Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lent 2 Sermon

Lent 2 – Matthew 15:21-28 – February 17th, 2008

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

And his disciples came and begged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us. Chilling, chilling words. Here we have a Canaanite woman, a foreigner, a stranger who has heard of Christ, calling out to Jesus for mercy. Her daughter is demon possessed, Satan is sorely and directly attacking her family. She is in dire need of help – and at first Jesus is silent – He waits, Jesus looks to see how the disciples are going to handle this one. What will you do, oh disciples, when one comes to you who is different, who is a stranger, whom you have prejudices against? What will you do? Send her away, for she is crying out after us. The disciples fail miserably, they show no love, no compassion. Their hearts are hard. Tell this woman to go suffer and quit bothering us. I have a hard time thinking of anything more cruel.

So what of in your own life? Do you, dear friends, often feel as though you are in the position of the Canaanite woman – where you cries for help are met with – indifference, disdain? I’d wager so. In fact, it’s a common saying, “Oh, I don’t want to be a burden.” We give people an excuse not to help before we even ask them for it. We are so conditioned, so used to being scorned, that we are oftentimes even afraid to ask for help, even when we need it. The words die on our lips, they go unsaid. We can’t be bold and ask for help – we think we should rather be timid, that we should just suffer in silence and not bother anyone. How often do we ourselves feel isolated and alone, as though there is no help, no support available for us – and we struggle along in silence? But there is the other side of this coin as well. How often, dear friends, do you yourself end up behaving like the disciples? How often when someone needs help, needs something of you, would you rather they just go away. Again? Why now? Can’t they get it together? How easy it is for us to become frustrated when there are demands made of our time – when people want more and more from us And the amazing thing is that there’s probably been times where you’ve felt both of these ideas – I need help, why doesn’t any help me – right along side of why does everyone keep asking me for help.

This is part of the struggle of the sinful life. As Christians, we know what God has commanded. Love God, love your Neighbor. We know that we are to love our neighbor – yet we live in a sinful world – and this has consequences. We know that our neighbor should love us – but we can be afraid to ask, afraid to talk, afraid of rejection. We know that we are to love our neighbor, but we can be afraid of burdens, afraid of difficulty, afraid of the struggles and the commitments that will be asked of us. And we become isolated and alone. In this sinful world, the fact is that we are sinners as well. We receive cruelness and we can dish it out – and all the while in all things sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. That is no way to live.

The Canaanite woman, though, she lives by faith. Christ commends her faith – calls it great. And so we should learn from her. Note how persistent she is. She keeps crying out, she keeps calling out to God for mercy. Dear friends, that the picture of faith. I like the words of the old hymn – Faith clings to Jesus Christ alone. That’s what this woman does. Even when it doesn’t appear that Christ is focused on her – even when Jesus is testing the disciples – she still cries to Jesus for mercy. And note something – even while the disciples give their wicked request – Jesus doesn’t send her away. He doesn’t answer her right away – that He will do in His own time and His own way – but Jesus doesn’t say “Get out of here.” The rejection that we can fear so often, the rejection that we can dish out to our neighbor – we never get that from Christ. God always hears, and God always answers in His own way.

And He answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. It seems as though Jesus is harsh, is cruel, is mean to her. That can be our first reaction when we hear this. That’s just mean. But the woman, in faith – she doesn’t think it’s cruel. She doesn’t get indignant – she doesn’t say, “I didn’t come all this way just to have you throw this in my face.” The woman doesn’t stomp off – rather, most amazingly – she agrees. Yes, I am a dog. Yes, I indeed am unworthy of any of these things which I ask of you. Yet I know that You will provide for me, even though I am lowly.” That, dear friends, is faith. To approach God in faith is not to approach God confident of your own strength. To approach God in faith is not to be sure that your plans are the best and the right way. To approach God in faith is to admit that you are a sinner struggling in a sinful world – and to be confident not in yourself but in God – to be confident that He will have mercy upon you and do what is best for you – that He will give you rich and free forgiveness of your sins and support you through all trials you face. That is the Gospel – that while I am weak, He is strong, He is strong for me, He desires my salvation and will stop at nothing, that He will suffer even death upon the Cross to win me forgiveness. That is where our confidence lies. That is the Gospel – that Christ Jesus has died for us and gives us forgiveness. Christ does not send you away – rather He yearns to come to you, to give you His forgiveness, to strengthen your faith through His Word, to give you His own life giving Body and Blood in His Supper. You know that your cries for help to God never fall on deaf ears – and that He is always quick to save.

But what we must remember is that Christ’s salvation – it isn’t always what we might want. Well, what do you mean by that, Pastor? You know, if I were that Canaanite woman, and the disciples had told Jesus to send me away – I might have wanted a little direct vindication – maybe Jesus turning and saying, “How dare you disciples be so wicked – bad disciples, bad!” Maybe even a good wag of the finger for good measure. In fact, maybe I’d even hope that I’d get more respect. Women, and especially Canaanite women were looked down upon – maybe this will give me more respect. But this isn’t what Jesus does – instead He gives healing to her daughter. He shows mercy.

Sometimes I think we can misunderstand the Gospel – what it is supposed to do. The Gospel doesn’t mean that everything in life will be perfect. It doesn’t mean that everything will go your way. Things won’t go any more smoothly for you in this life because you are a Christian – other than to the extent where by listening to God’s Word you don’t go and cause trouble for yourself. In this life, we are wounded. Every one of us here in this room has heartaches – some that other people know about – some that are hidden. For our days here, the Gospel doesn’t mean those instantaneously disappear. Rather this – how do we approach them, how do we deal with them – how do we deal with the very people that give us more and more heartache? Listen to our epistle lesson again. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith [that is forgiven, we know that Christ has forgiven us and we have received over and over again His forgiveness] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand [we have access to forgiveness – because of Christ we know that God will never turn His back upon us] and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [And now the profound part that we can overlook and shoot right on by. Listen to this.] More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and that endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Did you catch the wonder of that? The Gospel doesn’t mean that life will always be wonderful – but it shapes our lives and sees us through our days here in this sinful world. Yes – we suffer, we have horrid days and heartaches – but by the strength of God and His mercy – we endure. We endure and learn to focus more and more upon Christ’s love, to rely on Him. This is what a Christian Character is – to rely upon God. And when we rely upon God, when we look to Him – we have hope – in the face of any trial or terror we have hope - for we know that God is faithful and just and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, that He supports us all our days.

Dear friends in Christ. Life in this world is rough. We are hounded by the assaults of the Devil – we can feel isolated and alone – and even we ourselves can become tired and cruel and indifferent. But behold Christ Jesus – He is tireless for you, and He always works for you – always gives you the forgiveness He won for you upon the cross. With this forgiveness you have life, you have strength and endurance and hope – and by faith you live in Christ’s forgiveness until that day when you join Him in heaven and need never worry about sin again. This is the victory He wins for you by going to the cross. Amen.

1 comment:

Doorman-Priest said...

Thanks for this post. Check your e-mails.