Be Opened (Mark 7)

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Service Notes

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity + August 19, 2018
  • Order of Service:Divine Service 1
  • Hymns: LSB #849, 398, 413, 549

Theme Verse

And they brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on him. (Mark 7:32)

Sermon Text

As Jesus healed the deaf man, we see what happens to us. Last week, we heard the terrible words from St. Paul: "You were dead in your trespasses and sins."[1] He says elsewhere, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him."[2] When Jesus says, "Be opened,"[3] He commands that not only your ears and your tongue be opened. He commands your whole life be open in Him.
A closed life is curved in on itself. Nothing is important if it doesn't come from you. Everyone else's ideas and concerns are a nuisance. "My way or the highway" is the slogan of the closed life.
And that is what each one of you were. What each of you are tempted to be. Why do you think the First Commandment is first? "You shall have no other gods before Me."[4] A closed life places you before God as the highest priority. Jesus came to heal this issue. "You were dead in your trespasses and sins."[5] A closed life is a dead life.
An open life is curved outward. It looks to what is outside the self for importance. Jesus heals this deaf man "in the region of the Decapolis."[6] The Decapolis was the region on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. This man was not from Israel. Jesus healed him anyway! Why? Because His life is open. And He has given His open life to you in your Baptism.
In an open life, every part of life is open and transparent. When any individual part is closed, your whole life is closed. "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."[7] When one item falls, everything else will topple.
Your life is closed when you fail to listen to God's Word. When you despise what your Lord says because it doesn't agree with what you want. You have placed yourself above God again. Jesus was out in the Decapolis because the Jewish establishment had closed their ears to His teaching. They had closed their ears to the Gospel.
But that can't happen with Christians, can it? Of course it can. It happens every day. We daily close our ears to what Jesus says to us. In this morning's Gospel, Jesus charges the deaf man to tell no one.[8] Your closed life latches onto that verse: Jesus wants me to tell no one about Him. And we do it! This was pointed out to me from food distribution this week: "You're only talking to me because you're getting paid to do it." Like outreach is a paid position in the Church. That only certain people can do it. Like everyone isn't supposed to be doing it.
But what is the last thing Jesus says before He ascends into Heaven? "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."[9] Who does Jesus say this to? The Apostles. A closed life equates the Apostles with pastors. Therefore, since Jesus said this to the eleven Apostles, only a pastor can do outreach. Outreach is a priority for the pastor, but it is not the main priority he is called to do. The pastor's main priority is to shepherd the entire flock--those established in the Word and those just being brought in. In fact, if you look at the history of the Lutheran Reformation, many of the greatest figures that brought about what we celebrate as Lutherans were lay people. Philipp Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession and its Apology. Christian Beyer was a lawyer who read the Confession before the Emperor. Frederick the Wise, John the Steadfast and John Frederick the Magnanimous were all princes who used their office and influence to keep the Lutheran teachings in the German lands. Four of the six theologians behind the Book of Concord were lay professors and musicians. They let their open life in Christ shine even in spite of the danger to their lives. They ignored the default setting of a closed life. Many Christians want a closed life because it's easier.
But Jesus commands your life to be open, which is hard. "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."[10] When Jesus speaks to the Apostles, He speaks to the entire Church. Everyone is commanded to go, baptize and teach. Jesus calls you to open not just your ears but your tongue to confess your faith in Him. We talk about "all nations," but that area begins right next door. Establishing relationships with your neighbors. Talking to your neighbors about your faith. It doesn't have to be a seminary-level thesis. It can be the simple faith of the child. Your open life. That's all it takes. Open ears, open mouth, open eyes, open hands. Your whole life open in Him who has given you His open life.
Your open life is a life of changes. Change is the one constant in life. Change is a dirty word among Lutherans. We like to do things the way we always have. But how has that been going for you? Robbinsdale has changed over the years. Has Redeemer changed with it? Have we adapted our methods to reach out to the changing landscape around us? Or have we fought against it? Closing the life of our congregation against our neighbors.
New people require new strategies. The one necessary thing is an open life. A constant presence of Jesus in and for the community. Even when the community changes daily. You are the constant presence in your neighborhood. You are the open life bringing the life of Christ to your neighbors. Jesus was the ultimate change with His ministry. He was all about change because He was opening what man had closed.
That's your calling. Redeemer today is very much like Revelation's church in Philadelphia: "I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My name."[11] Redeemer is small, much smaller than we remember from the "good ol' days." But these days can be just as good if we open our lives to our neighbors. It doesn't matter if you are nine or ninety. You can speak of your Lord and Savior who has opened your life to eternal life. The door is open. Jesus is telling you to walk through it. It doesn't matter if it's the food distribution or an outreach option that starts soon. These are all part of the door that Jesus has opened for Redeemer to walk through.
What is hindering you? Christ has opened your entire life. He gives you everything you need. The life. The words. The reward. Your life is open because Christ lives in you.[12] He has healed your closed life and opened you to a completely new life. Just as He healed the deaf man in the Decapolis and gave him a new life. Amen.

References

  1. Ephesians 2:1
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:14
  3. Mark 7:34
  4. Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7
  5. Ephesians 2:1
  6. Mark 7:31
  7. James 2:10
  8. Mark 7:36
  9. Matthew 28:19-20
  10. Matthew 7:13-14
  11. Revelation 3:8
  12. Galatians 2:20