Prepare to Gather May 13, 2018

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Hello, my name is Brent, i’m one of the pastors at Highrock North Shore. We are committed to going through the entire gospel of Mark during our various Markan sermon series. This Sunday Brynn is preaching on the Feeding of the 4000, but before we get to that, there is a rather strange story of Jesus healing a deaf man that struggles to speak at the end of Mark Chapter 7. 

I know what you’re thinking, “Jesus healing someone doesn’t sound very strange.” Oh, did I fail to mention that in this healing Jesus spits? Matthew and Luke do not record this miracle in their gospels. I cannot say for certain why they chose to not include this miracle, but it might have had something to do with Jesus spitting, but that’s just a theory. Mark 7:31-37 (TNIV) says:

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 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. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

As we have said since the beginning of the first Mark sermon series, geography is important in Mark. Jesus is on the move in Gentile territory; therefore, the people that Jesus is interacting with in this phase of his ministry were almost certainly Gentile. 

“Some people,” - that is all the information that is given about them - bring a deaf man who was not able to speak well to Jesus and beg Jesus to heal the man. Jesus then puts his fingers in the man’s ears, spits, touches the man’s tongue, looks up to heaven, sighs, and then says “Be Open!” 

Huh...that’s interesting. 

What’s with all the theatrics and sensational motions? 

I wish I had a satisfactory answer for you; however, I do not know why Jesus went through all these extra steps, nor why Mark chose to record them here. It is important to note that the healing did not happen because Jesus followed a six step procedure. The man’s hearing and speech were restored because of Jesus’s authority as Messiah and power over the natural world. 

Last time Jesus was in the Decapolis in Mark 5:1-20, he freed the demoniac and encouraged him to tell everyone what the Lord did for him. This time Jesus commands the crowds to keep quiet, but this miracle so overwhelms and astonishes the crowd that they cannot keep quiet. 

Jesus’s reputation had grown so large that even in the Gentile Decapolis there was the danger of Jesus appearing on Rome’s radar before the time was right due to messianic fervor and a misunderstanding of what it meant for Jesus to be Messiah. Matt Webel will speak more about Jesus’s messianic identity on May 20th.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark Jesus has been inaugurating the Kingdom of God. Everytime he healed, exorcised, taught, fed, calmed, etc. he tore down the wall that separated the Kingdom of this world from the Kingdom of God, and onlookers (and readers!) were (and are) allowed to glimpse the Kingdom of God like never before. This passage highlights something special about Jesus’s mission to bring about the Kingdom of God, and this detail is brought to light when we look at the words that Mark uses.

The word for “could hardly talk”  only occurs once in the New Testament. The coolest thing about this word is that it also appears only once in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Isaiah 35:6. 

This means that Mark is no doubt wanting his reader’s attention to be drawn to Isaiah 35. This Old Testament oracle talks about a time when God will return and restore all things. Isaiah 35:5-6 says, “And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!” Jesus is providing us with a sneak peek of what will happen when the Kingdom comes in its fullness and all of creation is restored. 

And remember when I mentioned that this took place in Gentile territory? That means that Mark is drawing our attention to the fact that the Kingdom of God and the future restoration of all creation are open to everyone, including Gentiles.

Until then we live in the time between times. The Kingdom of God was inaugurated with the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and will be fully consummated when Jesus returns again. 

So what are we to do while we wait? 

I’ve found following Jesus’s example is a good place to start. Jesus met people where they were. If they were hungry, he fed them. If they were sick, he cared for them. If they hurt, he met them. Jesus is still on mission and the Kingdom of God can still break into this world today. Look around you. Where is Jesus at work in your home? Your school? Your office? Your floor? Your neighborhood? Your community? Your circle of friends? There is hurt and need all around you. Join with Jesus and help provide someone with a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Not to bring us crashing back down to reality, but this man, whose ability to hear and speak were restored, he died. The healings, exorcisms, and other miracles that Jesus performed were incredible and life changing, but they were temporary. Does that make them any less important or spectacular? Not at all. Does that mean we should not seek to meet the needs of people around us? Not in the slightest. We just have to keep the whole picture in mind. 

Isaiah 35 provides us with the other half of the picture, verse 10 says, At that time, “those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” When Jesus returns and fully ushers in the Kingdom of God, all of creation will be renewed and restored, and death will be no more. One of the first things Jesus did in Mark’s gospel was call people to repentance and right relationship with God. As we live on mission with Jesus, looking for chances to help the Kingdom of God break in, we cannot let eternity escape our minds, and neglect calling people to repentance and right relationship with God.

This coming Sunday Pastor Brynn will preach on the feeding of the 4000 from Mark 8. Brynn is also going to share some of the initial findings from the partner interviews and the most mind blowing detail about baskets that you never knew you needed to know. We are going to be receiving communion again this week, so you won’t want to miss that. Finally, in preparation for Sunday morning hear the Word of the Lord from Mark 8:1-21 (TNIV):

8 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” 4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” 5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.  “Seven,” they replied. 6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha. 11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. 14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” 16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. 20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” 21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Aaron Engler

Born and raised in rural Minnesota, Aaron studied finance at the University of Minnesota and then worked as a banker before attending Gordon-Conwell. Prior to planting Highrock North Shore in 2012, Aaron served on staff at Highrock Arlington since 2007, where he served as the Pastor to Young Adults.

In addition to planting Highrock North Shore, Aaron helped launch Open Door Immigration Services in 2017, and serves as the Chairman of the Board. He has gone through extensive immigration law training and is a partially accredited representative with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

"Shema" - Original Artwork by Laura Donworth

- Laura Donworth

- Laura Donworth


Linocut Block Prints

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

It is a high call that God gives us- to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When thinking about this piece, I was challenged with the question- what does this truly look like for us? I decided to explore the idea through various figurative poses, representing the attitude of each of these types of love.

The first image represents loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The figures pose is based on the story of Mary in the gospel of Mark chapter 14, where she anoints Christ’s feet and washes them with her hair. For me, Mary’s unrestrained and vulnerable action in this passage has always been a model of utmost love for Christ.

The second image is to represent a love for God with all your strength. It is reminiscent of Ruth gleaning in the fields, committing herself to God’s will through the work of her body. So often I forget that my body, the way I treat it and the way I use it on a daily basis, are a way that I can love God.

The third image is to represent loving your neighbor as yourself, as Christ reminds us in Luke 10 through the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan goes out of his way to comfort the stranger and to be generous to him. By having mercy on him, he was a neighbor to him. Christ challenges us to do the same- “Go and do likewise.”

Lent: The Vector of Vices & Virtues - Wrath

"Wrath" by George Courage

8" x 7.5"
Media: Acrylic on paper

Lenten Series Artwork

A visual expression of pure unreasoning, unrestrained fury, personified by a wolf with fang and snarl, reacting to pain or fear. Oblivious to the potential destructiveness of the that particular feeling. A beast that lives in the heart, untamed, ready to leap out and destroy.

Lent: The Vector of Vices and Virtues - Series Art

"7 Deadly Sins" by Andrew Manning

Lenten Series Artwork

The obscurity of the face and its assimilation with the surrounding areas of darkness and light reflect the anonymity that our sin brings over us. Light and darkness both act upon the static, expressionless face, making it appear helpless and apathetic. On account of  the reflectivity of the surface, the appearance of both the figure and his surroundings continually shift. At whatever angle it is viewed from, dark fades into light and light fades into dark. We are in a world where good and evil are at war, both around us and within us. The hope is that as the light of Christ becomes brighter and brighter, what appears as darkness in our lives will also reflect that light. 

Lent: The Vector of Vices and Virtues - Gluttony


Lenten Series Artwork

When I started thinking of gluttony, the main thing that came to mind was of course excessive eating. I often see eating portrayed in two lights: Beautiful, tempting, colorful foods laid out in a cornucopia of delicious options; or the disgusting slobbering mess while someone mashes food into their face.  When it comes to gluttony, the portrayal is often some mythological creature or demon. This drawing joins these ideas using bright playful colors to shape a gross mass of flesh in the act of consumption. The head at the top is literally eating his own hand while someone's foot pokes out of the face on his back.

Gluttony is not only self-destructive but it impacts those around us as well.  Whether by literally taking so much that there is less left for others or by forcing the people who care for us to watch as we go through avoidable health problems. Yet I'm sure  most of us have playfully partaken in games, dares or competitions to eat as much as possible. Then we've also turned around and ridiculed or silently thought less of people who are overweight. Why do we have such a dichotomy of perspectives in regards to gluttony?


Lent: The Vector of Vices and Virtues - Lust


"Screw" by Levi Nelson

32" x 35.75", Mixed Media, Lenten Series Artwork - Lust

A screw in the informal usage is a cast-off sex act. It can potentially transform a complex human being into a functional object. However, even in it’s effort to strain for the casual a connection is implied by the word. A screw is also an object that changes the object that it bonds by boring a hole through it. You can back out a screw, but a hole remains. You can tear the connected objects apart with a crowbar and splinter the wood, but this changes the capability of both objects to form a stable whole again. That being said lust is a misdirection of inherently good desires. It is good to be passionate and to yearn, but it is not an end in and of itself. Through passionate confession all of our failings become gifts to those hiding behind either their purported goodness or suffocating shame. I have failed, but I cannot bring my failures back down from their death on the cross.