THE WORD  Mark 7:24-37

From there [Jesus] set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syro-phoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus  ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

 MESSAGE       “The Secret … Revealed!”        Rev. James Renfrew, Pastor

Every Sunday when we gather for worship we read a story from the Bible.  I have been the pastor hear for 18 years and there has not been a single Sunday that we didn’t hear a Bible story.  In fact, it is the most important thing we do during our Sunday service to read from the Bible.  We call the Bible Holy Scripture.  We call it the Word of God.  Some people just call it the Good Book.

Whatever you call this book, I love all of the stories that we find it the Bible.  They amaze us.  They challenge us.  They inspire us.  They make us laugh.  They make us cry.  They open our eyes.  They teach us wisdom.   They help us grow.  They show us how to be Jesus’ disciples.  They shine light in the dark places of the world.

I’ve read the Bible many times over, but I keep turning back to it, and so should you, because there is always something new to discover.  Even in the stories that you know well there is always something new to discover.

The Bible is a valuable treasure, but we don’t lock it up for safe-keeping.  It is a treasure that we want to share with as many people as we can!  That’s why we are giving them to 4th graders today.  It is a very important gift.  I still have the one I was given at the end of 3rd Grade.  I still have the study Bible that I got when I started attending Union Theological Seminary, the place where I learned to become a Presbyterian minister.  I used that Bible so much that it fell apart, the binding split and the pages fell out.  And that’s good.  Please do not put your Bible in a box, don’t hide it in the closet or the attic, don’t keep it secret, but keep using it, keep reading it, sharing stories from it until it wears out.

We have given each of our 4th graders a scripture reading to look up in their new Bibles, but today I have a reading for all of us to look up.  Mark 7:24 is where is where today’s story begins.  Today’s story is actually two stories.  In both stories secrecy is a key theme. Jesus is trying to avoid notice, telling people not to tell anybody else what they’ve seen, but the word about him keeps spreading quickly.  Why the secrecy?  The testimony of crowds may be wildly inaccurate, full of exaggeration, and Jesus was trying to get to a deeper understanding of faith, not just perform magic tricks.

In the first story, Jesus was visiting the city of Tyre, and he didn’t want anyone to know he was there, but the news that he was there spread up and down the street.  The mother of a very troubled girl heard that he was there, went right over and knocked on the door, to beg Jesus to help and that’s exactly what he did.    The little girl was cured.  So right here we learn why the Bible is such a treasure in our lives.  When we have problems, fears, sickness, Jesus gives us hope and healing.

The second story happened after Jesus left Tyre and traveled to the Decapolis region.  That Jesus was there lit up the neighborhood, and a deaf man who could not speak was brought to Jesus.  Jesus cured him, too, and once again we see what a treasure the Bible is in our lives.  When something is wrong, when something is not right, when people are suffering, when hope seems scarce, Jesus says that ancient word, “ephphatha!”, and new possibilities open up.

Ephphatha, open up, he says, and where we thought we were stuck or lost, where there seemed to be no solution, and the obstacles impossible, Jesus opens a door to a new way of living.

At the end of the second story, Jesus said to everyone who was there, not to tell anyone about what he had done.  Jesus told them not to tell what they had seen, to keep it secret, but he knew what would happen, those people told everyone they knew.

Even today, Jesus knows that you’ll do the same.  Even if I tell you to keep everything secret today, you’ll tell everyone about the babies we celebrated, the Bibles that we offered to our young friends, about being in an awesome photograph that people in the future will be looking at 100 years from now, about a delicious brunch.  Signs of hope and healing, peace and love, are all around us today.  Who could possibly keep quiet about it!  Tell everyone!

WHAT WE BELIEVE   O God, we believe that there are stories to be told, old stories from long ago, but made new every time we tell them, and we love to tell them!  They started out as your stories, but as we have learned them they’ve become our stories, too.  One story leads to another and then to another. Incredible stories about God creating everything, stories about God rescuing people from slavery, stories about God sending Jesus to save us, stories about Jesus alive after dying on the Cross, and stories about Jesus’ apostles fired up with the Spirit.  We believe that these stories need to be told again and again, so that they are always remembered.  O God, you can count on us to do it!  Amen!