A Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
18 August 2013
Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI
Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian
Let him who has ears to hear, hear; he who has eyes to read, read.
“And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, be opened.” (Mark 7:34)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
What happens in the Gospel this morning? Jesus sticks his fingers in a man’s ears and spits on his tongue. And the man’s deafness and muteness is healed. This could easily be a miracle story, with accompanying sermon on healing. Alternately, at the end of the reading, the crowd is saying, “He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” This could be taken as a sign of Jesus’ power and majesty and a sermon preached accordingly. Or, I think, one could take the account in Mark 7:31 allegorically. Consider the man to be representative of those who have not heard the Gospel; those who have not been grafted onto the Body of Christ and enabled to proclaim by both deed and word, the Good News of Salvation. By the action of Jesus, this changes. Allegorically, then, this story could be seen as Jesus entering the world and acting. And again, a sermon could be preached accordingly. And that, my dear brothers and sisters, is precisely what I mean to preach.
As Anglicans, we have an oft repeated maxim: Richard Hooker’s three legged stool: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, which together form our methodology for solving theological issues. But Hooker never used the analogy of a stool, rather listing the three “legs” as sources of authority, the greatest of which was Scripture.  Scripture must therefore be the foundation upon which Tradition and Reason stand- the tradition which we pass on must not contradict Holy Scripture, else the contradicting element must be excised. Anything that is part of Holy Tradition, such as the belief that Our Lady was assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life, that cannot be proven by Scripture, cannot be held to be necessary for salvation. This is one of the fundamental tenants of Anglicanism, as part of the Sixth Article of Religion. The written word of God, as the Article further states, and as every Deacon, Priest, and Bishop is required to affirm before ordination, “contains all things necessary to salvation.” The Affirmation of St. Louis defines the Scriptures as, “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authentic record of God’s revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands – a revelation valid for all men and all time.” So you see, in Anglicanism, the Holy Scriptures are vitally important.
If the Scriptures are therefore a way in which God speaks to us and reveals his glory and his plan for the world, it would seem to be very important that we be in the Scriptures, day in and day out. Indeed, what does the collect for the Second Sunday in Advent say in reference to the scriptures? “Grant that we may read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” Now, if you’re anything like me, you don’t spend enough time doing this. It’s all too easy for me to say, “Well, I heard a reading from the Old Testament at Morning Prayer, and two from the New Testament at Mass, and I’ll hear two more this afternoon.” It IS all too easy, because how easy is it for me to let my mind wander, to let my mind drift? Again, if you’re like me… it’s far too easy.
And so what I need to do, is to make sure that I am opening my Bible everyday. And that I am prayerfully reading. To be honest, I don’t know if it matters if I am reading and studying sequentially- or if I am merely reading… and studying… and praying… the readings for the office for that day. What is important is that I am allowing myself to be drawn into the story of redemption. The Scriptures are the story of the creation of the universe; the story of Abraham becoming the Father of many nations; of Israel going down into Egypt and coming out again in the Exodus and going through the Red Sea after the Passover, prefiguring the redemptive acts of Christ. The Journey in the desert, the Rise and Fall of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, their monarchies and their exiles. The baby born in Jerusalem who shattered the paradigm and turned creation not so much up on end, but right side up, through his life, his passion, his death and resurrection. The Descent of the Holy Ghost and the creation of the Ecclesia, the community of faithful Christians, the church. The creation of this… This body gathered here emerges from the Scriptures. They are that important and relevant for our life.
It is into this story that I am absorbed when I read the Scriptures. To echo my quote from the Affirmation of St. Louis earlier, they are the “authentic record of God’s revelation.” All our doctrines are based on Scripture. This is as it must be, because through this authentic record, preserved by the church, we come to know God; who he is and what he has done. God speaks through the Scriptures. Through sending his son, he has opened our ears. All we have to do is listen. When we stop listening, when we throw out the Scriptures, we lose Jesus. If we ignore the Scriptures, then we completely miss Jesus. I implore you, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them. We have been given a road map. In a confused world which is not oriented toward God, it will guide us.
To the One who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning be praise and honor, worship and dominion, now and forever. Amen.