What Starts You Up?
What Starts You Up?
This mornings passage from Mark has two healing stories in it. The healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter and the healing of the deaf/mute man. On the surface these are two healing miracles of Jesus, but should we stop there? Or is there something more going one which requires us to investigate and dig deeper? As always, we find that the message underlying these healing miracles is to consider how God is at work in our own lives.
Scripture: Mark 7: 24-37
What Starts You Up?
It was 1995 and Microsoft was getting to role out the latest version of their computer operating system. Known as Windows 95, Microsoft paid the Rolling Stones a reported $3 million dollars for the rights to the song Start Me Up. The use of the song was part of a massive advertising campaign that put Microsoft on the map as a major software company.
The question you might be wondering is what does the advertising campaign from 1995 by a tech company have to do with anything we heard from scripture this morning? Probably nothing, but it is the song that was used that has my attention, Start Me Up.
Now, normally when we look at the story of the Syrophoenician Woman we think that the healing her daughter receives is because of her faith. In fact, if we look at this story as it’s found in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus makes a point that it is because of the woman’s faith that her daughter is healed. We exemplify the story as an example of how Jesus’ mission was for all people.
However, in Mark’s gospel Jesus does not make mention of the Syrophoenician woman’s faith. He simply says it is because of her answer that her daughter has been made well. It appears that faith has been removed from the equation. If Mark is saying the Syrophoenician’s woman’s faith isn’t the primary aspect of the story, then what is?
This morning the passage about the Syrophoenician woman is pared with the healing of the deaf and mute man. Jesus heals the man of his deafness and cures his speech impediment. It’s the crowd that asks Jesus to lay his hands on the deaf man, no demonstration of faith is made by the individual who is healed. Mark doesn’t even record the man thanking Jesus after being healed.
What is the theme that unites these two passages? Yes, they are healing stories, but I would like us to dig a little deeper than that. Beyond the healing which occurs in these two passages, beyond the Syrophoenician’s insightful words to Jesus. Words which demonstrate great faith and an understanding of God’s love for all people. Beyond these things, these passages provide us with a glimpse of new life with God. They are beginnings, a new starting point.
Here we are in early September. A time when many of the activities at the church start up again. Many congregations call this Sunday ‘Rally Sunday’ or ‘Welcome Back Sunday’ after people return from their summer activities. It is a beginning of sorts.
The beginning of a new season of Sunday School. A new season for church meetings, of which I have three this week. A season of planning for the year ahead, Carolyn and I have already had discussions about Christmas. Though we’ve had the discussions, I don’t need to be reminded of how many weeks away it is. A new season of sharing the Good News with our community, of being involved in mission. Demonstrating to people we meet, the extent of God’s grace.
But it’s not just a start is it? Surely, these passages are about more than a fresh beginning?
I said we were going to dig deeper. To go further than just a healing story and so we can’t stop at the start. We must keep going, we need to dig deeper.
The Syrophoenician woman told Jesus that even the dogs ate the scraps from the table. Those scraps are the good news, she knew that the gospel, the grace and mercy of God were for all people. When we look at this story we assume the start is the healing of her daughter. The reality is that this woman had her start in faith long before she is introduced to us in the gospels. She knows the story, she knows the truth and she provides a tangible witness to us that the Good News needs to be shared.
When Jesus healed the deaf man, he asked the crowds to keep silent. To keep the healing act a secret, but they couldn’t. The more Jesus told them not to talk about it, the more they went and talked about it. And everyone who heard the story was completely amazed!
Isn’t it time that we were also completely amazed by what God does for us?
Yesterday, I was at Canada’s Wonderland with Logan. Near the end of the day we went on the Behemoth. The first drop on that ride faces west. As the rollercoaster brought us to the summit of the first drop, I looked out beyond what was immediately before me. What I saw was a beautiful sunset.
I was amazed. My focus completely left the rollercoaster and I was entranced by the beauty of the setting sun. I tried to point it out to Logan and he promptly brought me back to reality as we crested the summit of the coaster and plunged towards what appeared to be certain doom!
But in that moment, I was amazed by how God words within creation. That sunset is burned in my memory, for its beauty and also for the way I was able to perceive it. I was amazed.
When was the last time you were amazed by what God has done for you?
Sometimes, I feel like we are waiting for something great and earthshattering from God. The planet seems such a mess these days, it’s as if we need something to shake it up. I worry that we are so busy waiting for a big sign that we miss the sunsets, the knowing smile, the gentle touch. The simple moments that connect the grand events, those amaze me.
I also think we forget that God has done something earthshattering for us in the person of Jesus Christ. I think we forget how absolutely amazing the life of Jesus was. The temple shock, the curtain was torn, death was defeated.
It was and is amazing.
At the end of our passage from Mark this morning Jesus asks those present to keep silent about what they have seen. They simply can’t, it was too amazing.
Let’s rediscover the amazing things that God has done for us. Individually and collectively. In our lives at home and within this community of faith. Within the town of Cobourg and throughout the Earth. Let’s rediscover those amazing things and share the good news.
The Syropheneician woman shared the news. She shared it with Jesus, challenging him to expand his ministry. Those who witnessed the healing of the deaf man shared the good news.
What then do we give voice to?
This day, a Sunday in September when we prepare to kick start all our normal programming, what do you give voice to?
Perhaps it is teaching children what it means to love God through the Sunday School. Maybe it is Mission. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to others and ensuring that all people are treated as Jesus taught. It is in the visiting of those who can’t get out anymore? Of those who are confined to beds and yearn for the days when their bodies responded as they wish. What starts you up?
What do we as a community of faith give voice to? Where is the focus of our congregational life and activity?
That is the question I leave you with. That and this final word, “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.