An excerpt from Becoming Church: A Trail Guide for Starting Fresh Expressions
The following is an excerpt from my book Becoming Church: A Trail Guide for Starting Fresh Expressions.
I remember my mom licking her finger and wiping food off my face as a child. Thinking about it still makes me squirm, but I do the same thing to my two-year-old daughter today. I cannot imagine doing it to anyone else, though. It’s far too intimate and a little bit gross. Jesus never has been one for obeying our social norms though, has he? In one of those wonderfully odd Gospel stories demonstrating the closeness and intimacy with which the Son of God interacted with the hurting and suffering people around him, we see the following scene:
[Some] people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:32–35, NIV)
Ephphatha, pronounced “ef-fath-ah,” is one of the few words of Jesus that the Gospel writers chose to preserve in Aramaic. In doing this, they are highlighting something profound that was occurring—something significant enough to be tied to one of our most important church practices.
In the seventh century, the Rite of Ephphatha was part of a ceremony for converts that occurred the day before baptism. By the sixteenth century it was combined with the rest of the baptismal rite for adults and infants in the Roman Catholic Church, until the 1960s when it became optional. It is profound that one of the first acts of becoming a disciple of Jesus is to have your ears opened. In the story, before the man could speak clearly, his ears needed to be opened. I know you are eager to proclaim the Good News of God’s life-transforming love to your neighbors, but please first take the time for your ears to be opened.