338. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity. I.
Let my lips declare the judgments of thy mouth. Amen.
Gospel Lesson, Mark 7, 31-37. And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; and were beyond measure astonished, saying. He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
“His ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.” Notice that first his ears were opened, and then the string of his tongue was loosed. The inability to speak is caused by inability to hear. Deaf-mutes usually have perfect organs of speech, but can not use them, because they can not hear. The reason why there are so many who are spiritually dumb is that so many are spiritually deaf. They have a glib tongue; are able to commend and censure, to attack and defend, and to choose their words wisely and well; and still their tongue is tied: They can not praise the Lord, nor recount his wonders. The fact that we have received the gift of speech, this glorious gift, which is possessed by no other creature on earth, evidences the Lord’s goodness to us, and proclaims his wisdom. That, however, which this most marvellous gift itself proclaims many who have it are unable to proclaim; in so far they are dumb. They have nor heart nor tongue to speak any divine truth for the glory of the Lord. Nor can they, therefore, speak in a way to edify others. When the divine life is not in our heart, neither can it be on our tongue; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
First, then, the love of God in Christ must enter our hearts. By nature we all are evil and dead. Life and light must come from without; that is to say, from God. And this comes to pass when we hear his word; hear the truth and love in Christ, spoken to us through his gospel. When the ear of the soul is opened, and it actually hears the truths of the gospel, then we learn to speak, and to praise God. The Spirit of life then abides in us, and causes our tongue to speak the language of the regenerated and purified heart. Let the Lord take you aside by yourself alone; let him put his finger, — that is, the power of his word unto salvation, — into your ears, and let him touch your tongue with the juice of his mouth; let him sigh and make intercession for you; place yourself under the mercy of him, your high priest, and hear his “Ephphatha”; so shall you learn to “speak plain”. Then shall you sing, and heaven and earth sing with you, concerning that which the Lord has done: “He hath done all things well; he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” Let this blessed miracle befall many, many among us, merciful God. Give us grace so to hear the words of thy Spirit that they may abide in us. “Blessed the soul that hears the Lord speak in the heart, and receives the word of comfort out of his mouth! Blessed the ears which hearken to that which the Spirit of God softly whispers, and do not incline to the noisy and confused voices of this world!”
Give us grace to use this excellent gift, our tongue, for the purpose of speaking thy praise. Give us this happiness through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ye nations round the earth, rejoice
Before the Lord, your sovereign King;
Serve him with cheerful heart and voice,
With all your tongues his glory sing.
The Lord is God, ’tis he alone
Doth life and breath and being give;
We are his work, and not our own.
The sheep that on his pastures live.
339. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity. II.
“Glorious Lord, thyself impart; light of light, from God proceeding.”
Epistle Lesson, 2 Corinthians 3, 4-9. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God: who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
It is a thing glorious beyond measure to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This ministration is glorious by reason of its origin; for it has been given us by the King, our blessed Savior himself. It is his own work which we do when we preach the word. Who is not glad to serve the greatest and best master? Who does not esteem it as an honor to be the personal representative of such a master?
Let the ministers of the word of God not forget that they are “ambassadors for Christ”; that it is God himself who by them speaks to the souls. — This ministration is glorious by reason of the subject matter with which the word deals. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is truth, spirit, and life; it has its source in God’s own heart, in his eternal love and divine wisdom, revealed to us in the birth and death of the only begotten Son, and sealed by his resurrection. It is the sun which shines on humanity, and gives light and warmth to the hearts. Without this sun everything in us would be dead and desolate. This gospel is the celestial music which again draws the heart heavenward; it is the strong life-line which the Lord throws about the souls, and with which he drags them out of the jaws of death. Moses was obliged to put a vail over the glory shining in the face of the Lord; we make every effort to reveal the glory of the Lord which shines upon the earth from the face of Christ. For that which we preach in the gospel is not the God of terrors, but our merciful heavenly Father; not wrath, but grace. — This ministration is glorious by reason of its purpose, which is the eternal salvation of the souls. Its object is none other than the creation of life from the dead. Life from the dead; could anything be more glorious? It glorifies the Lord; it magnifies the name of Jesus; mention, if you can, anything more beautiful than this. It makes love victorious, and satisfies jus tice ; it leads men back to the place where they rightfully belong, the throne of God; it delivers them from the power of the devil; and trans lates them into the kingdom of light, and finally into eternal bliss. The ministration of the letter wrote the law of love in stones, the ministration of the spirit writes it in the hearts.
What a grave responsibility! “And who is sufficient for these things?” Let every man acknowledge in his heart that of himself he is not sufficient; nay, that he is not able to think even one thought as he should! Then, however, the Lord’s “Ephphatha” shall open his ears and anoint his tongue.
Lord Jesus, expound thyself to us; that the glory of thy face may beam upon the church in the words and the lives of thy servants. Amen.
Shall we, whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high,
Shall we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny?
Salvation, O salvation!
The joyful sound proclaim,
Till each remotest nation
Has learned Messiah’s name.