Saturday, March 28, 2020

Lent 5 Sermon

Lent 5 (Viral Week 2) – John 8 – March 29th, 2020

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
And here it is. This is the text, the conversation that gets Jesus killed. If you read John's Gospel (which is my favorite, by the by), you'll see that John 8 is basically the point where the scales are fully and finally tipped against Jesus, the writing is on the wall, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will see Him dead, one way or another. And to set up what we hear in our text, I want to back up just a bit earlier in John 8 – back to verse 31, where we hear: So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” A familiar passage – the truth will set you free is one of the lines from the bible that even non-believers are familiar with, even though they might not know it's a Jesus quote. And this doesn't shock us, it doesn't seem to be anything all that upsetting.

But here is the reaction in verse 33: They answered Him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will become free.'” Do you hear the pride, the indignation? But what we also ought to hear is fear and denial. At that moment, Jerusalem was a conquered city – Romans ran the place. When they do finally Crucify Jesus, they have to get Pilate's permission precisely because they are not free. And moreover, the whole story of salvation for the Jewish people is based, is set upon the idea of the children of Abraham having been stuck in slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 20 the Ten Commandments begin – I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You cannot tell the story of the children of Israel without it being the story of being enslaved and then freed by God. This is the whole theme of deliverance that permeates the Old Testament – everyone is constantly needing deliverance.

And yet, they don't want to hear any talk of deliverance. So, that is why Jesus is blunt with them. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear My Word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. Wow, that seems harsh – but in reality it is just cutting straight to the point. The LORD God is the God who delivers His people. If you are saying that you don't need to be delivered, to be rescued – you're really saying that you're not of the people of God. You're saying that you are perfectly fine and happy in Satan's kingdom of pride and sin and power and anger.

Pride and our love of sin is a strong, powerful thing. Sin is no trifle, even though we today try to laugh it off, excuse it, justify it. Of course, that's what sinful man has done in every generation – we have cultural pet sins that we excuse and revel in. And Jesus here speaks to what this attitude toward sin is – it is bondage. It is slavery. We are stuck – sinful people with sinful hearts in a sinful world. And yes, as those who have heard the Word and believed, we fight against our sin... but it's still a fight. And it shouldn't surprise us when we see people we know and love don't fight against sin and instead just ride with it – because that's what sinners want to do. We want to humor our fears, our lusts, our idols we call out to in anger and rage. I'm guessing you've seen and felt fear and desire and frustration in a strangely clear and new way this past week. This is what bondage to sin looks like – and it is a struggle we face until we reach the wages of sin – until we die.

It's a lousy situation, and so often we'd rather live in denial. Jesus' Word brooks no denial – it speaks blunt reality. Verse 34: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” And yet, Jesus tells us precisely what He is here to do. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Or here: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death.” This is what Jesus has come to do, to destroy sin and death. To rip apart the power of Satan and his kingdom by going to the Cross and dying and rising. Jesus solves the problem of sin. Sin is to be punished – Jesus takes that up upon Himself, freeing us from it. Now there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Jesus dies and rises, bursting apart death – you don't see death. If the LORD tarries, you will die, but you won't see death, because Jesus died and rose and that's what you see. When you die, you don't see death, you see your resurrection because of Jesus. This is what His Word proclaims, the great rescue that He has come to win for you.

And how do you participate in this rescue? What's your role, your job? If anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death. If I might give my own translation here: - Whenever anyone clings to My Word, he will not, no how, see death. We simply hear the Word, receive it, cling to it, pay attention to it. That word “keep” is the word that is describing what a guard does, or someone paying attention to something. Keep in the Word, and you have everything that it brings, you are rescued from death.

And you don't receive this salvation, you aren't a part of this rescue because of what you do – it's a pretty lousy rescue if you have to pull it off yourself, and God isn't in the habit of doing lousy rescues. Rather by the power of His Word and the Holy Spirit, everything that Christ Jesus has done is given and applied to you. And the Power of the Word and Spirit is not merely a Sunday morning thing – it is an every moment of your life sort of thing, for you are Baptized. You are washed in Water and the Word. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Wherever you go, the Word of God and the Spirit with you go with you – wherever you stay, the Word and Spirit stay with you. Because Christ has begun your rescue, He has accomplished it already – we are merely waiting to see it in full, see it face to face.
It's ironic. The world is always full of sin and death. Some sins we love, some little forms and strains of death we even long for – like that person over there getting it. That's just longing for a little death. But with all this Coronavirus stuff going on, we actually are seeing death and this reality of sin in the world a bit more clearly. But death alone is not Christ's goal, it's not the only, the final thing He wants you to see. If anyone keeps My word, He will never see death.” In the Word, you see Christ Jesus take the fight against sin and death for you, and in Him you see forgiveness and life. And see this all the time, my friends, day in and day out, for you are people of the Word, Baptized, forgiven, children of the Father and heirs of all that is His. Do not let anything distract you from the Word of God that proclaims your forgiveness and life. Read it, learn it, speak it to each other – and when we can, we will speak it together with each other face to face again.

But if you were wondering why this all works – well, towards the end of our text Jesus spells it out – Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus is the LORD, God Almighty. Jesus is the One who spoke the promises to Abraham. Jesus is the One who rescued the people of Israel out of Bondage in Egypt. Jesus is the Word who spoke the Ten Commandments. Jesus is the great I AM. Of Sabaoth Lord, and there's none other God – Jesus holds the field forever.

Do not forget that this Jesus who loves you, who acts for you, who wins you forgiveness is God, is the Word by Whom all things were made. He doesn't come up short. Jesus doesn't swing and miss. And you are in Christ, you are in His Word, Baptized and forgiven, dead to sin and alive to Christ. And all the raging of the world and sin and satan and death can in truth do nothing to you, for the Son sets you free, and you will never see death, and you will see the Day of Christ when He comes again and you will be with Him and rejoicing with Him and with all the saints of God from every age and from every land and every tongue.

So enjoy your redemption. Revel in it, for it is as true today as it has ever been. And when perhaps the trials of this day and age loom heavy, and they are heavy, remember the Word of Promise that Christ has made to you, remember your Baptism whereby Jesus Himself said that you were part of His salvation. Remember that you are a royal priest in Christ, part of the chosen nation, and as such read the Word and pray. God's Word in, God's Word breathed out in prayer. It is who you are in Christ, and Satan is powerless to change that, and the World cannot stop that, and even sin and death do not stand a chance against Christ Jesus – and He is for you, now and always.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Lent 4 Sermon

Lent 4 – John 6:1-15 – March 22nd, 2020 (Viral Week 1)

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
Lifting up His eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward Him, Jesus said to Phillip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. With the feeding of the 5000, we see our Lord Jesus Christ doing two things that He constantly and continually does – He cares for people, and He teaches. And of course, the feeding of the 5000 is a wonderful, miraculous demonstration of God's care for people – between this feeding and the Manna in the wilderness, we've heard two really fantastic ways of God doing the whole “give us this day our daily bread” thing. But Jesus is also always teaching, and right here Jesus is teaching Phillip. Jesus teaches Phillip by asking Phillip a question from left field.

Consider – Jesus has been preaching and teaching before – and Phillip has seen this and is used to this. Perhaps on that day the crowd was a bit bigger than normal, or maybe they were further out of town than usual – but Jesus does something new. How are we going to see that these people eat? That hadn't been part of the deal before hand, that hadn't been the way things were done. The Sermon on the Mount hadn't been catered, what are we supposed to do now?

Phillip has no clue. Why should he have any clue – it's a new experience for him. If you or I had been there instead of Phillip, we'd be lost. In fact, Phillip's answer is actually not that bad - “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” At least Phillip identifies the problem – we have limited means, we can't achieve the goal using the straight forward, typical approach. Andrew tries to help out, a little despondently – “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many.” One boy, one little kid had a packed lunch that a thoughtful mom had sent him off with – but option two, crowd sourcing, raising donations – even that will fall short.

So Jesus teaches who He is. Have the people sit down – and John notes, “now there was much grass in that place.” Of course there is – this is The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pasture. And then the LORD feeds – man may not live by bread alone, but God did so create man that they need to eat, and so the Lord opens His hand and satisfies the mouth of every living creature. This Jesus is the LORD, the God who has created everyone and still cares for and preserves them. Most of the time this is done in completely normal and typical ways – sometimes, like in the wilderness of the Exodus or on that grassy mountainside, in extraordinary ways.

But let's go back to Jesus' initial question to Phillip – how do we feed these people. How do we care for these people. It's a good question for us to ponder in these extraordinary days that we ourselves are facing. This is a time unlike any we ourselves have come across. I'm not used to preaching on Sunday morning to a nearly empty room hoping that you are watching at home and praying along. And even as an introvert and a home body, these government recommendations and regulations and restrictions chaffe me – I'm sorry for all you extroverts out there. But likewise we today are faced with a similar challenge of how best to love our neighbor. I would submit, my friends, that you've been better trained and prepared for this day than you know.

Let's think back on Catechism class and the Small Catechism, especially the 10 commandments. What is the fifth commandment – You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need. Now, we all can think of ways that this has played out in our lives before – we bring things to the sick, giving the grieving a hug if they need it, we support folks with our generosity, we are kind. And this idea, this care still plays out. It's just that in this situation, on this day, that support of our neighbor's body means to stay away from them more. The way that we care for our neighbor's body, for their health, needs to shift a bit at the moment – and that's okay. That's fine. And it is annoying – but this is what we do. We bear things, we give up things for the good of our neighbor and their health. This is especially true for us young folk. I could catch this coronavirus and probably not bat an eye – same with my family. Might not even notice – in fact, that's the great danger – that I could be sick and not notice because it is so mild for me, yet I could spread it to the older folk and harm them without even knowing it. And as for those of you who are older than me – yes, you're old. Deal with it. I know you're still only 30 in your head, but a lot of you ain't so young anymore, so tough. No one likes this, young or old, healthy or frail, introvert or extrovert. We are sad, we are angry and annoyed, we mourn – but we deal with the day that we are in and we show love to our neighbor.

Likewise, I would have you ponder the seventh commandment for a bit. What is the seventh commandment? You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor's money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income. Frankly, we are going to get a jolt to our economic system with this. We are going to go from one of if not the lowest unemployment rates in our nations' history to right around 20% unemployment – depression era rates – at least temporarily – as businesses are temporarily closed. People you know are going to be hurting – you yourself may be hurting. So I encourage you to help your neighbor protect and improve their possessions and income. Be generous with your neighbors who will need your generosity to get through this. And if you are one who is hurting, whose income has dried up, don't be too stubborn to receive help. This is why God has given you neighbors, so they can help you. This is why God has put us together and keeps us still here – to love and support each other – to make sure that we all keep getting our daily bread.

And this is new for all of us. This is strange stuff that we've not had to deal with before. Be patient with others, be patient with yourselves. Don't be upset if you don't have all the answers right away – Phillip and Andrew struggled with answering Jesus' challenge in the Gospel lesson, but Jesus still knew what He was going to do. And Jesus already knew what He would have Phillip and Andrew do – Jesus already knew that they were going to be picking up baskets of leftovers. Jesus already knows how He will have you show love and care to your neighbor in the weeks to come – it's all under control and in His care, and it will just be a new time of learning for us.

Because even as so many things are changing, even as March 22nd seems so different from February 22nd, most things are still the same. The love of Christ Jesus for you is still the same. The forgiveness of sins which He won with His death and resurrection is still the same. The eternal life that is yours in Christ is still the same. It remained the same centuries before in plagues much worse than this – it remained the same in the midst of wars and depressions and times of social chaos. It remained the same even when kings and princes were persecuting Christians. As daunting as this day is to us – it is as nothing to Jesus, who is still your Lord.

So receive the challenges, the questions, the learning, the opportunities that He gives to you this week as a gift. We will get to see His love and care given to us and given through us in strange and wondrous ways. It is all good in Christ Jesus. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lent 3 Sermon

Lent 3 – March 14th and 15th, 2020 – Luke 11:14-28

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
So there Jesus is, and He is doing what He is normally doing – healing. This time casting out a demon that was mute. Here you have this man who is attacked by one of Satan’s minions, made to be silent. Can’t speak. Can’t talk. Cut off from his family and friends. Given by the powers of Satan over to loneliness and despair. And Jesus steps in, heals the man – and suddenly the man can speak. The man can open his mouth and speak words of love and joy. Oh Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise. But I guess some people would have just rather not have heard any of it. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” What an excuse. Um – maybe this Jesus is demonic – um, that way we don’t have to listen to Him. They would rather have this man remain mute, they would rather hear a preacher preaching something more appealing to their ears than Satan being fought. And as for others – well – while others, to test Him, kept seeking from Him a sign from heaven. Oh, sure Jesus, we’ll believe, but you’ve got to do better than that! We want something more miraculous, something more wondrous! How about something with thunder and lightning – something that lights up the sky, that would be good! So just what in the world is going on here?
We've talked about Satan, we've talked about the world fighting Christ, but here it hits home. The sinful flesh kicks in. This is what the problem is – people are making excuses not to believe, not to trust in Christ Jesus. You see, there’s this pesky little problem – if you believe in Jesus, you really sort of need to believe everything He says. You don’t get to pick and choose – Jesus isn’t a buffet, He isn’t some fast food restaurant where you get to tell Him to hold the pickles – what He says goes. And our Lord teaches bluntly – He speaks to our sin, to our need for a Savior – He points out that we of ourselves are not righteous and that we need to receive mercy from God – we need the forgiveness which He wins. Jesus teaches that we are in need – and in our pride and arrogance we can dislike that and make excuses.
So then Jesus engages in what is called “Apologetics”. Apologetics is what happens when you break down the excuses people give against the Word. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand.” Point one – is Satan dumb? If Satan divided his forces, he’d be weak. Is he weak – ask that man who was struck deaf if Satan is powerless and weak. “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” Point two – other people had been casting out demons in the Name of Jesus. If you accuse Jesus, you accuse them too. Do you really want to do that? The thought that Jesus is in league with Satan is looking worse all the time. And then the kicker, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Point three – as for you who want a sign from heaven – well here it is. You are seeing God’s own power at work against the forces of darkness. Quit playing like you need something more. This is what God does, God fights Satan, God destroys him. Your excuses are foolish. You need to quit making them and instead repent, for you too need a Savior.
Do you see how Christ just sort of systematically poked holes in all their excuses that they had thrown up, that they had given for why they couldn’t listen? This is the same thing that He does towards us. The simple fact is that we are sinners, and sinners make excuses. We make excuses not to do the things we should, and excuses to do things that are wrong. So – what are your excuses? Now, I’m not Jesus, I don’t get to know your thoughts – but what excuses about the Christian life are you making? What excuses about love? What excuses about stewardship? What excuses about time, about worship, about petty grudges, about your pet sin that you enjoy – what excuses are you making? When you consider what Christ Jesus has taught about sin, about His love and the power of His Word – do any of these excuses really hold water? Really? Are the excuses you put forward any better than those we heard in the text? I know mine haven’t been. And yet, even we Christians who know better will sit around dreaming up excuse after excuse – we think we can feed Jesus a line of B.S. about why we aren’t showing love, why we aren’t studying His Word, why we blow off Church, why we ignore this person, why we play favorites with this one, why we hold on to bad habits. Sometimes I wonder just how stupid we can be. God’s Word not only fights the power of Satan – it breaks our excuses.
So why? Why is Jesus so interested in breaking down the excuses we make, even the excuses for the so-called little things – why does He want to break them down? Because the Christian life is to be one of repentance – to be one where we are constantly brought to the repentance of our sin and constantly focus upon Christ. And should we abandon repentance, should we move from being those who confess their sin to those who instead make excuse after excuse – it goes poorly for us. ‘When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came,’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Little sins never stay little. They always grow, they always get bigger, they always get worse. You can’t appease sin, you can’t let it have just a bit of your life, you can’t lay out the welcome mat for it and say, “Oh sure, come on in, just stay in that bedroom over there.” That simply opens the floodgates, and more and more temptation and sin will flood into your life, until you are worse than you were before. This is a warning against falling away, and if you make excuses – you are playing with fire – and not just a little fire but eternal, unquenchable hell fire. And so our Lord warns us against this – quit your excuses and cling to the Word of life! And our Lord brings this about in you. At your baptism, you were given over by God to a life of repentance – a life that is to be lived out by daily contrition, daily struggle against sin, continual confession of that sin. We are to fight against Satan, not accommodate him with foolhardy excuses to ignore the Word. To be in the waters of Baptism is to be one who fights temptation – and in that water, in that Christian life, there is safety for Christ Himself is with you. We are safer fighting Satan than we are bowing before him. This is the life to which you have been called.
This is also why our Lord admonishes us to listen to His Word. But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” As Christians, we are those who hear the Word of God, we are those who are to strive to keep it. God’s Word isn’t designed to just go in one ear and out the other. It isn’t something to be brush aside, to have lip service paid to. We are to pay attention. And why? Because it is by the Word of God that we are blessed – and we remain in those blessings of God as long as we remain in the Word.
Consider the example of the Stronger Man that the Lord gives us today. “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when One stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, He takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” This is what Christ Jesus does for you. You were Satan’s possession, fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay, as Luther would have us sing. You were part of Satan’s kingdom, in bondage to sin – but into this fallen world burst Christ Jesus, the Stronger Man, who defeats Satan and claims you as His own. Christ our Lord defeated Satan by His holy life, by His precious death, by His glorious resurrection – these things all defeat, destroy Satan, and break His power over you. And these things that Jesus did, that He accomplished nearly 2000 years ago are made real in your life today by the power of His Word. The Word of God takes what Christ accomplished then and brings it to you here and now. Christ defeated the old foe, and by His Word, He claims you as His own prize.
When you continually hear the Word, when you live out your baptismal life of repentance and forgiveness, of confession and absolution, when you receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in His Supper, you are being forgiven and strengthened and kept safe from Satan, kept in God’s Kingdom. God keeps you in His Word and thereby keeps you safe from the power of the Devil. And the thing is, Satan is going to do everything he can to make you ignore the Word, spurn God’s Law and despise the Gospel of Christ Jesus – because then, you abandon God, you leave the Mighty Fortress behind and are defenseless. So Christ continually preaches His Word – He doesn’t abandon you to your foolish excuses, He doesn’t leave you trapped in the sins with which Satan binds you, but over and over again, His Word of life comes to you, He preaches life and forgiveness, the Finger of God touches you, so that you might open your lips and declare His praises as well. Christ desires you to reap the benefits of His fight against Satan, and He will make these real in your life through His Word, through His Baptism, through His Supper. God grant us faith that we might cling to His Word and keep it ever more sacred all our days. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Lent 2 Sermon

Lent 2 – March 7th and 8th, 2020 – Matthew 15:21-28

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
One old saying of the Church is that we Christians must be on guard against our three old foes – Satan, the World, and our Sinful Flesh. Last week, with the temptation in the wilderness, we saw Jesus handle Satan handily – demonstrate that He is far more powerful than Satan. And I would submit that today, in our Gospel lesson we see Jesus deal handily with the world and it's temptations. So, let us begin.

This text is odd. It really is – Jesus behaves strangely in it. Consider: And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have Mercy on me, O LORD, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. Do you see how odd this is? When does Jesus give people in need the silent treatment? I mean, Jesus is typically more than agreeable to go and help people. Hi there, Centurion – I'll come to your house. Zacchaeus, come down out of that tree, I'm coming over to your house today. Jesus is always up and at 'em, ready to go. And He preaches, and teaches – the silent treatment isn't normally His thing. Do you get how odd this is? What in the world is going on?

I skipped a verse – And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Jesus went away from... where? So in Chapter 14, Jesus had fed the 5000, He's walked on water, He is teaching and healing in Gennesret, just south of Capernaum, His home territory in Galilee, surrounded by lots of good little Jewish boys and girls. And then, the nagging starts. Chapter 15 begins with the Scribes and Pharisees coming up to Jesus – who has just performed miracles – and they complain. “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” Yes handwashing is sanitary and all that – but that's not what they are talking about. There had arisen a custom, a tradition, a cultural way of doing things that the good folks in Jewish society just did – including a specific hand washing ritual before eating. And what happens? Nagging. You're not doing this the way we like it. Consider the contrast – healing, feeding the 5000. Well, it's not that you fed the 5000 in the wilderness, but did you remember to make them wash their hands first, hmmm? And keep in mind, these Scribes and Pharisees are really looking down upon Jesus, they are chastising Him – Jesus in their books is no longer acting like a good, Jewish Man! And what follows is a nice discussion on the difference between human, worldly traditions and what God has commanded. What follows is a look at where wickedness really dwells – in the heart of man. More on that next week. But for the moment, Jesus is pestered so much about how a “good Jew should do this and this” that He gets up and leaves Jewish territory all together and goes on up near Tyre and Sidon.

Now, before we go on. I don't want to harp on the Pharisees too much here – I mean, it is a silly complaint. But what's the old saying – you point a finger at someone and the rest point back at you. This should be an example of how the world works. The world and society and culture love to create new rules that you just have to follow or else you are a lousy, terrible person. And I'm not talking about speed limits or things like that – but just how groups and cliques work. In this fallen world, we love to divide ourselves, separate out into little groups, and we have ways we dress, act, and talk, and woe be unto anyone who doesn't toe the line. The old, classic ones are school aged ones – are you a jock or a nerd? Back in the day did you wear a black leather jacket or a letter jacket? Ah ha ha, how silly – but fights and hurt and disdain all over that. And it caries on to today, it permeates all of society today. Need I talk about social pressure in an election year? I feel bad for my Democrat friends – this primary season is brutal for them – you say the wrong thing about one of the candidates and people jump all over you. Or what about the various hot button issues all across the board – the mob will keep you in line or you will be canceled! And even closer to home, we all have our own little groups that we try to fit in, family or friends, and there are lines to be toed because those are the lines, and you don't question them or you are out.

But let's question them – don't worry, I'm not going to call out anything about any one here in particular – rather, let's learn how to question them. Is that better? We are instructed by God to love our neighbor. We know what the fruits of the Spirit are – gentleness, kindness. We heard about holiness and honor in the Epistle. We know the ten commandments and their meanings – and if we can't recite the meanings we know enough to review them. There's your guide from the Word on how we are to love our neighbors. And sometimes we need to consider whether or not our actions, our customs, our traditions are actually doing that. But the danger is this – we can be driven by the world, we can be so concerned about impressing our peers, our social group, that instead of doing what is right, we just go with the flow. Or we even assume that going with the flow must in and of itself be good. Pop Quiz time – what is the First Commandment? (You shall have no other gods) – and what does this mean? (We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.) This is what happens. Instead of fearing God, instead of wanting to make sure we do what God wants and don't get on His bad side, we can become more worried about not getting on the world's bad side. Or our family's bad side. Or our friends' bad side. And then we slide away from God and what is good.

And I would say that this is precisely where the disciples are in this text. They have just been complained about. The Pharisees attacked Jesus through them – why don't your disciples follow the traditions, Jesus? And so, when this Canaanite woman comes up to Jesus, crying for mercy, Jesus does something. He goes silent. Now, let's talk about good old fashioned Jewish culture. If you were a good, proper, dignified fellow, you didn't talk to women. (Hmmmph) And you didn't talk to foreigners. (Hmmph) And you certainly wouldn't talk to some crying, hysterical foreign trollop. (Hmmph) You would just ignore them, pretend they weren't there. So, disciples – is this how Jesus should act, just giving people the silent treatment?

The disciples finally say, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” We miss this in English – that word for “send” could mean simply kick her out, but it's also a word for forgive – when you forgive someone you send their sins away. So are they asking Jesus to heal her or asking Jesus to just get rid of her.... Meh. It's debatable either way. They punt. Just do something Jesus.

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Surely you've had a parent pull this one. And I'm not saying I enjoy getting to pull it, but when you did something foolish, and you were starting to see how foolish it was, and you go to mom or dad, and they back away, hands off, oh no, no, no – mister big shot wanted to do it his way. Same thing here. Me? Do something? Oh no, I'm not suppose to deal with the likes of her. This is teaching the disciples a lesson – and they are flummoxed.

But she came and knelt before Him, saying, “LORD, help me.” And He answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” So, ever insulted someone to fit in with other people? Ever tried to be one of the boys, one the gals and been mean or cruel to show you fit in? Jesus hams that up here. And all of this – right in the disciples face – is this what you disciples want Me to be? Because it's horrific – just as horrific as what the world tries to drive us to be.

You may have noted that I haven't spent much time dealing with the Canaanite woman. Let's consider her for a moment. She's identified as a Canaanite woman – she's one of the ancient enemies of Israel – Israel did wars of conquest to defeat her people. By the standards of the world she should hate Jesus with a passion. And she doesn't. She comes to Him. And in fact, she calls Him LORD, and Son of David – she understands that Jesus is the promised Messiah better than Jesus' own people do! And even though Jesus is the King of people who are her enemy, she still comes before Him and prays for healing. And even when Jesus gives her the cold shoulder, even when He insults her, she knows who Jesus truly is. She said, “Yes, LORD.” Yes, LORD, I am not worthy of anything from you. Yes Lord, I am but a little dog. But... “Yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” But I know who You are, Jesus. You are the Master who will see that even the little dogs get their crumbs. And then you have that wondrous turn – Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith. Be it done for you as you desire!” You got it! You understand who Jesus is, lady! He's the God who does not care for all the stupid games the sinful world plays, who does not take bribes or worry about social pressure – He is the God who cares for His creatures. That's her faith, that's what she believes in – and she is right. Jesus is for her.

This week, my friends, you will be thrown into a wide variety of social circumstances and interactions. You will be pulled in a multitude of directions, sometimes for good (because sometimes we do need our friends and neighbors to give our sinful backside a kick), and sometimes for bad. And the temptation, the trouble is that we can be so overwhelmed by what the world wants and expects that we forget who Jesus is. Jesus is the God who loves you and cares for you, regardless of what the world says or thinks about you. Jesus is the God who will remind you with His law to actually love and serve your neighbor, but not by the world's rules, or not only the ones the world approves of, rather to love all the people He has placed in your life according to His instruction. But more than just that, Jesus is the God who is determined to win you forgiveness and life with His death and resurrection. Jesus is the God who feeds you not with mere crumbs on the side, but who calls you to His feast of eternal life and gives you Himself to eat and drink for the remission of all of your sins. In Christ you are forgiven. The world is weak and silly compared to Jesus, and Jesus always acts for your good. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +