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October 17, 2021 – Breaking Silence

Due to operator error (mine), there is no video recording of today’s service. Luckily, our anthem was pre-recorded by our Choral Scholar, Stephen Morris. The rest of the service is presented in written form, below. — LK

October 17, 2021


Chi non crede    Andrea Antico (c.1480-1539)
“Who Does Not Believe that the Sun Nourishes the World”
Thomas Pousont, organ



HYMN (371)

to hear the tune of this hymn, click here

Open my eyes, that I may see, glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key, that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear,
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear, everything else will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!


God of the thunder, God of the storm, God of the still small voice:
you give us ears to hear, and tongues to speak,
you send us prophets and preachers and poets,
but we have yet to learn your word of peace.
Give us patience to hear, and courage to speak.
Open our hearts to receive those truths
that are only revealed in the sharing. Amen.


Mark 7: 31-37

When Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. There 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.’


Die Forelle   Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
“The Trout”
Stephen Morris, Choral Scholar


Breaking Silence
Rev. Liza Knapp

First, let us not treat his deafness as a metaphor. It is easy preaching, to associate blindness with ignorance, or deafness with indifference; easy, and hurtful. It should go without saying, that people who are, literally, deaf or blind are no less enlightened than those who hear and see. But the pervasiveness of the metaphor perpetuates the idea that our disabilities somehow render us somehow socially inferior; that a physical difference is somehow a spiritual deficit.

So let us not treat this man’s deafness as a mere object lesson, a metaphor for our own inability to listen with the ears of the heart. Let us consider that this story may be, primarily, about him, and not about us. Jesus, after all, did not play to the crowd, in healing this man. Mark tells us that Jesus took the man aside, in private, away from an audience. After all, the deaf man hadn’t asked for this miracle; it was the people around him, who were clamoring for Jesus to “fix” him. They were hungry for a show, for a story to tell. Who knew, what the man himself was hungry for? It wasn’t like he could tell them.

The man, Mark tells us, was both deaf and mute; how did he communicate? One imagines – one hopes – that he found ways to signal his needs to his family, that they found ways to signal theirs to him. Maybe they had developed a rich sign language between them. Or maybe not. It is not a simple thing, for the mute to speak and the deaf to hear. But it is not impossible.

Some years ago, I attended a party at which I was the only guest who did not speak sign language. The other guests were either deaf or they were sign language interpreters. When I entered the room, all the other guests were conversing easily, gracefully, fluently, expressively; the only one who needed an interpreter, was me. It was quite a revelation to me to realize that, in that community, I was the one with an impediment. Everyone else could communicate, but my hands were mute.

There is more than one way to speak, and more than one way to hear. The trick is for the speaker and the listener to share a common language, a common medium, of communication. Sometimes all we need to establish a connection is an interpreter – a sort of human adaptor, to connect one person’s output to another person’s input. But what if there is no interpreter to be found? How can we be a beloved community, if we cannot communicate? How can our connection be restored?

Let us return to Mark’s story. Jesus leads the man aside, away from the eager eyes of the unlookers. He touches his ears, he touches his tongue; this is a language the man can understand. Then, I imagine, he breathes upon him, a single word: EphphathaBe opened.

Not mended, or healed, or fixed, or forgiven. Opened. To be opened is to let the outside in, and the inside out. To be opened is to create a portal between the interior world and the exterior world, between Self and Other. To be opened is to set yourself loose on the world. And vice versa.

At that word, ephphatha, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. We do not know what he said. That’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Mark does not report the man’s words. Only that the rest of the crowd was astounded, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” 

They were all impressed by the miracle, but apparently still they wouldn’t let the man get a word in edgewise. After all, they were used to speaking for him, not with him. Maybe they weren’t all that interested, in what he had to say.

Maybe that’s why Jesus took the man aside, away from the people. Maybe Jesus just wanted to be sure he could hear the man’s voice. Maybe Jesus just wanted to be sure that the man could hear his own voice. It would be a discouraging thing, I would imagine, for him to speak for the first time, only to be drowned out by those who were more interested in the miracle than in the man.

Jesus speaks only one word, ephphatha, and then he is silent. For it is the man’s turn, at last, to speak.

I wonder, what he said. What would I say, if I were breaking a silence of years? What would you say?

I wonder about the man’s life, after this moment.  Was he a man of few words, accustomed as he was to keeping his own counsel? I wonder, did he feel the need sometimes to steal away to a quiet place, to find some respite from all the sounds unbidden that rushed into his newly opened ears?

Those of us who enjoy the privilege of unimpeded speech, the luxury of easy listening, are perhaps more prone to take such things for granted. To forget, that each word spoken, each word heard, is a breaking of a sacred silence.

Ephphatha. Let us be opened.

HYMN (372)

to hear the tune of this hymn, click here

Though I may speak with bravest fire, and have the gift to all inspire,
and have not love, my words are vain, as sounding brass, and hopeless gain.

Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control, our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed; by this we worship, and are freed.


In the silence of solitude,
when no eyes are upon us,
and no words are necessary,
and we are free to simply be–

be with us, Emmanuel, in that silence.

In the silence of grief,
when there are no words sufficient
to ease or explain our loss
and we are too weary even for lament—

be with us, Emmanuel, in that silence.

In the silence of fear,
when speech risks punishment,
when our tongues are tied by panic,
and our anxiety makes us ashamed –

be with us, Emmanuel, in that silence.

In the silence of holiness,
in the quiet communion of hearts,
in the hushed wonder of beauty,
in the secret tenderness of hope –

be with us, Emmanuel, in that silence.

In the silence of prayer,
when your Spirit intercedes for us
with sighs too deep for words –

be with us, Emmanuel




Canzona in G   Franz Tunder (1614-1667)


Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise God all creatures here below,
God’s praise ye host on high proclaim, who doth create, redeem, sustain.


In the offering of these gifts, let this be our aim:
to profess your Love, not in word alone, but in deed.
Bless us in this intent, we pray.
Prosper the work of our hands, and the work of our hearts.


HYMN (371, continued)

to hear the tune of this hymn, click here

Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!


May the roads rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm on your face,
and the rain fall soft on your fields.
And until we meet again,
May you be held secure
in the palm of God’s hand.


Dialogue sur les Grands Jeux   François Couperin (1668-1733)


The First Church of Deerfield
an inclusive, inquisitive congregation of
the United Church of Christ
and the Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Liza B. Knapp, Pastor
Dr. Thomas Pousont, Director of Music Ministry
Tom Mershon, Sexton
Pat Auchard, Office Administrator
Ann Hallstein, Pastor Emerita

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