Dear church,

I’m not sure what we can do right now. Is it OK to go get the mail? The term “lock down,” I think, is in full force at the moment. The government has locked us down.

Stories have been emerging about how people are spending their time while under this government lock down. People are watching lots of movies and playing lots of video games. Enterprising parents are trying to “homeschool” their children. People are doing really cool things with dominoes.

I hope you are doing well. If there’s anything the church can do for you or any of your neighbors in need, please let me know. We have volunteers who are ready to help at a moment’s notice.

Today’s Gospel of Matthew reading is chapter 9. Jesus begins to encounter questions and opposition in this chapter. Jesus’ willingness to forgive sins, and his hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, and his disciples’ non-fasting were cause for concern among some of his contemporaries.

The one episode that made me pause was Jesus’ casting out of a demon from a man who was unable to speak. Jesus had cast out demons before. And Matthew barely makes mention of Jesus casting out this particular demon. Jesus also had healed people before. In the previous passage, he had healed two blind men. And Matthew notes that when the mute man was healed, he spoke.

I wish I knew what the man said! It must not have mattered because Matthew doesn’t tell us that. He doesn’t tell us that the man spoke prophecy or that he praised God or that he blessed Jesus. Matthew just said the man spoke.

As I was praying through this scripture, I felt God pointing me toward the reaction of the Pharisees. They attributed Jesus’ power to the “prince of demons.” I wondered what about this particular miracle elicited that kind of response from the Pharisees. Why did they react to the healing of the mute man and not the healing of the two blind men just a few minutes before?

I don’t know. But there is something about being able to speak that is important. That’s what I sensed in my own spirit as I prayed through this. So please note, this is from me. This is what I felt God saying to me as I spent time in this text. To be able to speak, to communicate with others in an unhindered way, is a crucial part of our living. Just think how nice it is to talk to someone on the phone for a few minutes as opposed to sending a long string of emails or text messages. Or blogs.

In the human voice, we can pick up all sorts of messages. The way things are said is important. And just hearing someone freely expressing himself or herself is a beautiful thing. And yes, it’s a good thing even if the message isn’t one we want to hear. In our government-imposed lock-down, we especially can come to appreciate the sound of each others’ voices.

And this man was locked down by a demon. He could not talk. And Jesus liberated the man from that demon. And in Matthew’s Gospel, the stress isn’t so much on the casting out of the demon but on the man speaking. “The mute man spoke.” He was freed to communicate with the people around him. And the Pharisees complained.

This miracle made me think about communication and how important it is and how Satan doesn’t want us to speak freely with each other. Bad communication is the source of a lot of ills in the world. Pride often keeps us from speaking freely – or our pride can cause others not to want to speak freely with us. And relationships break down without communication. Our relationships with our spouses or friends or church members or God – they break down without communication.

Jesus healed two blind men, and the Pharisees said nothing. He healed a man who couldn’t speak, and they made accusations against Jesus.

I think there’s something to that. Maybe Satan knows honest and free communication eventually leads to the truth. Maybe Satan knows it leads to us knowing one another and knowing God more deeply. It leads to love for one another. And, of course, Satan hates that.

My take-away was that we should do our best as a church to open up our communication with one another. “The mute man spoke.” It was a miracle that got Satan riled up.

We might say, however, that words can hurt. I agree with that. They can hurt. But hurt can also be turned into a beautiful thing if the communication can continue beyond the hurt. A hurtful comment, after all, comes from somewhere. Someone has a feeling in his or her heart that has been expressed. Keep communicating. Figure out what that feeling is and how it originated. Dig deeper.

A church can be a fairly silent place. We sing and small talk. But do church members always share with one another in real ways? We might not feel comfortable doing that. “Church is not a place to share deep things of the heart.” “I’m not close enough to anyone in the church for that.” “I don’t think anyone in the church is smart enough to help me.” “People in the church might think what I have to say is stupid.” “I don’t think anyone in the church is spiritually mature enough to help me.” “I don’t want to bother anyone with my problems.”

There’s half a dozen reasons a person may stay closed off, locked down, from their brothers and sisters in Christ. You probably could come up with a half-dozen more reasons without much of a struggle. And you can judge for yourself whether these are God-honoring reasons.

My only encouragement is to think about these things. The mute man spoke. He was freed to communicate. The opponents of Jesus had a strong reaction to that.

Chris

 

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