Worship Service – September 5, 2021

Scriptures: James 2:1-10 and Mark 7:24-37

Sermon: Ephphatha! “Be opened!”

James 2:1-10

Favoritism Forbidden

(1) My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. (2) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. (3) If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” (4) have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
(5) Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (6)But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (7) Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
(8) If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (9) But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (10) For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Mark 7:24-37

The Faith of a Syrophoenician Woman

(24) Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. (25) In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. (26) The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
(27) “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
(28) “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
(29) Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
(30) She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

The Healing of a Deaf and Mute Man

(31) Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. (32) There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
(33) After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. (34) He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!” ). (35) At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
(36) Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. (37) People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

This is the word of God, for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

In our gospel reading today, we learn of two very different miracles performed by Jesus.
The first introduces us to a remarkable woman. She is courageous. She is clever. She is cool. Reminds me of my wife Bonne, always willing to speak to anyone to right a wrong. This Phoenician mom is most of all a loving momma who will do anything to help her sick baby girl. The NIV titles it,”The Faith of a Syrophoenician Woman”.
The second is, “The Healing of a Deaf and Mute Man”. In it we see that non-Jewish people, like the Jews, brought this deaf and mute man to Jesus to be healed. A bold move, on their part, to risk seeking help from a Jew or even being seen as acting like the Jews. They were willing to do anything to help get this deaf and mute man the healing he needed.
Both of these miracles were performed in Gentile territory. Verse 24 tells us that he went to,”the vicinity of Tyre”. Verse 31 tells us he continued in the Gentile region. He,”went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.” It’s clear Jesus wanted to minister in Gentile lands.
Verse 24 also tells us that He didn’t want anyone to know were He was and again in verse 36 states,”Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.”
We don’t have any idea why He took such an indirect route. Some suggest, ever since the feeding of the 5000, Jesus and his disciples had been, for the most part, skirting the region of the Galilee. His purpose was to avoid the opposition in Galilee and have an opportunity to teach his disciples privately. But there’s also a further emphasis on the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation. So maybe He was teaching His disciples and us to be open to other cultures and not show favoritism as we read in James 2:1-10.
Let’s take a closer look at these 2 stories in our Gospel reading today.
The first recorded by Mark tells of how Jesus saw the faith of a mother and sends a demon out of her daughter.
The story itself has always been one that I would just as soon skip over because, at first reading, it makes Jesus come off like some insensitive jerk.
This doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know. In fact, I wonder why such a story was preserved in the gospel record anyway.
Some commentators have tried to explain. Some have said that Jesus was just having a bad day — he and the twelve had gone north, out of Galilee (the only time the gospels have Jesus and His disciples leaving his native land) for some rest and relaxation. Taking a vacation to get away from all those awe struck and sometimes troublesome Jews. But instead, he is discovered and confronted by this insistent mother, admittedly, a most courageous woman who was violating every standard of acceptable feminine behavior by publicly conversing with a man who is not even her husband. Instead of reacting to her as he normally might, Jesus tries to blow her off with an insult, then finally, wises up and acts decent again. It was a bad day, courageous woman or not. Even the Son of God is entitled to a bad day, every so often. That is what some commentators say. I have trouble with that.
Others suggest that this event was part of the Lord’s growth and development — a learning experience for him. If, as the account of his boyhood attests, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52), we may presume that his growth continued as an adult. Being raised a Jew (and being taught by heritage that Gentiles like this lady are nothing more than dogs looking for their next meal! Jesus learns here that divine love knows no boundaries, racial or otherwise. This was a “learning experience” for him. Perhaps, but I am still not comfortable, with that interpretation.
Others say that this bantering back and forth between Jesus and the woman was merely the Lord’s way of teaching inclusiveness. By his initial reluctance to care for any Gentile, he was simply giving voice to the not-so-quietly harbored feelings of his Jewish followers. By finally agreeing and fulfilling the woman’s cry for help, Jesus was demonstrating the inclusiveness of God’s love and thereby taught his disciples that racism had no place in the kingdom. This encounter was simply one more of Jesus’ parables, this time, come to life.
That is possible, but it is still a stretch, though. How about the language of the encounter? At first glance, Jesus sounds awfully rough. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” The mom knew the ill-feeling between Jews and Gentiles. But calling her a dog to her face? Umm!
After all, calling someone a dog, even a pet puppy dog (as the Greek here suggests) is a term of abuse, if ever there was one. But this lady was sharp enough to realize that this was only playful banter, she responded in kind, and it worked and her daughter was healed. One of my best friends often greet me by saying,”Hey there uglier than me.” Or I show up late at a friends house and the first thing out of their mouth is,”It’s about time.” Both greetings tell me that their glad to see me.
We need to remember that we are reading and hearing this with Western eyes and ears. We must read this text through the culture of the Middle East. Otherwise, we are victimized by our ethnic blinders. It was a truly wonderful encounter that used the playful banter of the day, that is unfortunately lost on most of today’s readers. The gospel writer understood it, even if we don’t, and that is why it is with us still today.
Come to think of it, perhaps its placement in the narrative right next to the healing of the deaf man should have given us a clue all along. Two things jump out at me from the gospel account. First, the reference to spit. Indelicate, yes. But in the ancient world, it was believed that the spittle of a famous person had magically curative powers. Even today my own children know, and have known since they were little, that a father’s spit is the most powerful cleaning agent in the world. Not just dad’s but moms to. How many of you have had your parents spit on on tissue before cleaning a smudge off your face?
Was it necessary for healing this man? I doubt it, but Mark reports it anyway.
Jesus was acting in a recognizable way, that this man and onlookers would have been a custom too.
The second thing that grabs me is this untranslated Aramaic command: “Ephphatha!” which Mark translates for us,(which means, ”Be opened.”
Perhaps this is Marks way of insuring that no one would ever miss the need for us to, “Be opened” to the wisdom that the gospel knows no boundaries. Not geographic, not sexual, not racial, not any.
“Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” Can the good news be limited by race? The story of a certain Gentile who sought healing for her daughter says no. “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” Can it be limited by geography? Not in Jesus day, and certainly not in ours. “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”
The word of Jesus to the church is loud and clear: “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” The gospel is not the exclusive property of one group or another, one denomination or another. If we would ever hope to heal the divisions that separate us, we will remember and obey the command, “Ephphatha!”
The word is not just for the healing of the church. Remember, it came first to a man who needed help. The Spirit of Jesus is speaking again and saying to us who need help:
“Ephphatha! Be opened.” Let your ears be open to Christ’s word of forgiveness for your sin.
“Ephphatha! Be opened.” Let your eyes be open to see the opportunities God is making available in your world.
“Ephphatha! Be opened.” Let your mind be open to new ways of thinking that will expand your understanding of God’s will for you and yours.
“Ephphatha! Be opened.” Let your mouth be opened to share with your friends what God is doing in your life.
“Ephphatha! Be opened.” Let your life be open to the movement of the Spirit, open to release from whatever is scaring you, stopping you, holding you back, from becoming the person you want to be, the person God wants you to be.
“Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” It is a word we need to hear .. over and over and over again.
In His Service
Pastor Joe
Listen To Audio: Sermon 20210905
Listen To Audio: Service 09052021
Prayer of Confession:  God of overflowing grace, we confess that we have failed to live according to your way of faithfulness and steadfast love.  Forgive us, loving God.  Open our hearts to the gift of your grace, transform our lives by your Holy Spirit, and teach us to love one another, even as you have loved us; through Jesus Christ our Savior, Amen.



Pastor Joe will be available at the church on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4.  If you need to speak to him, contact Pastor Joe at 570-267-4570 (cell) or Email: joe.s.travis@gmail.com

Social Hour today following church.  Greeting cards for signature are in the Community Building.

Loose change goes to Local Missions

Sunday School starts at 8:30am

Choir practice will begin Thursday, Sept. 2nd at 1:00!  Please come a join us in singing praises to Jesus! 

Ladies meeting Thursday September 9th at 11 A.M. Those who can help, we will be cleaning the church from 10-11.

Men’s Breakfast Wednesday September 15th at 8:00 A.M.

Session meets Tuesday, September 14, at 9am in the community building.

Newsletter Deadline – Tuesday September 28, 2021.

Please sign up to host one of the social hours on the Sunday after Communion Service on the first Sunday of the month. 

EMAIL address for the church has been changed to:  fhpc400@att.net  

The PW is selling Franklin Hill Presbyterian Cookbooks called  “Recipes From The Hill” at $10.00 each.  All proceeds go to missions.  See Debbie Stalker.

The South Montrose Community Church has started a fire fund.  You may send donations to SMCC, PO Box 86, South Montrose,  Pa. 18843.  Add a note with the donations that the money goes into

their fire fund.  












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