Monday, February 13, 2012

Sermon on Mark 1:40-45, for the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, "Putting Words in Your Mouth (and in your ears)!"

Sermon Outline:

1.      Not something you’d normally recommend doing—I’d like to put words in your mouths. Generally we get frustrated when people put words in our mouth, and rightly so. But let me explain. Two lepers: one prideful (at first) wishing to be clean but on his own terms, the second humbly begs for healing. “If you will, you can make me clean.” He approaches Jesus humbly, begging on his knees, trusting that Jesus can heal him.
2.      The words that I would put in your mouth is that plea to Jesus: “you can make me clean.” Humble words of repentance, seeking mercy and help. Nowhere else to turn. Recognized he couldn’t “clean” himself, or would have long ago. No one else, only Jesus. How many hold back from coming to God, for fear that God wouldn’t receive them? From shame over their sin, uncleanness. Maybe too stubborn to accept help, like Naaman. Unwilling to humble themselves before God. Or a lack of having the words to say to God. We feel distant, separated, outcast, lonely, whatever it is--but don’t have the right words. God would have us ask for His help. I wish all of us who are sinful and unclean would put those words in our mouths: “Lord, you can make me clean!” Verbalize the cry of your heart into a simple request that God would cleanse you--forgive you; wash you clean and make you new again.
3.      We don’t realize how eager and willing Jesus is to answer this request! That He wants us to come to Him for cleansing, with repentance and humility in our hearts. How willing is He? So willing that He shed His blood on the cross for us, so that it could be said: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb 10:19-22). The cleansing Jesus gives us: more than physical, from leprosy—shed blood opens the way for our approach to God—hearts clean, bodies washed. Baptismal language. Spiritual renewal.
4.      We are constantly “soiling” ourselves with sin. Return to baptism by repentance. Turn away from sin. Fall back into those waters; drown the sinful nature; have Christ plunge our sinfulness down with Him from the cross into the grave. Sin is buried with Him, not to haunt us like ghosts of our past, but to remain dead and crucified, separated by eternity through forgiveness. To have Christ pull us up from the waters of baptism, sucking in generous gulps of air in the new life that God has promised you. Calling you to live again, breathe again, walk and not grow weary, to run and not be faint.
5.      Jesus cleanses in baptism. Cleanses our hearts by faith (Acts 15:7-9). “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3) Jesus puts these words into your ears, so you hear and believe and are cleansed by faith in His Word.
6.      Don’t get the wrong idea about putting “words in your mouth.” Repentance is not just a matter of mouthing the right syllables or reciting a phrase—it is a matter of your heart. That your heart is humbled before God.
7.      Cleansing we require is deeper than skin, deeper than a bath can fix. Sin goes deeper than we can touch or remove. Has its root in our heart, and its sinful desires. Like leprosy was an uncleanness on the surface, but penetrated beneath the skin, and could not be washed off, so sin is a deeper malady. While we often speak of all sins, great and small, incurring guilt and judgment before God, at the same time there is also a difference in the effects of our sins.
8.      Like physical wounds on the body do different damage, so also with sin. Both what we have done, and what’s been done to us. Some superficial like a skinned knee or scraped nose—maybe heal quickly, no scar. Bleeding cuts, take longer to heal, may have scar. Bruises—visible, but most damage is beneath the surface. Deep and vicious wounds—broken bones, life in danger. They may be terribly difficult to forgive, and leave us feeling either terrified, vengeful, devastated, numb, or some combination of each. Or leave us feeling terribly ashamed, unable to believe what we did, what we thought we never could do. Not all sins are alike in their effect and the damage they do. All are harmful and wrong in themselves, but some require more healing, repairwork, etc. Some are self-inflicted, some are inflicted by others. Both can be equally painful. Some leave scars, others don't. So it is with some of the sins that leave us unclean or feeling unclean. Healing may take time. But God is a patient God and compassionate and near to the broken-hearted. Jesus is willing to make us clean again, and He alone is able. If we fear a wound is too deep to survive, to deep to heal, remember the wounds that Jesus bore in His body on the cross. Fatal wounds. Felt sin’s fatality in a deeper way than we could ever know. But He lives again! Rose for us. He alone can heal all our wounds, bring life and cleansing for all we’ve done and that has been done to us.
9.      Cleansing of the heart that Jesus gives—can happen with or without full earthly healing of our “wounds” and even our physical illnesses or emotional distresses. We can experience substantial healing even now, but our full healing is in heaven. The cleansing of our heart by faith is the real healing that Jesus was after. Hearts made new in Him will live for eternity, renewed and free of death, illness, distress. Our cleansing by faith should open our hearts to others as well.
10.  Can we now look at other’s through Jesus’ eyes? See the poor and needy and sick flocking to Him? Desperate for love, care, cleansing? Freely share the word of Christ that cleanses, forgives. Would we turn away from those who are not “clean” in our eyes, whether from physical condition, from appearance, from stigma?
11.  Kids do this all the time. Avoiding the kid who’s called names, whose clothes don’t fit right, talks funny or behaves differently. Know and recognize. Yet less likely to see how we do the same as adults. Pick our little groups of friends and put up walls toward others. Turn away from those who are reaching out for help, and find legitimate excuses for why we can’t be troubled. Jesus too was slowed in His work of proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom by the constant flow of diseased and suffering people, coming to Him for healing. But He received them as part of His ministry, He opened His heart to them and had compassion. Sometimes there is nothing more that we need or can give to another hurting soul, than compassion. We don’t have the answers to their problems, we can’t cure their illness, but we can offer them compassion. We can listen with a heart joined to their need, and lift them up with a Word of Christ and a prayer. We can bring them to Christ and Christ to them. Put the words of Christ in their ears, to know God loves them too, and that Jesus can cleanse them.
12.  For you, for me, for them, that Christ speaks forgiveness. That He died. That He became unclean with our sicknesses, sins, and shame, and proclaims cleansing, healing, and honor to us. All for free, though at the price of His costly love. Let your mouth find its words for repentance and then praise and thanksgiving, and let your ears receive the Good News gladly, that Jesus wills it, and you are clean!

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
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1.      While we may not suffer the uncleanness of leprosy, what are the things that make us unclean? Mark 7:14-23; 2 Cor. 7:1; . What did Jesus declare clean, that had formerly been unclean? What holds many of us (or others) from coming to Christ for cleansing?

2.      How does Jesus cleanse us? Mark 1:41; Heb. 10:19-22; Acts 15:7-9; John 15:1-5. How do we respond and live in that knowledge? Describe what it means for you to live in your baptism into Christ.

3.      How ought we to approach Christ for our cleansing? Compare/contrast the man with leprosy in Mark 1, with how Naaman, in the OT reading from 2 Kings 5 approached Elisha for his cleansing. What is God looking for? Psalm 51:17, then read 51:10-12; Luke 14:11.

4.      What is the irony about Jesus’ command to the man who had been healed, and what he did instead? What is the irony about how we often respond today, when we have been given the call to tell the good news?

5.      What was the true goal of Jesus’ ministry? Mark 1:38; How did the crowds seeking healing sometimes slow or hamper this goal? Where was the ultimate healing to be accomplished? How would Jesus do it? What was the cost? Why did He do it?

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