September 17, 2000

"An Ear for Healing"
Sermon by Rev. Sherry Parker
Dundee United Methodist Church
13th Sunday after Pentecost

Please note: Because I do not use notes when I preach, the text in the written sermon may vary slightly from the spoken sermon. My prayer is that in both my writing and my speaking the Holy Spirit works to make this message worthy of God's purpose.

Scripture: Mark 7:31-37

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit my god-daughter, Elizabeth, in Iowa. She is a remarkable little girl. Three years ago, on July 4th, she was born when her mother was in the 26th week of her pregnancy. Elizabeth weighed less than two pounds. Today she is a healthy, active three year old, curious about the world and ready to discover all she can. When I visited Elizabeth and her parents, I was introduced to something else remarkable about her. She has an uncanny ear for music. She can repeat any tune she hears and she does it on pitch. Even if she doesn't quite catch all the words, the tune is true and beautiful. Some of you may remember meeting Scot, Elizabeth's father, last fall. He is a United Methodist pastor in Iowa and sang the benediction, "He Leadeth Me", for one of our worship services last fall. Elizabeth has inherited his gift for music. Right now her favorite recording is the soundtrack to the musical Annie. Let your mind's ear picture a three-year-old belting out the song "Tomorrow", her head high, each note clear and joyous.

Having an ear for music is a splendid gift. During the opening of our Sunday School, Dawn Wyse with her ear for music led the children in singing. This morning we have been blessed by an anthem from our choir, a group of people who have an ear for music and are committed to sharing it for God's glory. We can name our family members and acquaintances who have musical talent, those who can sing or play an instrument. And each of us by our discovery or by the comments we hear from others have an idea about whether we have an ear for music or not.

Now, I will grant that God has given some people a special gift in the area of music, voices that reflect the singing of angels, the ability to collect notes and arrange them into compositions, the ability to teach others to make music. But I also think that each of us has the capacity to develop an ear for the appreciation of music, to hear and enjoy music in all its variety, from the most ancient to the most contemporary, from the familiar sounds of western style music to the unfamiliar tones of African and Asian music. We can grow in appreciation for the skills involved in composing and performing "art for the ears."

Imagine for a moment the new and incredible world opened to the deaf and speech-impaired man whom Jesus healed near the shores of Galilee. >From the moment Jesus touched him, placed his fingers in the man's ears, touched his tongue, the man who had lived in silence now heard the whole world before him. He would develop an ear for the comforting words of his parents, the happy cries of children, the sounds of work and livestock in the field, the sounds of the night. Jesus gave him the opportunity to develop an ear for the music and rhythms of life.

Those who witnessed the miracle of this man's healing had developed "an ear", as well. Theirs was an ear for the healing power of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus told the people who had brought the deaf man to him to tell no one of the miracle, but they couldn't help themselves. The more Jesus told them to stop talking about it, the more they proclaimed the news. A healer for all the ages was in their midst. They cried, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak!" (Mark 7:37) And although it is hidden in our English translation, this statement is plural. The crowd who proclaimed Jesus miracles knew that it was not one man who was able to hear. By Jesus name many came to hear and to speak.

These friends of the man who had the sounds of the world open to him, were not the first nor the last to develop "an ear" for the healing presence of God. Those who had once been declared unclean lepers and then healed by Jesus, rejoiced in the company of friends and family. Those whose lives had been consumed and tormented by spirits that inhabited and controlled them knew the release and healing of Jesus. A woman, set apart from her community for over a decade because of a condition that made her unclean, found the healing she needed as she fell and grasped the hem of Jesus' garment. By Jesus, those who sat on a hillside hungry for an evening's meal were fed. By Jesus, a child thought dead had life restored. By Jesus, people once lame walked and danced for joy, the sick were cured and men and women were called from their ordinary tasks to extraordinary discipleship. These people had been given by Jesus "an ear" for healing. They heard it in the promise of god's kingdom from this healing teacher. They felt it in the touch of the very Son of God. They knew it in the fact of resurrection. And the miracle here was much deeper and lasting than physical healing. Jesus brought healing for the soul.

In Isaiah Chapter 6, God calls the prophet Isaiah to go out to all of Israel and proclaim God's judgment. But it seems that God gives Isaiah an impossible task. People will listen, but they will not understand. They will look, but they won't see. Their ears will be stopped. They will not turn and find healing. (Isaiah 6:9-10)

Praise be to God that Jesus' healing, the unstopping of ears and the enabling of speech, did not stop there in Galilee or after Jesus' death and resurrection. Millions have had their ears open to the gospel, their tongues loosed to proclaim Jesus as Lord. Praise be to God for the enabling power of the Holy Spirit that gives us an ear for healing even to this day.

John Wesley tried his hand at missionary work in Georgia in the mid 1700's. He was a dismal failure. Not only was he unable to lead a congregation, but he fell in love with a woman who became engaged to someone else and it broke his heart. He returned to England, defeated, wounded. It wasn't until a few years later, as he sat in a Bible study that his ears were unstopped and he felt great healing wash over him. He wrote in his journal that upon understanding the love of God through Jesus Christ and a powerful forgiveness that was for him, his heart felt strangely warmed.

A colleague of mine, from my days as a teacher is terminally ill. A mutual friend called me recently to marvel at this dying Christian woman's peace. How could she be so at rest in the face of imminent death? The answer: her ears are opened and she knows a healing that our physical bodies are incapable of.

My ears were unstopped to hear about healing through the friendship and witness of a United Methodist Fellowship group in the town where I grew up. I heard from the world that my family needed to have more money, and that I needed to be better looking, more popular with my peers, more talented, smarter to be well, to lead a good life. What I "heard" in the company of Christians is that Jesus mends my wounds, dries my tears, and accompanies me in the highs and lows of life.

If an "ear for music" means that we recognize, appreciate, and perhaps even join in to create the melodies and harmonies of music. Then an "ear for healing" means that we recognize, appreciate, and perhaps even join in to spread the healing power of Jesus Christ.

Has Jesus healed some part of your life? Was there a time when your ears were closed and your eyes shut to the love of God? We read in the papers about human beings perpetrating unspeakable cruelties against one another. We are disappointed and angered when we witness in public a basic lack of consideration for other people and God's creation. We know of lives ruined in fruitless search for satisfaction and fulfillment. We know places in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones that need healing.

Was there a time when you ears were unstopped to hear the healing love of God? Perhaps it was through the attention or teaching of an older saint in the church. Perhaps you heard of what Jesus is for you through your parents or a friend. Maybe your understanding came through a book or poem that somehow, by God's grace, crossed your path. Maybe right now, in this place, you wonder if this promise can really for you.

Hear anew about healing through Jesus Christ. He values and loves you not for your potential, but for who you are right now. He is the one who anoints your wounds of disappointment, alienation, loss and pain. Jesus can bring respite for you in the storms. He can be your rock. And belief in him sets you at this moment on the very edge of eternity, looking forward to heavenly glory.

And Jesus looses our tongues to sing this song of salvation. For how will anyone come to hear it unless we sing before others in our testimony and to God in thanksgiving and praise (Perkins, p. 613). In our scripture this morning the deaf man's friends bring him to Jesus. They beg Jesus to touch him, to heal him. We can do no less for those we love. Are we confident enough in the power of the Holy Spirit to help us in bringing friends to the healing touch of Jesus through our prayers, our witness and our invitations?

Do you have "an ear" for the healing power of Jesus Christ? Let your loves be filled with the music of healing and salvation and sing its song.

Hare, Douglas. Westminster Bible Companion: Mark. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996. Perkins, Pheme. Commentary on Mark. The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume VIII. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995.