From Our Pastor: Go Proclaim How God Has Made You New!
The weekend’s readings are quite interesting. James tells us not to make differences amongst us and not to give preference for any reason, but most especially because of money. In my priesthood I have been attempted to be bullied in many ways, but the one I find most reprehensible is those who bully with money – I won’t give anymore if you do that or if you won’t do this. I always remind people of two things: First, if you try that, you have made my decision for me; as if you are trying to sway my opinion with money, I stick to the opinion even more because I will not be bought. Second, if you are giving or not giving for me, for what you want, or what you don’t want, then you are giving for all the wrong reasons. You should be giving for the Lord, and the Lord alone.
One of my parishioners at my last assignment told me how outright terrible one of my predecessors was to him, and he told me, “This is my parish, and I don’t give because of him (or me) but because of what God has done for me.” This man had immense means, but you never would have known. He generously gave to the parish, and the only reason we were having this conversation was because I had been told of the offenses done to him and was trying to apologize and trying to bring healing. He told me it allowed him to be more like Christ, and thanked that person who treated him so terribly for allowing him to offer his struggle to the Lord.
James makes it very clear that no matter who we are or what we have, God see us as heirs/beloved children. God continues to then tell us in Isaiah, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.” I needed to hear this as these last few weeks have been pretty terrible.
God is reminding us not to be afraid. Not to allow our hearts to be frightened. Why? Because He has come to save us! Isaiah tells us of the coming of the Messiah and what He would do when He came! The very word Messiah is translated as the Christ! Christ has saved us! He has made you new! That is what the Gospel is telling us this weekend.
Christ has this very personal encounter with the deaf man who had a speech impediment. He groaned, looking up to heaven with His finger in the man’s ear; spitting, touching his tongue and said, “be opened!” Woah, there’s a lot going on here. This very moment the finger of God – that finger we see so famously in Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel reaching from God to Adam, the very finger that created all things, reaches out once again to re-create the world. This groaning in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit bringing the breath of new life into this man made new.
Ephphataha, be opened, is echoed in the baptism ritual! This “being made new” moment in our life of faith in baptism where all divisions and partiality cease, and we become children of God made new. What was the reaction of all who saw this being made new? They could not stop telling everyone what He had done, and who He was! He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak, the very prophecy of what the Messiah would come to do! Brothers and sisters, may we not be afraid to announce what the Lord has done in each of us in making us new, in ending division, in the fulfillment of what Isaiah and all the prophets had foretold!
Now go proclaim how God has made you new!
- Rev. Steven Arisman