Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
Petite Riviere, Vogler’s Cove, West Dublin –
August 10 AD 2008
2 Cor 3:4f St. Mark 7:31f
Looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed,
and saith unto him, Ephphatha,
that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears
and the string of his tongue was loosed, and
he spake plain.
Do you desire more lively worship? Are you
wishing that we could change this or that in our service, and maybe
then our worship will be more exciting, more of a draw? I would
like to suggest that although it’s important that we try to make our
worship outwardly as beautiful as possible, and the words of our
prayers as accurate as possible to give God glory, that what we are
really hoping for is an inner change of heart that in our worship we
might truly give glory to God and also know true joy. And when this
happens, inwardly, the words of our prayers begin to sparkle like so
many gems, and our songs become spiritual songs transporting us to
How will this happen?
Our Epistle begins this morning with St. Paul
reminding us what we’ve been learning…
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to
think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.
In Trinity season we’ve been reminded that
without God’s help, our desire gets misdirected; that without God’s
help we have no wisdom but are like beasts with no understanding;
that without God’s help we take his gifts and try to make ourselves
We are learning to place ourselves in His hands –
praying to Him, asking him for forgiveness, asking for help, asking
him for growth, for a new heart, for the kindling of our hearts into
a glowing fire of love.
St. Paul speaks about what we can expect in an
encounter with God in this new covenant in Christ.
He reminds us of what happened to Moses when he
went into the Tabernacle to speak one on one with God – when he came
out of the tent, the people saw that his face shone – they could not
look upon his face because they were afraid of that glory, so he put
a cloth, a veil over his face. That was under the old covenant –
the covenant of the Law – a sort of external gift – how to act
outwardly, the 10 commandments – the basic laws that govern a just
But, says St. Paul, if the ministration
of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the
children of Israel could not stedfastly 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 (or more)
Something greater is here that we receive in the
new covenant in Christ – not just external rules to follow, but we
receive the inward grace of the Holy Spirit to amend our hearts, to
fill us with love – so that we glow not just outwardly, by
conforming our lives outwardly to God’s law, but we shine inwardly,
with the joy of a lover. We had the example of Christ’s
Transfiguration this past week (Aug 6) – his whole body was full of
light, that even His clothing could not cover over – that is a
foretaste of the glory we are promised. (If thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light. Mt 6:22)
We should expect so much more than simply living
normal lives outwardly conforming our lives to the good things of
the law. As Christians we become temples of the living God, as we
look inwardly we discover the Spirit of God speaking within us, and
we become filled with an inner joy.
What does this have to do with worship?
The more we are touched inwardly with the Holy
Ghost, the more we are inspired to worship God – and to do this very
You know that it has been a part of my ministry
to try to encourage worship in our churches more regularly – Sunday
by Sunday at the least. And you know that this has been part of the
ministry of every priest who has come here, so I’m not suggesting
something different – encouraging attendance even on a Sunday when
church is not at your church.
It can be tiresome for me to repeat this call –
but it would be wrong for me to be frustrated or angry with you for
not all heeding the call. [New Dublin – you have been heeding the
call and we know the joy of worshipping with significantly greater
numbers when we are together.]
If I get frustrated I am reminded about the
passage where Jesus condemns the Pharisees:
But whereunto shall
I liken this generation? It is like unto children
[the Pharisees] sitting in the markets,
and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you,
and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not
lamented. [Mt 11:16,17]
You see, the Pharisees
wanted everybody to follow their religion – but the Pharisees didn’t
even recognize John the Baptist or Jesus in their midst as being
from God. They had some idea of the religious duty that they were
commanded to teach, yet they had lost the true meaning of their
religion, they forgot that people must be taken up by love.
I could harp at you
"until the cows come home", and it will make no difference to your
pattern of worship, unless… unless somehow I convey to you the
goodness of God and you fall in love with Him. Unless I preach the
good news in such a way that what is binding you is loosed, that you
trust more in the mercy of God and so are infilled with gratitude
and joy – unless this happens then my preaching is vain, and in
vain. We are all dependent upon the Holy Spirit to awaken our
hearts and when He does, no encouragement to weekly worship is
necessary, you might even be asking me for midweek services!
The Gospel this morning
is all about this…
There is a man who is
deaf and had an impediment in his speech – he won’t come to Jesus,
he’s afraid, maybe he lacks hope – surely he is embarrassed, held
back, because every time he’s opened his mouth for years he’s been
humiliated by others – he stuttered.
Others bring him to
Jesus who “took him aside from the multitude, and
put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, 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.
As we allow God, by His Spirit, to enter more
fully into our souls, bringing to light our sins, that we may
confess them, clearing away the blockages to His divine glory
shining in us, something happens to us – the more we see Him, the
more we are compelled by love, joy springs up in us and we want to
give glory to the One who is All glorious – we cannot shut up about
Him. Like a person who is foolishly in love cannot hide from others
the one they are in love with – they want to shout it from the roof
tops or write it on billboards!
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.
There are obstacles to
our opening our mouths in praise.
One obstacle can be our
uncertainty of forgiveness or a sense of unworthiness – but Jesus
continually reassures us that He is for us! (and our liturgy places
before our minds again and again God’s mercy and love – think of the
repeated comfortable words to reassure us)
Perhaps it is because
our faith is weak – we are afraid to be witnesses in our families or
in our society because when we have done so in the past, we have
received scorn, or that slight mocking smile, as if we are fools.
We’re afraid to speak up, afraid that we might push others away or
afraid perhaps that in the light of that mocking or scorn, the
little faith we have will disappear – and we want to guard what is
most precious to us. Our faith is fragile, we don’t have the
assurance to be bold.
But Jesus would have it
otherwise for each of us.
In the very act of worship we discovery true joy
– here we are made worthy, here, as we ask God to open
thou our lips, we know a true and everlasting rest – here we
discover spiritual pleasure, not at first with the same intensity as
the pleasures we derive from the senses, but in time even our senses
are taken up in worship – but it is of a different quality – it is
not a cloying pleasure but a serene and everlasting true pleasure.
In the Holy Communion we are touched inwardly by
the bread of heaven – like the fiery coal that touched Isaiah’s
mouth – so that he who was afraid that he was lost in God’s presence
because he knew himself to be a man of unclean lips, became the
prophet of God [Isa 6]. And God would have us all be prophets in a
sense, to go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways
[from the Benedictus].
If we are not experiencing a desire, even a
joyful compulsion to worship God – let us take ourselves apart
from the multitudes – as did the deaf and dumb man. Let us
pray that Jesus might touch us inwardly by the Holy Ghost and we
will no doubt with those crowds that surrounded Jesus that day be
beyond measure astonished, as we are infilled with His love,
saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh both the deaf to
hear and the dumb to speak.
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always
more ready to hear than we are to pray, and art wont to give more
than we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of thy
mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but
through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our
[The Collect for the Twelfth Sunday