September 11, 2011

Sermon, September 11, 2011

Jesus Doeth All Things Well
Mark 7:31-37
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
September 11, 2011

There is an old Gospel song written by Fanny Crosby that says:

"All the way my Saviour leads me, what have to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercies, who through life has been my guide,
Heav'nly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know what e're befall me, Jesus doeth all things well."

That last line is based on our Gospel reading for today, and I have borrowed it as the title of this sermon, "Jesus Doeth All Things Well."

In the Bible the words are a little different. Found in Mark 7:37, they are "He hath done all things well." These words express a happy conclusion of the speakers. They also express a great deal of surprise, for Jesus has just done some very odd things. For one thing He has just returned from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. These were Gentile areas, places good Jews avoided. Yet Jesus went there, and, while there, He actually helped Gentiles by exorcising a demon from the Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter. Strange works from a Man Jews believed was supposed to lead them in a global war to crush the Gentiles. Even in healing the man in our text, His actions are a little odd. Every one knew He could cast out demons and heal the sick with just a word. He didn't even have to be in physical proximity to them, as is seen in the case of the Syro-Phoenician's daughter. He could heal from afar as easily as from the side of the sickbed. But when this man with an impediment in his speech and deaf ears was brought to Him, Jesus put His fingers in the man's ears, spat, touched his tongue, looked up to Heaven, and sighed. Only then did He say, "Ephphatha," "be opened," and heal the man.

God's ways often seem strange to us. It seemed strange to the Virgin Mary when the angel announced that she would bear a son. It seemed strange to the Jews that a Man who claimed to be the Messiah was born in a barn and grew up in Nazareth and worked as a carpenter. They expected Him to be born in the palace, grow up in wealth, and be trained for war. It seemed strange to the disciples that He allowed Himself to be captured and nailed to a cross. And it really seemed strange when He died. How could this be? How could the Messiah die? But that was not as strange to them as His resurrection. They were terrified when they saw Him (Lk. 24:37). And they were just as shocked at His ascension.
I confess that God's ways often surprise me. I am surprised at the way He allows evil to run free on this earth. I am amazed at the way the righteous and the innocent suffer. I am surprised at the trials His people have to endure in this life. I am surprised at the heresy and schism He allows in His Church. I am surprised He doesn't show Himself in the sky and speak to us in an audible voice, and fix our problems, and end our wars, and throw out the politicians and rule the earth Himself, and throw out the clergy and rule the Church Himself. Yes, I have read the Bible enough to know some of His reasons for doing what He does, but His ways are still mysterious to me, and such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me; I cannot attain it," as our reading from Psalm139:5 states. Even the Apostle Paul felt this, as he wrote in our reading for Evening Prayer last night;
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?"

And yet, we, like those who witnessed the healing of the man in today's Gospel Lesson, must confess, "He hath done all things well." Who among us here today does not see that it is only by the grace of God that we have been preserved in our lives and brought to this place to worship Him today? Who cannot agree that it is only by the grace of God that we have been turned and preserved from sin and evil to love and serve Him? Who cannot say that by His life and death, His resurrection and ascension, those things that seemed at first so strange and unGod like to us, are the very means of our forgiveness and reconciliation to God? Who among us cannot say that the times He led us through what Psalm 84:6 calls, "the vale of misery," have been the very means by which He drew us closer to His side, and strengthened us in the faith? And even in the vale of misery who has not found that the pools are filled with the waters of His comfort? Who here does not see that, though we have not always understood His ways, or even liked them, we are what we are, and we are where we are because of Him, and in all His dealings with us, "He hath done all things well"?

I keep reminding you, and I pray you will not grow weary of it, that the time of Trinity is a time of application; a time to reflect on the way the great doctrines of the Bible apply to us in every day life. Many great doctrines are brought to our attention this morning; the doctrine of the Providence of God, the doctrines of His attributes of unchanging faithfulness, and His steadfast and everlasting love, of the Incarnation and the atonement. There are others, but the application is this; trust Him. "He hath done all things well," will He not continue the same tomorrow and for all eternity? Will He not keep His promises to us, everyone of them, and everyone of us, just as faithfully and just as fully in the future as He has in the past? Does God sleep? Has His arm grown weary? Has He become weak? Is He not, as we prayed together in the Collect for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, "more ready to hear than we to pray" and "wont to give more than either we desire or deserve?"

O God who doeth all things well, "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 Lord. Amen.