In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Be opened. Listen. Hear the Word of God. Peace is not found in lying about what the Bible says or pretending that God is different from how the Bible describes Him. Unity is not achieved in compromises and treaties, by ambiguous language chosen deliberately to be misunderstood and to deceive. Faith is not the vague notion that there is a god up there somewhere who thinks that I’m special, but who doesn’t care enough to actually tell us who He is or is not unwilling to toy with us like a cat with a mouse. Yet all those things have seemed more attractive to us than the Truth. Their appeal is the allure of the prostitute: no commitment, no responsibility, no love, just a quick, easy, meaningless roll in the hay.
But sin never delivers as promised. Temptation is the inventor of false advertising. It is never without consequences, without lingering diseases and worries, without fear and shame, without danger or cost. A moment’s indiscretion, a giving-in to our baser desires, a bit of selfish indulgence and self-promotion, and we wind up hurting those we love the most and suffering through another failure of our own design.
But it is precisely into this mad adolescent gathering of warring cheerleaders, stoners and drunks, jocks and geeks, that Our Lord Jesus Christ inserted Himself. For if all the world was High School, Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate was the cafeteria with the teachers out of the room. The bullies, the drug dealers, the mean-spirited girls held court and the trembling freshmen did their best to blend in to the background. Seasoned police officers and green berets wouldn’t walk into that cafeteria. But Jesus went in with eyes and arms open. He stood alone. And even the weakest freshman felt powerful against Him and abused Him with glee. Still, He came. He came for the confused and hurting who sought to hurt Him; for the lonely girl who strikes out at her classmates with barbed fashion critiques; for the awkward, acne-infested boy who manipulates his girlfriend and then brags about his conquest to his teammates; for the incompetent teacher who bullies and bribes the children she was asked to serve. He came for us all: the superintendent, the lunch ladies, the teachers, the janitors, the kids, even the PTA and the school board.
For while we didn’t know what made for our peace, while we were jockeying for seats at Satan’s table and his favor, Jesus Christ bought us back at the terrible cost of His own Life. He submitted to death, let it kill Him, so that we would live. He came and endured our hatred and violence as a sheep to the slaughter, never complaining. He came deliberately, intentionally, to seek and to save, to rescue and to redeem, to give His life in exchange for yours. It is the Innocent for the guilty, the Righteous for the unholy. He made for your peace by sacrificing Himself in your place, by allowing you to do your worst. And through that cruel execution He has taken on your guilt, your shame, and your death. He took it all to the grave and buried it there. He rose, but it did not. Because, as foolish as it seems, God loves you.
So you don’t need to look after yourself. You don’t need to protect your own interests. You don’t need to stand up for your rights or honor. You don’t need to be pretty, get good grades, be a star athlete, or popular. Jesus loves you. That is enough. He has taken care of everything.
So what happened to the deaf man by the Sea of Galilee? His friends brought him to Jesus. They were true friends. They didn’t just change the nomenclature and pretend that that took care of the problem. They didn’t tell him God wanted him that way and that he should get used to it. They brought him to where he could get help, to Jesus. And what did Jesus do? He put His finger into his ear, spat, and touched his tongue. All sort of gross, intimate things. It is almost as though he wiped the man’s bottom. But that is what it takes to open ears and loosen tongues. It requires Jesus washing your feet, touching your tongue, wiping your bottom. And at the hand of Jesus the deaf man was free to hear God’s Word and proclaim His praise. Jesus broke the chains of death. He stopped the cycle. He stood in the gap, made up the difference, restored His good creation.
That is who Jesus is. It is what He does, why He came. Peace is created by the forgiveness won on the cross. It is peace with the Father in the bond of the Spirit through the intercession of the Son. It passes all understanding. It is not ours to manipulate or manufacture. Likewise, unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ can only be created by God. It is given where His Word reigns and men submit to it together. It will only be fully realized when we are taken from this valley of sorrows. Faith is the ultimate gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the conviction that the Holy Trinity is good, has worked out our salvation for us for free, and will at the end bring us to everlasting consolation and bliss.
When Jesus invades your personal space and sticks His finger into your ear, it comes away dirty, with who knows what gross thing on the end of it. That is a little embarrassing, a little uncomfortable. But when that gunk has been removed and He is revealed to you according to His mercy, when the Shepherd’s Voice is heard by your ears, saying: “I love you. I forgive you. Be my Bride.” it is worth it, every time. Shame is removed along with sin and you are free to sing His praise.
Come. Stick out your tongue. Have the Body of Christ placed upon it. Be opened.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana