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Monday, March 16, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 7:24–37

From there he 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 Syrophoenician 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.” (NRSV)

We read two stories today about Jesus casting out demons and healing the sick. It isn’t easy to find a point of reference in my ordinary life for extraordinary stories of miracle healing, but I am—as ever—struck by more subtle things happening in the scripture.

For one, Jesus—even as he performs dramatic miracles and saves lives—tries to avoid attracting any attention to himself (“He . . . did not want anyone to know he was there”; “He took him aside in private, away from the crowd”; “Jesus ordered them to tell no one”). What a difficult lesson. We are blessed with special gifts, and naturally we want to show everyone just how special. But God’s plan is not to prepare us for a game of “Humanity’s Got Talent!” God means for us to use our talents to help others. 

I’m also struck by how these stories—like many in the Bible—begin not with a sick person seeking out Jesus, but instead with a loving parent or a group from the community bringing the sick to Jesus or pleading for help on that person’s behalf. Last week, my community was devastated by news that a young father unexpectedly died in the night, leaving his wife and four children. The outpouring of support from neighbors has been so overwhelming that the Meal Train organizer actually asked people to stop delivering food for a while so the family can catch up. To witness this expression of love from the community is, to me, what it is to “see” God. It’s not as spectacular as the sight of God incarnate curing deafness with saliva, but it’s just as real to me.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of Jesus, who showed us how to love and care for each other. Amen.

Written by John Shonkwiler, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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