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Trinity 14

[Keep a moment of silence, calling to mind that, though we are unable to gather together with others in Church, we share fellowship as a family of faith as we offer this short act worship in our own homes]

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” [Isaiah 35.5]

Collect

Almighty God, your only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence:  give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth;  through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Gospel Reading: Mark 7.31-37

A reading from the Gospel according to St Mark.

Jesus 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 every-thing well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.’

Reflection

Today’s reading is a classic account of a healing miracle in St Mark’s Gospel, the healing of the man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. It begins with Jesus making quite a journey, from Tyre, via Sidon and back towards his base near to the Sea of Galilee. It would be like walking from Swansea to St David’s via Caernarvon in the north. It also took him deeper into Gentile territory before returning to his own people.

Jesus and his followers were in the region of the Decapolis, east of the Sea of Galilee, when a man was brought to him for healing. It’s clear that, by now, he had gained a reputation within the Jewish and Gentile communities as miracle worker and healer.

St Mark describes the man as deaf and who had an impediment in his speech, for the two conditions were interrelated. There would have been very little help for someone with such a disability in the Holy Land of the first century. All the man had was a group of friends or family who saw in Jesus someone who might help him. They literally begged him to lay his hands on him and heal him.

The account tells us that our Lord took the man aside privately and then through sign language explained what he was going to do for him. He placed his fingers in his ears and spat and touched his tongue. In the ancient world spittle was seen as having curative qualities. So what Jesus attempted to communicate prepared the man for what followed.

After reassuring him Jesus used some more sign language, as he looked up to heaven in the traditional posture for prayer. The deaf man would not have heard the word that was spoken, ‘Ephphatha’, which means ‘open up’. What he did experience was an Ephphatha miracle, his ears were opened and he was able to speak plainly.

The account ends with Jesus ordering everyone to tell no one about the healing. Characteristically, the people took no notice and news spread about the healing and about the rabbi ‘who makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.’

The Gospel writer would have seen this miracle as the fulfilment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.” [Isaiah 35.5] Those who longed for the coming of the Messiah believed that he would bring healing and restoration to a sick world. That healing power of our Lord was revealed in the region of the Decapolis through the spoken word, ‘Ephphatha.’

There are a number of things we can reflect on in this passage.

First, there is the faith of the deaf man’s friends in Jesus as a healer. All they asked was that he would touch him with his hands. The touch of others is something we have had to learn to live without these last eighteen months of lockdown. Until government restrictions are lifted we can’t give each other a handshake, an embrace, a good old Welsh ‘Cwtch’ or share the peace in Church. This lack of human touch has been all the more acute for those who live alone or continue to isolate.

Then there is the prayer, ‘Ephphatha’, which Mark translates for us as ‘be open.’ It was spoken in the everyday language our Lord had grown up with, Aramaic. As well as being addressed to God the Father the prayer is an invitation to us to ‘be open’ to the healing and restoring power of Jesus. For though we often pray for healing in others we don’t so often pray for that healing in our own lives and relationships. When we are open to Christ’s way of saving and sacrificial love then we can know healing and restoration too.

The passage ends with the people proclaiming the good news of the miracle zealously, even though Jesus had asked them not to make it known. It challenges us to reflect on whether or not we proclaim what we have found and know as Christians. For what we celebrate in our lives and in Church is, and always will be, good news for the world.

Prayers

Lord, grant to your people grace to show true faith through works of love and mercy. Take away all prejudice and help us to respect the dignity of all human life. May our Churches be always open and welcoming to all who come. May we love another as you have loved us.

            Lord hear us....

Lord, have compassion on a world where rich and poor are divided by selfishness and lack of understanding. We continue to pray for the people of Afghanistan and all who live under the shadow of war and conflict; we remember the nations of the developing world as they struggle to secure Covid vaccines for their people; bless the work of Christian Aid and Vaccine Aid; and inspire those who are rich in this world’s goods to be generous to our neighbours and nations in need.

            Lord, hear us...

Lord, we pray that we, our families and friends, may we have ears open to hear your word and tongues eager to make it known. We bring before you this community of Mumbles and remember those who feel lonely, unloved or marginalised around us. Help us to be sensitive to the needs of others as we work to build a just and caring community here.

            Lord, hear us...

Lord, we pray for the sick and especially today for those who have hearing or speech difficulties. We bring all who are known to us who are in need of healing and ask that you will touch them in the way that you alone can. 

            Lord, hear us...

Lord, as we pray for the departed, we remember those who suffered from any impairment of faculties in this life, trusting that they be made perfect in your love and in your heavenly kingdom. 

            Lord, hear us...

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.

[Prayer of St Richard of Chichester - adapted]

 

[Keep a moment of silence for spiritual communion with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters]

I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place, and he has made me glad.

Horatius Bonar [1808-1899]

 

May the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. May the Lord look lovingly upon us and grant us his peace. Amen.

 

 

Bible Readings: New Revised Standard Version [1989] - Word of the Lord: Church in Wales - Leading Intercessions [adapted] - CCL Parish Copyright Licence:  753662

 


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