal the soul. John preached to show the people their sin within and Jesus came to show them His mercy to turn them without:   

…the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 

Blind, lame, leprous deaf and dead is poor in the spirit indeed.  Preached Good News of the Word that comes to us outside of our bodies and souls to heal them and seal them with the Holy Spirit.  People were scandalized that God could so mightily forgive in such a weak vessel as Jesus of Nazareth.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Today’s opening collect is a one sentence prayer:

 Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

This prayer is so needed these days by us all. Jesus will not dance to the tune of the world. People say to Him: You did not take much notice of how much we have done and have done for You. You did not dance to our tune.  They imagine that God owes them eternal life for their merits and holy life (Johann Gerhard). It is as if the Lord says:  My people please believe what I have done for you!  Show me your wounds and I show you My Hands, scarred for all time by the Cross and I give you life. 

Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

You did not expect to see in the desert a reed shaken in the wind, a man who falls prey to every new idea that comes down the pike.  A man who is tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. 1 Timothy 3:  15if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth Revelation 3: 12: The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.. Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.

For those who mourn, Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.  

For those who do not know where to turn:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.

For the Church that she may preach His unvarnished truth the light of His Word:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.  

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 7

 

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Text:  Mark 7:  24-37

As at the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the man now hearing not to tell anyone.  Did He use reverse psychology so that the man would start to spread the news all over?  No, that’s deceitful and in Jesus’ mouth there was no deceit. 

Why does Jesus want the man to keep his healing a secret?  Many people thought Jesus’ ministry was all about physical healing.  Jesus’ great deeds, like signs, point to Him and His identity.  In Mark chapter 1 after Jesus heals many and He’s becoming well-known, He goes off to pray by Himself. The disciples come looking for him, “Everyone is looking for you.”  Jesus responded, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”  He tells them the purpose of His arrival:  to preach, to preach the reign of God, to preach good news to the poor, to bind the wounds of the broken-hearted, to forgive so by that forgiveness gives faith, faith that holds Him tight for healing of heart, soul and mind. 

After today’s lesson at the end of chapter 7, beginning in 8:31, 9:31 and 10:34 Jesus tells the disciples, the religious leadership will, “… condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” The focus, clear and unmistakable is the Cross and the Resurrection.  The focus of  physical healing alone would get everything out of focus.  See so-called faith healers on TV. The ones I have heard never preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for sin-soaked men and women, nor point to the Sacraments, but they do point themselves and their ministries.  Jesus points us to Golgotha, this is why He came out to point us in the right direction to the Father through the Son:  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  All those whom Jesus healed were nowhere to found at the foot of the Cross, even the disciples were not there. He came out, so that in Him, bearing the marks of Cross, risen, in Him we are found.

 Marks tells that He crossed the border into Tyre and Sidon.  These were pagan, Gentile cities. This is a mighty big border for a devout Jew as Jesus to cross.  Syrophoenician meant a descendant of the Philistines.  Yes, and a woman and here is a  mother with a demon-possessed daughter. Jesus said before in chapter 7 that all the man-made spiritualities, religious rites and rituals we invent, can not cleanse the dirty soul and heart. Even keeping “my nose clean” won’t cleanse the heart. He pointed out that it is what comes out of the heart which defiles a man: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

The human heart is broken, bent in upon itself, so it breaks the Law of God.  The Syrophoenician woman is not part of the covenant of Israel.  Jesus knows this.  She kneels at His feet and begs for her daughter.  She is praying.  She won’t let go of Jesus.  She heard His Word.  She looks out to Him.  But initially He does not look out for her.  “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus came first for the lost house of the children of Israel.  But her faith does not let Him go.  But even the dogs, literally pet dogs,  eat the crumbs from the children’s table. For this statement your daughter is well. In Greek the word “Statement” is literally “word”.  For this word, the word of faith, which you have heard, your daughter is well.  Her daughter needed the Word of God as well in the darkness of her soul. 

Both the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus had this in common:  it was for the Jew as well. This preaching angered their fellow Jew, angry enough to kill them.  “He’s saying we are sinners as well!  The nerve! Gentiles, yes, are sinners!  But not us!” Like in Church life, “I don’t want to go to church, that’s where all the good people go”.  And Christians can give off that attitude.  Pharisaic attitude is alive and well.   Now with the Syrophoenician woman, it becomes clear. The bread of God’s Word is needed by all, Jew and Gentile. The is why He came out.  “… the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”   Sin is an equal opportunity employer and the wages of sin is death and we insist on working for such lousy wages.  Many churches rant on about “inclusivity”.  “All have sinned” is mighty inclusive!  “All who believe”, likewise and likewise, as He died and rose for all.

He crossed a mighty big border. But He had done that already: He was born.  Still, this was not the biggest border He would cross: it  was the Cross. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. James encourages to show no partiality, because the Lord of glory, our Lord Jesus Christ showed no partiality upon the Cross and risen from the dead, to preach the Gospel into all creation. His Word is still needed by all in all lands and hearts foreign to the truth of the Gospel, dying to hear:  you are forgiven.  All fed bread from our tables and the Bread of Life from His Table.  In the Book of Common Prayer of the 17th century, the Anglican fathers prayed this prayer which captures the essence of the lesson of eating the crumbs under children’s table.  It is called the “Prayer of Humble Access”:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

The Lord, though, finally did not give crumbs to the Syrophoenician woman, nor us but Himself.  It is for this Word, He the Word, He freed a Gentile woman’s daughter of  a demon and stuck His finger into deaf man’s ear and touched the man’s tongue. This points us to the real hearing He unstops our ears for His Word, freeing us from the darkness.  He is  the light of world.  Put on the armor of light. Be opened!  Not be open to  everything that you hear because all is not good. Be opened, like cupping the hands on a hot day at a stream for a cool drink. He fills us according to His Word. At the end of the lesson the folks say He has done all things well.  Jesus’ polling numbers were off the chart.  At the Cross, He maybe had a favorable rating of 1%, when the Roman Centurion, a Gentile, declared, This was the Son of God.  It is on the Cross, the Lord made all things well, stamped forgiven, redeemed, so loved. 

 

 

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