This weeks author, the Rev. Timothy Haut, has been Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Deep River (UCC) for 38 years, writes poetry, grows tomatoes in his garden, and has a one-eyed dog named Bug.
Scripture: Mark 7:31-37 (NRSV)
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
Reflection: Gifts From Above
"Looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened."
"You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply as time goes by." These famous lyrics from the 1942 movie Casablanca remind us that things as simple as a kiss or a sigh are universal, fundamental experiences of human life. But a kiss is NOT just a kiss. A kiss is a glory, a wonder, a streak of light and joy erupting in the heart. To be kissed for the first time is to be gobsmacked by love. The last kiss we share with one we love is a sweet, sad, soul-piercing farewell.
And a sigh is NOT just a sigh, either. It is the breath of grief, sorrow, frustration, helplessness, an admission of our vulnerability, a wordless prayer for help. Charlie Brown, the hapless loser in both love and baseball, sighs all the time. When he is tongue-tied in front of the Little Red-Haired Girl, or lying on his back when Lucy pulls away the football he is about to kick, or standing next to his pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree, it is his *SIGH* that expresses the depth of his feelings. It's what we all do when there are no words for the messiness of our lives, which seldom seem to work out just the way we hope.
Scientists have found that sighing is actually a life-giving reflex, orchestrated by two small clusters of nerve cells in the brain’s stem – which switch on when they sense that the tiny sacs in the lungs need to reinflate. Sighing is a kind of "rebooting" of the life-force in the face of the things that overwhelm us or disrupt the flow of energy and joy in our lives. When Jesus sighs in the presence of the man who cannot speak or hear, it feels as if he is sighing at the whole broken, beleaguered world. He is sighing at the helplessness and hopelessness of the world. He is sighing at people's need for quick fixes and instant gratification. He is sighing at the deafness of the world that has no place for those who are different, the outcasts, the strangers. He is sighing from the ache in his own heart, wondering how long it will be before his heart will break for good.
And then, when he cries, "Ephphatha" ("Be opened"), he is giving perhaps his greatest, shortest sermon to all of us whose hearts are closed to the possibility of a wild and holy grace that could gobsmack us into life.
Good and Wise God, when our prayers are only sighs too deep for words, shape them into blessings and stretch our helpless hearts until they are big enough for your grace. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- for Robert and Kathryn tefft, parents of Karen Ziel , Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership for the CT Conference. The Teffts are recovering from injuries received in a car accident last week.
- for those grieving or suffering after a bus carrying 49 people crashed with a truck in New Mexico, killing at least 7 and injury dozens more.
- for those whose citizenship is questioned due to the color of their skin.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- renewed energy in congregations across the Conference.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Trumbull Congregational Church
Unity Hill UCC
Congregational Church of Union UCC
First Church of Christ, UCC
First Congregational Church of Vernon, Inc
This Week in History:
Sept. 8, 1900 (118 years ago): A Category 4 hurricane hits Galveston, TX, killing an estimated 6000 or more people and flooding the city. It is still considered the worst weather-related disaster in U.S. History in terms of lives lost. Hurricanes were not regularly named before 1953.