Preacher: Canon Neil Thompson, Precentor
10 August 2008, 08:00 (Trinity 12)
On Friday afternoon, the President of the People’s Republic of China declared the Games of the XXIX Olympiad open. At almost the same time, guns opened fire on Tskhinvali in South Ossetia and bombs have now fallen on Gori in Georgia. ‘Be opened’ cry the powerful, presidents and generals.
And ‘Be opened’ cries God in Jesus but with such different effect and purpose. Our Gospel passage is about healing and giving hearing to the deaf and speech to the weak and powerless, the dumb and voiceless. Although this healing miracle was wrought for one man, God does this in Jesus for generations, peoples, communities and all who are cut off from the words of life and the music of salvation. So are we deaf and mute?
Probably not in physiological terms but spiritually we are all so often unable to hear God and one another and to speak out in his name. And this remarkable story is set in history and human particularity: the passage opens:
Jesus, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.
Unless we know the geography of Israel and Palestine we will not know what a strange route this was. A commentator writes that this is ‘as though a man should travel from Cornwall to London via Manchester’!
However we might explain this as an inaccuracy or as an extraordinary journey, Jesus arrives in Gentile territory, the Decapolis district. So, too, it is for us.
God brings us healing by a tortuous and often illogical route and he comes as a stranger to our ways, beliefs and culture. But what he does, if we will but let him, is to enable us to hear and speak in a radically different and new way.
We are set free into God’s language: where love determines human will and speaks forgiveness, reconciliation and life to one another. It will not bring glory and triumph as wars and contests and games promise. It brings a different victory and a splendour born in humility and the crucible of sacrifice and mercy.
As St Paul teaches us in the Epistle from 2 Corinthians:
not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.
It is he who opens our lives to eternity. Worldly power and glory can be beguiling, insistent and enslaving. Do we know our need for God and the healing of Jesus?
Let us pray that we may welcome the presence and power of our redeemer who comes out of his way, this very morning, to touch us and heal us.