A Living, Active Word
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
Commemoration of Gregory the Great, Pastor
September 3, 2017
As with many churches, our congregation has a constitution. From the time our congregation began we have been conducting the way we do things according to our constitution. It’s not a document of guidelines but rather is authoritative in our congregation. Nevertheless, it is not the ultimate authority. It serves a different role than the constitution of any other organization or nation. It governs what we do here and how we do it but it is not the final authority. The Word of God is the final authority for us as a Christian congregation. If we ended up seeing something in the constitution of our congregation that is against the Word of God we would be bound to go against that part of the Constitution. In fact, it is stated right in the Constitution itself that God’s Word is what we bind ourselves to.
This is what it says: “This congregation acknowledges and accepts all of the Canonical books of the Old and New Testament as the revealed, inerrant Word of God, verbally inspired.” What this says is that the Bible is revealed by God, it is without error, and it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Nothing supersedes the Word of God. Even if an angel from heaven were to speak to us something new we would be bound to the written Word of God and reject the message of the angel.
Our congregation is part of a church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. In the synod’s constitution it says that the Synod “accepts without reservation the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice.” What this says is that the written Word of God is nothing else and nothing less than God’s holy and eternal Word. It’s just written down. Because it is God’s Word it is completely reliable and true. This is what we believe. This is what the very Word of God itself teaches.
Upon hearing the Gospel reading today we are given an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the Word of God. Jesus speaks one word in Aramaic that brings about a powerful display of healing to a man who is deaf and severely impaired in his speech. It’s interesting, because He doesn’t speak right away. First He takes the man away from the crowd. Then He touches his ears and He spits and touches his tongue. But it is the word that does it. Ephatha. Be opened. Jesus speaks to the man who can’t hear. When He does, the man is then able to hear and speak clearly.
The spoken word of God, is it any different in quality or effect than the written Word of God? Or perhaps is the written Word of God more reliable since it is etched in stone so to speak whereas much of the spoken word of God has been lost because it wasn’t written down? Today’s Scripture readings and the rest of the Bible answer this.
God is all-powerful and yet He has an affinity for speaking. One of the very first things we are presented with in Scripture is God’s action of speaking. “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” God created this world through the means of speaking. When God spoke the words the light came about. His words brought about what they said. We must not think that He created the light in any other way than by what the words say, He spoke the light into existence.
The more time you spend in the pages of the New Testament the more you see that the authors quote the Old Testament fairly often and even more often allude to it. Sometimes you even have the New Testament writers putting two parts of the Old Testament together as if it were one quote, or changing the quote to make a point. In 2Corinthians 4 the apostle Paul says that he and the other apostles proclaim not themselves but Christ. Then he says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The Holy Spirit inspired Moses to write the words in Genesis 1, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’” and He inspired Paul to write the words in 2Corinthians 4, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness.’” The written Word of God gives us the spoken words of God. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to expound upon what Moses was inspired to write. When God said, Let there be light, what happened is that the light shined out of the darkness.
The word of God is dynamic. It is living and active. Just because the words on the pages of the Bible are static in that they will never change doesn’t mean they’re dead. They are the very words of the living God. Just because not all the words God has spoken have been preserved as some of them have in the passages of the Bible doesn’t mean that they have no impact on us. The word of God is the word of God, written and spoken. It is His Word, it is living and it is active. It brings about what it says.
If He can bring light into being by simply speaking He can bring hearing to a man who can’t hear and speech to one who can’t speak clearly by simply speaking it so. We know the spoken word of God because He has given us His written word. Of course, before His word had been written down people knew of His word from His speaking it to them. But if we look closely at what our Scripture readings today are saying we will see that the written word of God is not the only way He communicates to us. He still speaks today. The Old Testament reading points toward this action of God. “Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”
Mark shows us in the Gospel reading how this has come about. It has come about in the work of Christ. And what is that work? Speaking. The deaf shall hear because Jesus will speak it to be so. For that man, now being able to hear and to speak was truly a blessing. But the amazement of the people who witnessed was due to much more than a miraculous healing. They exclaimed that He has done all things well, He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. In other words, He was fulfilling the promise that the Savior to come would bring about.
And in case we forget that Jesus still speaks today, Paul speaks of the ministry of Christ that still continues. In the Epistle reading Paul states: “Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?” The ministry of the Spirit is the continued ministry of Christ now that He has ascended into heaven. This ministry is the ministry of the spoken word of God of the forgiveness of sins.
We hear it in many ways and often. It is only through the ministry of Christ speaking to us that we are forgiven. So to a deaf man He spoke and the man could hear. To one who is burdened with sin and confesses his sin He says through the called minister of the Word, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” To the one who has been born into a Christian home and yet in original sin as all have He says through His servant of the Word, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” To the one who approaches the altar of the Lord and desires a spiritual rest that he cannot find on his own Christ says, “Take and eat, this is My body, take and drink, this is My blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”
The Word of Christ is spoken through the active working of the Holy Spirit. He touched the man and used saliva. For you and me He uses water and bread and wine and simple, spoken words from the pastor. The word of God in Christ is living because Christ Himself is living. He rose from the grave because the grave could not hold Him. But even so, even His life coming to an end on the cross is the very means by which salvation was accomplished. Because in that death Jesus was actively sacrificing Himself on behalf of the world. There is no forgiveness and no salvation apart from this work He has accomplished on the cross. And by what we are shown in Him giving hearing and speech to the man in the Gospel reading, He gives us the healing of forgiveness in the Gospel that is pronounced and proclaimed and our being baptized and in our receiving the body and blood of Christ. Amen.