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Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time on and for evermore.
For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous,
so that the righteous may not stretch out their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways, the Lord will lead away with evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel!
In our New Testament passage, we discover that Jesus has gone away to the beach for the weekend.
The geographical location is Tyre, a harbor city on the Mediterranean, in today’s Lebanon, next to Syria.
Tyre was beyond the borders of Israel, part of a Gentile region two full days travel
from Jesus’ home base at Capernaum on the sea of Galilee.
And our text reports that Jesus really did not want anyone to know where he was.
In the previous verses, we read that Jesus expends himself in healing and feeding
the throngs of needy and hungry people.
Then he engages in a tense, even dangerous interaction with the Scribes and Pharisees
about the traditions of man and the commandments of God.
The overwhelming nature of human need combined with the growing conflict with those in power
reveals to us why the carpenter-become-teacher heads out of town for a time of rest and renewal.
We can imagine that Jesus was likely physically and spiritually exhausted from the demands of ministry.
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre.
He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,
but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him,
and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.
She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her,
‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’
But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’
Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’
So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
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.’
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Have you ever thought about Jesus needing a break? Going to the beach?
Just as you and I experience sometimes, Jesus got tired – physically, spiritually, emotionally.
He seemed to have the need to get away from the crowds for a bit,
away from pressing responsibilities.
A young parent with several children understands the need for an occasional break,
even if for only a few hours.
A school teacher understands the need for a break from his or her duties.
Most of our Decatur teachers love the schedule of six weeks on, one week off they now enjoy.
A social worker or a flight attendant or a CEO all realize the need for time and space to renew,
to refill one’s cup, to receive again grace and rest and peace.
So Jesus went away, two days travel, to the peninsula of Tyre, in today’s Lebanon,
on the coast of the Mediterranean, where he hoped to escape notice.
I like to imagine Jesus, with his toes in the sand, gazing across the wide open Mediterranean,
cool breeze in his face, watching seagulls, exploring interesting shells, breathing deeply of ocean air…
The world would not fall apart in the few days that he would be gone.
His mission would not end because he took a weekend off.
If Jesus, the Messiah!, trusted in God that all would be OK if he took a brief Sabbath,
then perhaps those among us who tend to overwork, who feel afraid to let go, could do so as well.
Jesus did not live in fear of what might go wrong.
He rather lived in hope of what could go right.
Our psalm for today claims: Those who trust in God are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
Those who trust in God are like a high mountain.
The city of Jerusalem sits high upon Mt Zion, uphill from any direction.
At over 2200 feet, Jerusalem is still a challenging uphill walk or drive from any direction.
Mt Zion holds tremendous spiritual symbolism as the epicenter for the world’s three great religions.
On the Temple Mount, the highest point on Mt Zion, rests the ruins of Solomon’s grand temple,
and also Al-Aqsa, the third most holy of sites for Islam.
Nearby is the location of the crucifixion of Jesus as well as the recently renovated
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed site where Jesus’ body was laid to rest.
God’s presence is known and felt on this mountain.
God surrounds this mountain with protection. As the psalm declares:
“God is in the midst of this city; it shall not be moved.”
You might say that the Syro-Phoenician woman was like Mt Zion – she could not be moved.
Her daughter was ill and needed help, so when the woman heard that the teacher/healer Jesus
was in town, she went to find him, and was not going to let go of him until she received help.
We do not know the nature of her daughter’s illness; the text reports she had an evil spirit –
perhaps epileptic seizures or turret’s syndrome?
Even when Jesus rebuffed her, referring to her as a Gentile “dog”, she could not be moved.
She begged Jesus…even the dogs eat the crumbs from the Master’s table, she replied.
Jesus, recognizing her faith, her trust, her perseverance, the attitude of her heart,
replied that her daughter would be well.
This young mother did not live in fear of what might go wrong.
She lived in hope of what could go right.
The friends of the deaf man were like Mt Zion – they could not be moved.
Some Gentiles from the Decapolis region brought their friend before Jesus
and they begged for this Jewish rabbi to help him.
When Jesus opened the man’s ears and released the man’s tongue,
Jesus told them to tell no one, but again, they could not be moved.
They could not help but share this good news.
Their friend had been deaf and unable to speak,
then Jesus made him well, made him whole, and they could not keep silent.
These helpful friends did not live in fear of what might go wrong.
They lived in hope of what could go right.
As a nation, we find ourselves in an increasingly conflicted time.
Bring up any topic, from a Nike ad to a governor’s race,
and you will immediately discover passionate feelings on opposite sides of the issue,
so much so that many have become fearful to initiate meaningful conversation.
As a community, we are busy and distracted.
Try to schedule a time to get together with a half dozen friends,
and notice how quickly people can seem defeated by their calendars,
so much so that many do not seem to have time for meaningful interactions.
As individuals, we are in all sorts of place.
Some are rolling along, life is good; others are hurting or grieving or hanging on for dear life.
Some are optimistic about the future; others are cynical and without hope.
A decade ago, young contestants were invited to create a two-minute video describing their vision
of what the future may be like when they turn 50 years old.
A 20-something Atlanta native replied with these words from his video…
(“Lost Generation” – a poem by Jonathan Reed – to be read by youth elder Brianna Hunter)
I am part of a lost generation.
And I refuse to believe that I can change the world.
I realize this may be a shock, but “Happiness comes from within” Is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy”
So in thirty years, I will tell my children They are not the most important thing in my life.
My employer will know that I have my priorities straight
because Work Is more important than Family
I tell you this: Once upon a time Families stayed together But this will not be true in my era.
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me Thirty years from now, I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of my divorce.
I do not concede that I will live in a country of my own making.
In the future, Environmental destruction will be the norm.
No longer can it be said that My peers and I care about this Earth.
It will be evident that My generation is apathetic and lethargic.
It is foolish to presume that There is hope…
And, all of this will come true unless we seek to reverse it. (Now read in reverse…)
There is hope.
It is foolish to presume that My generation is apathetic and lethargic.
It will be evident that My peers and I care about this Earth.
No longer can it be said that Environmental destruction will be the norm
In the future, I will live in a country of my own making.
I do not concede that Thirty years from now, I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of my divorce.
Experts tell me This is a quick fix society But this will not be true in my era.
Families stayed together Once upon a time.
I tell you this: Family Is more important than Work
I have my priorities straight because My employer will know that
They are not the most important thing in my life.
So in thirty years, I will tell my children “Money will make me happy” Is a lie,
and “Happiness comes from within”
I realize this may be a shock, but I can change the world.
And I refuse to believe that I am part of a lost generation.
(“The Lost Generation” became viral in 2007, winning second place in AARP’s 2007 U@50 video contest. The poem is called a palindrome, which is read first from the beginning, then in reverse. Discovered on pg. 199 of Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass, and found online at
Instead of living with fear over what might go wrong,
Jonathan Reed, and many of his generation, are seeking to live in hope of what could go right.
He is among those who recognize the gap between the way things are and the way they should be.
He is among those who engage both friend and foe in fearless dialogues and in courageous conversations
about those issues that divide us the most, but which have the potential to unite us in hope.
Those who trust in God are like Mt Zion, which shall not be moved.
In Vernon Gramling’s blog this week from the Faith in Real Life discussions, he wrote:
“Unless we can allow the unexpected and unfamiliar into our lives, we cannot listen to God.”
If we are not open to anything new or unexpected in our lives,
then we are not open to God’s Spirit.
Through the power of God’s Spirit, blowing freely throughout the world,
this generation, your generation, my generation, can change the world for good.
As the Apostle Paul declared from prison,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The woman refused to believe that her daughter’s illness was beyond God’s care.
The deaf man’s friends refused to believe that he could not find relief.
In their stubborn refusal to focus on what is not possible,
and in their begging for what they believed could be possible, they changed the world, with God’s help.
The woman changed the world for her daughter; the girl’s whole future took a bright turn.
The friends changed in a dramatic way the life of their deaf and mute friend,
and everyone who knew him was astounded and rejoiced.
And, as it turned out, if you read through Mark carefully,
this Syrophoenician woman and these Gentile friends from the Decaopolis region
changed the whole narrative and breadth of Jesus’ ministry.
How are we today?
Are we tired, like Jesus, needing a Sabbath break, needing time to refill our cup?
Are we desperate, like the Syrophoenician woman, ready to break barriers and overcome odds
on behalf of a loved one who is ill?
Are we determined, like the friends of the deaf mute,
who set aside their own needs in order to advocate for the needs of another?
Are we hopeful, like the author of the Lost Generation poem,
who knows all the reasons to be negative and to complain,
and yet continues to hope that he can influence the world for good?
Those who trust in God are like Mt Zion, which shall not be moved, but abides forever.
“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide his face I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
(“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”, Glory to God Hymnal, No. 353)
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
September 9, 2018
Allysen Schaaf graduated from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Christian Education. Prior to that she received a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Rev. Dr. Todd Speed has served Decatur Presbyterian Church since August, 2007 and has been an integral part of the Decatur community ever since. As a part of his personal calling and service, Dr. Speed regularly serves on local non-profit or education-related boards, has led or co-led over 20 mission trips in various cultural contexts, and has participated in learning seminars on five continents.
Rev. Alexandra Rodgers was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She grew up in a large Presbyterian church where she and her family were very involved. Alex has a degree in interdisciplinary studies from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master of divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas.
Join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m.
Worship is the heartbeat of Decatur Presbyterian Church, the most important hour of the week. In worship, we offer praise, receive forgiveness, listen to God's Word, pray for the needs of the world, and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.
The mission of DPC is to share Jesus Christ's love for the world.
Founded in 1825, Decatur Presbyterian Church has contributed in numerous ways to the cultural development of Decatur over nearly two centuries, transforming Decatur from a tiny frontier settlement to building the foundations of the city we live in today.
205 Sycamore Street, Decatur, GA 30030