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LSB Proper 18B Sermon – Mark 7:24-37

September 19, 2015

September 7, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And she begged Him to cast the demon out of her daughter…. 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.”

Today’s Collect offered this petition: “O Lord, let Your merciful ears be open to the prayers of Your humble servants and grant that what they ask may be in accord with Your gracious will.” That type of asking for divine action based in the LORD’s gracious will happened in Tyre and in the Decapolis, as presented in the Gospel Reading.

Two requests are made: the Syrophoenician woman asks for Jesus to remove a demon from her daughter; men from the Decapolis ask Jesus to heal a deaf-mute man. Their requests are rooted in what they know about Jesus. They have heard of His ability and desire to restore people to health. They have learned of the LORD’s gracious will being carried out in Jesus. That includes what Jesus had literally been doing to fulfill the prophecy given through Isaiah: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” Jesus was doing that in Galilee; they want it in their towns.

Even when Jesus speaks to the Syrophoenician woman about the propriety of healing her daughter, she trusts in the fullness of the LORD’s graciousness. Jesus says: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” He refers to the Covenant promises made to Israel—that the Israelites are to have His work done for them, while the Gentiles had no such standing. But that Gentile woman speaks of how when the LORD acts, there is plenty of mercy to go around: “Yes, Lord; even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Her trust in the LORD’s gracious will receives commendation from Jesus; He does what she asks.

Today’s psalm also teaches about this divine graciousness. It speaks of the blessed state for those who put their trust in the LORD: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.” These statements are meant to drive people back to the source of all that is truly good. They exhort people who have heard about the LORD to call upon Him whose ears are open to their cry and who desires to bestow His mercy to them.

But the greatest act of mercy that this gracious LORD performs is not the healing of maladies, but the granting of redemption and reconciliation. That is what Jesus was to accomplish. His wasn’t just a miracle worker. His assignment was to bring deliverance from afflictions that go beyond deafness and blindness. Jesus was in the world to free it from condemnation and the fear of death. He performed this by atoning for the sin of the world and by breaking the power of the grave through His resurrection. That is what the LORD desires to grant to all who hear of these mighty acts done by Jesus.

This is what you are called to believe and to trust. The psalmist tells you: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” His message is clear: Don’t rely on what leading people on earth for aid; such mortals cannot ultimately help you. Instead, the psalmist directs you to someone greater, someone that you have heard of. He points you to the LORD and His work that endures forever.

This blessed state that the psalmist describes is what you hold. It is your calling. You’ve been made part of the divine household, given a place at the table where the children are fully fed. You have a claim to the benefits that Jesus’ gracious acts of redemption have earned. You can call upon Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation—and He grants that to you. You can call upon Him to cast out the unclean spirits and to renew a right spirit within you—and He does it. You can call upon Him to remove the deafness to what is spiritual—and He allows you to hear and know what true life is. You can call upon Him to make you bold speakers of everything that He has done well—and He opens your mouths to declare His praise.

That type of prayer is what you and all of Jesus’ followers around the world offer. Such petitions are rooted in what you have heard and believed concerning Jesus. Without knowledge of Jesus’ ability to grant healing, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection from the grave, you would have no reason to ask Him for aid. Without hearing about the LORD’s graciousness, you would not dare to approach Him for anything good, but would cower in fear.

But you have heard and believed that the LORD has “chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him.” You have heard the exhortation: “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” You have heard and believed that the LORD “does all things well.” That has been done in Jesus. And so you have come seeking His aid. You have come and knelt before Him. You have come and brought others who suffer the same affliction. You have come seeking the merciful acts that the LORD has promised to perform. You have asked for what is in accord with His gracious will.

And what have you received? All that the LORD has promised. You have been forgiven. You have been restored. You have been reconciled. Your eyes have been opened. You have been lifted up. You have been given a place in the divine household. You have been filled with righteousness. You have been given a share in the life of the world to come, where the LORD will reign forever.

As the LORD’s humble servants, you receive those good things when He opens His ears to hear your prayers. Your help is in the God of Jacob. Your hope is in the LORD. Do not be afraid to ask, but always return to the promises that He has made to you, the expressions of His gracious will that He fulfills for all who call upon His Name.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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