Grace and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Vacation is officially over. It’s time to come home from the beach, to come down from the mountains, or to leave the city. It’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled lives, with school and work and dance lessons and football practice. It’s Rally Day, so it’s time to start Sunday school and confirmation class and Bible study and youth group. Of course our journey of following Jesus never really takes a vacation, but perhaps now is the time to make our “new school year’s resolution,” to recommit ourselves to a community we may not have seen for a while.
Jesus tried to take a vacation once. Up until now the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been healing, feeding, and teaching almost non-stop. Plenty of people are impressed by his deeds, but there are also plenty of other people, mostly in those power and authority, who have interrogated, criticized, and rejected Jesus at nearly every turn. I don’t blame him for wanting to get away to clear his head, to a quiet place where no one would find him. Since he went to the seaside city of Tyre, perhaps he wanted to spend some time alone down the shore. This might even be a beach house – who knows?
But despite his best efforts, someone found him anyway. A local woman, who wasn’t Jewish, but desperately needed Jesus’ help. Her poor little daughter was ill, overcome by an unclean spirit. Perhaps this woman had heard that Jesus can cast out demons. Or perhaps someone had told her that Jesus was a healer. Whatever she heard about Jesus, she went to that house that day determined to seek her daughter’s relief. She got on her knees and begged him to help her little girl. And even when Jesus gave her a hard time, she did not give up. She clung to her hope that Jesus could do something about her daughter’s suffering.
She could have stayed home and continued to pray for healing. But instead she jumped at the chance to lay her prayers directly at the feet of someone who could do something about it. And she was not about to leave until her prayers were answered, even if that meant getting leftovers from the Son of God.
Jesus is not often impressed, but he sure was here. He was moved by the persistence that this woman showed in seeking healing for her daughter. And so Jesus not only healed her daughter, he healed her without touching her or even being near her. And when the woman got home, she found her daughter’s energy and strength had rallied, and she was gonna be OK.
Up until now, Jesus had been ministering to his own people, followers of his own religion, in his own native country. Up until now, it is predominantly Jewish people he has been teaching and feeding. Up until now, it has been Jewish people who had been mobbing him for healings. But it was this woman from modern-day Syria who signaled to Jesus that it was time to think outside the box, time to break down all the barriers, to take this message on the road to serve a wider audience.
And now Jesus is on the move. Vacation time is over, and now it’s really time to get to work. He left the area, but he didn’t go back home, at least not yet. Along the way he met some people with a man in need. They banded together to get Jesus to help their friend who was deaf and could not speak. Jesus listened to their plea, and just like in Isaiah, the ears of the deaf were unstopped, and the tongue of a once-silenced person was now able to sing for joy.
Had they not gathered together for this common cause, this man probably would not have been healed. Because that they cared enough about him to bring him to Jesus, this man’s life was changed.
There are all kinds of things that we gather in support of. Our children’s sporting events or school plays. A benefit dinner for a friend with cancer. Participating in the CROP walk or a protest or a food drive.
But today we rally around our leader, a man named Jesus, who healed the sick and gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and a voice to the voiceless. Today we rally around Jesus, who had everything there ever was to have, even divinity itself, and gave it all up to be a nobody who died a painful and humiliating death on a cross. Today we rally underneath an instrument of torture that we celebrate as a sign that we have be reclaimed from brokenness and evil and death.
But we don’t just gather to rally around this Jesus once a year on the first Sunday in September. Every Sunday is a rally Sunday, a little Easter, a time to gather and remember and celebrate that the God we serve is greater than all the evil in the world combined.
Jesus is still on the move. And we have been given our marching orders. When our worship has ended and we disperse into the world, we do not just say, “Go in peace and act like if nothing happened here today, Thanks be to God!” even though all too often that is often how we live. No, when we leave here today and every Sunday before and hereafter, we “go in peace to SERVE the Lord, thanks be to God!”
And how do we serve the Lord? By rallying around others – the ill, the hopeless, the voiceless, the poor, the weak, and the dying. We’ve been given our marching orders: to fill the ears of Jesus with our cries, and to lay the burdens of ourselves and others at Jesus’ feet. We do this not to inflate ourselves or to fill our need to be needed. We do it because we believe that Jesus is going to do something about it.
Now, our prayers may not be answered in in the way that we expect them to be. I’m sure the man who had been deaf was not expecting a wet willy, nor did the Syrophoenician woman expect her daughter’s healer to be crabby. And neither of them expected Jesus to ORDER them to keep quiet about what he had done. But you can’t keep good news like that under wraps for long – it’s like saying “Here is your check for winning the lottery, but don’t spend it.” Or “Thanks to this new treatment, you are now cancer free, but don’t tell anyone about it.” Or “your daughter just got a full-ride scholarship to Harvard, but make sure that you keep it a secret.”
When Jesus shows up in your life, you’re not going to be able to stop talking about it. In order for us, gathered here today, to hear about what Jesus did for the Syrophoenician woman so long ago, she must have told somebody about it. Same with the man who was deaf – if not for Jesus, he may never have uttered a single word his entire life. As you can see, telling your story can go a long way.
When Jesus shows up in your life, you’re not going to be able to stop yourself from doing something about it. Because sometimes, God uses YOU to answer someone else’s prayer. No heroics are required, just doing the little things with great love, as Mother Teresa once said.
As you are getting back into the swing of things, whether it’s back to work or school or getting your kids to soccer practice on time, know that God never takes a vacation. No matter what you ask, no matter when or how often you ask it, or for whom, our God never stops listening. Just make sure that you never stop asking. AMEN.