Reverend Andrea De Vaal Horciu
Healing Deafness, 6 September 2015
[Start by listening to nature sounds and get the congregation to guess what they are? Wind, sea, river, birds, insects, animals etc ….]
What would it be like if you could not hear these sounds, some people are born without hearing and some people lose their hearing as they grow old or just because they have had problems with ears? How hard would it be to communicate?
If you couldn't hear what people were saying or even hear your own voice In what ways can we communicate if you can't hear, lip read or sign language. At BMS and Malkara not all children can talk with word, they communicate with use of words through pictures like this one or iPad programs.
Have you ever met someone who you couldn't communicate with? Have you ever met anyone who spoke a different language? What were your reactions? How did you feel? Well for me when I went to France, Spain, Austria Germany and Romania, I felt an array of mixed emotions. Having to rely on aids such as dictionaries, phrase books and other people, was difficult and frustrating, but I had the capacity to learn and to adapt. This was the time when I started to ask myself how communication occurs and how it is used.
Language is what truly makes us human. Whereas other species do communicate with an innate ability to produce a limited number of meaningful sounds, there is no other species known to date that can express infinite ideas with a limited set of symbols such as sounds and words. To be able to speak you must rely on your senses and bodily anatomy such as mouth, vocal chords, tongue, lips, hearing, lungs and your brain. If one of these parts is deficient, learning to speak is very difficult; if not impossible.
One of the most surprising facts about Beethoven is that he was deaf. How did Beethoven, one of the greatest composers that ever existed, cope with his hearing loss in an age before hearing aids? How can a musician, a composer, lack what we would imagine to be his most important sense, one would ask? And despite this disability he has composed some of the most beautiful music. He wrote to his friend to let him "know that my noblest faculty, my hearing, has greatly deteriorated".
Beethoven wanted all his full senses reinstated. In 1801 he wrote to one of his friends, Karl Amenda, "Oh how happy I should be if my hearing were completely restored". However, when it became clear to Beethoven himself that he was deaf, he accepted it.
It's not easy to teach a person deaf from birth to speak well. I have a friend Elena who is deaf and she explained to me just how difficult it is to learn to speak with words, Elena in adulthood has learnt to speak with words but she also uses her hands to speak. Elena is an ASLANT translator now for CBM teaching other to also talk with their hands.
A story that touched me deeply when I was a child was when I heard of a person called Helen Keller. Helen lived in a world where she could not see; she couldn't hear and could not communicate. So, she was deaf and blind. People found it very hard to communicate with Helen. When Helen was 7 years old she had a new teacher called Anne Sullivan. Anne began to work with Helen and slowly Helen learnt to communicate through using her hands, through touch and through perseverance. Anne and Helen's relationship transcended and became more than a student teacher relationship. For the first time ever, Helen could explain her feelings, explain what she needed and what she thought of the world. A new world began to open for Helen. Their relationship grew strong over the years. Helen learnt to trust Anne which was a break through. Helen began to learn, it was touch- manipulation of the mouth cords that enabled her to eventually to speak with words at the age of twenty two. The teaching and learning came as a result of touching, friendship, trust and companionship.
Helen Keller learnt to speak and then she filled her life actively addressing a number of social problems. Helen received the gift of communication, then lived her life by communicating good news to others less fortunate than herself.
Do you remember the gospel today, what happened, is this a test to see who is listening?
Jesus touches the deaf man, before He commands, be open!
When Jesus did this he may have been using sign language to explain what He was doing to help the man understand.
The fingers in the ears - "Something will be done for your ears...and I will do it."
The touch of the tongue - "Something will be done for your tongue...and I will do it."
The spit - His intention was to heal, as saliva was thought to have medicinal properties
Then he looks to heaven - indicating His help came from above - the sympathizing Jesus, taking the man's condition to heart - cf. Isa 53:4 First, the man can hear but also for the first time he could speak clearly, this happened instantly. The first word he hears was Jesus. Imagine this being the first voice you could hear. In Helen's case, she took many years to speak and she never gained her hearing. However through Anne's work Helen was given a voice. Through the people around us who dedicate their time and love and care, we to can bring others Jesus' gift of love a healing, and this is what Anne did.
The healed man and the people tell what has taken place, very similar to Helen sharing her story how she could keep her learning a secret. I think something very profound must have happened between Jesus and the blind man even before the miracle. Jesus must have communicated something to him that resonated deep within the man's very being and changed him.
How could he keep quiet about this miracle, the man's encounter with Jesus, changed him? Just like Anne's encounter with Helen changed her life.
Even though we have the gift of hearing sometimes like this man, we can also be deaf and mute. We don't always hear God call to us. We really aren't very good listeners. Can you think of time when you stopped and listened to Gods? Or are the times when you can do this in the future. Often we get so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget to listen. Our lives have become so busy we don't take the time to hear what God is trying to communicate to us. He talks about the wonderful promise to be with us, at all times. This is His Word.
How can we listen to God?
Through reading the bible?
We also forget to tell others about the wonderful friend and Saviour we have in Jesus.
I have been thinking about this myself. Maybe, like many others, at times I might feel a bit inadequate as to the language I use. I, like many others, might overlook or don't feel comfortable to share with others the hope that Jesus gives us. I, like many others might find it difficult to explain to others just how much Jesus loves us.
So in a way we can also be deaf and mute.
We must hear and come to know Jesus before we can proclaim who he is. The Gospel leads us to see Christ in the little things around us. Like Anne's dedication to Helen. I guess the sign language of God love. We may find it difficult to use our words to explain who Jesus is but we can use our actions. In the things we do! The caring touch, the encouraging smile the unexpected phone call.
I look at my work at BMS and Malkara I am astonished by the many manifestations of a God's presence in and through Gods presence in the people around us. We too should be astonished at how God uses each of us as instruments to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ our saviour. God demonstrated the sign language of love for all of us by giving us the gift of Jesus. We say this in the creed every week. He was born of a woman, Mary; He suffered at the hands of the Roman guards and of the people. He died. But that's not the end. On Easter morning He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us. Then on Pentecost he gave us the gift of his spirit to help us to continue to share God's love in the world.
Because Jesus has given us the sign language of love, expressed in His life, death and resurrection, we can express this sign language to others. We show others our concern for them with god's sign language of love in the world. Jesus, who has done all things well, stands ready to open our eyes to see the beauty of His salvation, Open our ears to hear is word. Open our mouths to proclaim the truth of the love Jesus Christ our Lord.