October 16, 2021

God’s Restoration Plan 05-09-2021

5th September 2021 Pentecost 15 (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
God’s Restoration Plan
(Scripture Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7; Mark 7:24-37)
By Heeyoung Lim
Happy Father’s Day!
“The Season of Creation” has begun, which is defined as: “It is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment together. During the Season of Creation, we join our sisters and brothers in the ecumenical family in prayer and action for our common home.” It is an invitation to discipleship that faithfully seeks to partner with God in caring for God’s Creation.
The international theme for the 2021 Season of Creation is “A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God.” Oikos is the Greek word for “home,” or “household.” UCA President Rev Sharon Hollis has shared a message “We show our love of God by caring for the earth and by being passionate advocates for this broken, beautiful, scarred and glorious creation.” Care for creation is a spiritual and theological imperative embodied in Christ. God’s creation needs to be restored.
Today’s text shows God’s restoration plans and actions. He shows his plan to redeem His holy people and His world and to heal all human weaknesses. Isaiah chapter 35 starts with brightness against the dark background of chapter 34. Even the most barren desert or wilderness will blossom with flowers in the day of salvation. Through the prophet Isaiah, God has given His people a word of hope that He will transform a barren wasteland. The land can be glad, and the desert shall rejoice because God reveals his glory. (Isaiah 35:1)
God’s appearance would destroy the enemy but bring salvation to the people of God. Such salvation is not limited to a spiritual realm. God will heal all human hurts and restore justice to his world on his time schedule and in his ways. The prophet, Isaiah, was called to encourage the weak and feeble and to proclaim God’s Word. Their reason for fear would vanish. God’s purified people would pass over His highway, the Way of Holiness, and enter Zion in accordance with God’s word. Only the people whom God had redeemed from captivity would be allowed on the road.
Although we are often isolated in COVID lockdown and captivated in uncertainty, I believe our Father God will lead us to the joyous journey safely and the joy will be everlasting. The day of redemption will come, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. The best was yet to come. I hope our life become a festival of praising God. May we praise God for every sign of His saving work in our lives rather than complaining about our weaknesses and feeling sorry for ourselves.
God is on schedule to carry out His plan for the world. He saves His people to reveal His glory. God expects His people to be holy and His plan is to bring everlasting joy to His people. I hope we give our fears to God. May we trust God to know our plight and to have a plan to deliver us.
Mark wanted to emphasize the mission and inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation. The gospel of God’s love and His kingdom are not limited to Israel, it is open to all people. When Jesus was looking for a place to rest with His disciples as well as to escape the persecution of the religious leaders who were always following Him, a Gentile woman sought Him. (24) She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
Mark shows the cultural and gender boundaries that existed between Jesus and the woman. The Gentiles and the Jews had not always treated each other kindly, and there was a gender issue too because men dominated women during this time. Also, a rabbi or teacher was not supposed to have any direct contact with a woman.
However, the Syrophoenician woman’s desperate need of her daughter and faith in God’s goodness caused her to humble herself before Jesus and risk crossing all these barriers. (25) She had a strong faith that refused to believe she was excluded and said to Jesus, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She pleads on be half of one who is vulnerable and suffering. This shows she has persevering faith in God’s grace and goodness. The barriers of race, culture, and gender are surface issues.
Then Jesus told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. This woman’s faith must have pleased and surprised Jesus. When true healing on the inside is necessary in our lives, only the gospel can cross these barriers to bring such healing. Jesus teaches that our relationship with God is based on a sincere faith that transcends all barriers.
Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” or “Be opened!” At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak plainly. Jesus demonstrates the grace and goodness of God through the healing of a deaf man. Jesus even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. His word ends the individual’s separation from sound, from community, and from communication. Our healing Jesus wants our ears and mouth to be opened. Only Jesus can restore us to the position and purpose for which God created us.
Jesus lay down his life for the whole world and all people. There were no exceptions, no favourites, and no discrimination in His salvation. In Jesus Christ, God is reconciling the whole world to Godself and to each other. It doesn’t matter who we are, or what our life experience is, or what our cultural background might be. We are all embraced in God’s generous love, and all welcomed into the one precious group rather than individuals in Christ.
In this season of creation, may we join God’s restoration plan and action and renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation. In what ways have you witnessed God bringing justice into your life? As I have already mentioned before, I believe God will heal our hurts and restore us on his time schedule and in his ways. We have all been gathered up in God’s extravagant grace; that we are all invited to the place of reconciliation with God. We are called to live by the gospel. May we participate in God’s restoration work as faithful followers of Jesus. I hope we strive to love God’s creation the way God loves us. May we ask God to help us see people and nature as Jesus sees them, and we cross all barriers and serve with the Lord.
“Be opened” Jesus wants us to hear God’s voice and speak His word clearly. I believe our ears are opened and our tongues are released when we respond to the gospel. Once we acknowledge that there are no walls separating us, love and mercy flow unfettered, and all people are deemed equally valuable. May we cross boundaries to serve and work by word and deed and be a part of ecumenical family who look after God’s creation by prayers and actions.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)