It’s Time We Open Up!

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Lutheran pastor Peter Marty.  It appears in its entirety on the Day 1 website.

The text for the sermon is our Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, September 6, 2009, the 14th Sunday after Pentcost.  Mark 7:24-37 can be read here.

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EPHATHA! Be Opened! We simply must find ways to articulate the faith and love in Jesus Christ that we hold so dear. In my denomination, a research project revealed that 90% of teenagers active in the church could not tell you what their parent or parents believed. 90%! They didn’t know! If adults cannot speak meaningfully and regularly of their faith, how will it ever get passed along?

This speech impediment we have on matters of faith is really quite peculiar. Because on most matters in this country, if you’re really for something, you let people know. You put a bumper sticker on your car. You wave an American flag on the street corner when the kids come home from Iraq. You wear T-Shirts with logos. You tattoo your favorite expression on your bicep. Fifteen-year old girls wear boxer shorts bearing slogans of their school spirit.

If you’re enthused about the difference that Christ Jesus makes in your life, why wouldn’t you find a meaningful way to let people know … and to share at least a piece of that joy. EPHATHA! Be Opened! Be set free!

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When Martin Luther put together a baptismal liturgy in 1523, the actual rite required the pastor to take some of his own saliva and touch the ears and lips of every child getting baptized. At the same instant, the pastor was to repeat the words of Jesus to the deaf man, that one with the speech impediment. The baptizing pastor was to say: Ephatha – That is, be opened. We don’t do this anymore in the Lutheran Church. And I’m not sure I’d be serving my congregation very long if I started using this saliva ritual.

But the idea isn’t bad. From the very get-go in life, with a lot of help from parents and pastors and adult mentors, we need to find better ways to not be so bound-up with our lives and so tongue-tied with our faith. Have courage. Grab hold to what is good. Loosen up and love a bit more freely. Support the weak. Strengthen the faint-hearted. Honor all people. And for Jesus’ sake, keep looking for those ways to open your life to the power of the Holy Spirit … relying on that great prayer of the Psalmist if it helps: O Lord, open thou my lips, and let my tongue declare your praise.

O Lord God, who has the gift to open up even the tightest of lives, work on us. Deliver us from that which has us all bound up that we might become truly free people ready to serve you with hearts that are wide open and willing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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