In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. It looks pretty grim. They tell me this is a dying place. The sun and its rays are hidden and the fierce darkness of Satan’s clouds are rolling in. The rain is sure to fall upon our heads… The day is past, your prime is over, the excitement blown out when the clouds blew in. Some say its the neighborhood or the gangs. Some say its just because everyone has moved on in their lives. Our Redeemer Lutheran Church waiting for its end… no youth, no excitement, no money. What else is there to do?
Satan’s been lying in wait. He’s been counting the days, to stir up within us terrible thoughts, as if God our Lord had rejected and forsake us. His sly and cunning tongue whispering the nothings of destruction in the ears of God’s elect. By a word he cast doubt in Eve’s ear and by misusing the Word of God he wills to convince you that trouble will reign in your hearts, in this place, among those gathered here… that you aren’t worthy of the things God has in store for you, that you don’t even belong to him. “Heathen, Jesus came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel – you are nothing, dogs at best, mangy mutts to be kicked under the table.”
Yes, even the Lord Jesus would agree. He gave the Canaanite woman the silent treatment. He reminded her that he came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He called her a dog.
The disciples were bothered by her continued pestering. Send her away, Jesus, for she cries out after us. Wailing and yelling she longed for the King of kings to cast out her daughter’s demon. She wanted her daughter back. She came to the creator of all things and called out again and again. But he ignored her. She was a Gentile. He was a Jew. He the King of the Jews.
You and I might have quit there. He won’t answer. His people are staring at me. I’m uncomfortable and I’m not getting anywhere. It isn’t going to happen anyway. She’s been tormented for years… I’ve been looking for a job for weeks… The congregation is getting smaller and smaller… We’ve been hoping the cancer would go into remission…
We’re not getting anywhere. We ask and ask and ask. He doesn’t answer. He says ask for anything and the Father will give it… but there is no answer. We might as well just pack it up and go back home and quit there.
But, the difficulties in the way do not appall the Canaanite woman; she keeps only in view the object of her coming, and forgets that she is a heathen and he a Jew. Her confidence and hope in Christ are so great that she never doubts his condescension. Her faith cancels the fact that she is a heathen. One without faith would never have acted this way, but would have concluded: It is of no use to present my request before him; I am in the clutches of the devil beyond all hope; let his own people come to him; them he will hear, but not me.
It is surely a severe and dangerous affliction when Satan comes and prompts the heart to despair of the mercy of God. Rest assure the devil is at work to speak his lies to your hearts in this place. You and I are his target. He labors to convince us to refuse to pray to Christ, and rather to be ready to curse him… to think that all is lost and damnation sure… to think we are the heathen kicked under the table to be ignored by God and his Christ.
But she cried out all the more, “O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Full of earnestness and faith she confesses with these words her faith in Christ as the Savior of the world. And yet he says, “I came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And here her faith moved her like your faith has moved you today. She worshipped him. Casting herself to the ground she would not let him go. “It is not good to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.” It was as if he said to her, “You are a child of the devil in every respect; begone, I will have nothing to do with you!” It matters not what your problem, woman, be gone. Stop pestering and leave me.
You and I cower and relent. We retreat and stop asking… we decide he must have better prayers to answer, more important people to care for… and we go home. And yet we learn a most startling thing; faith will not retreat. It will not cower in even the most harsh of rebukes by the King of kings. Faith takes hold of Christ’s words, even when they sound harshly, and changes them into soothing expressions of consolation. She replies, Yes Lord – I am a dog. Treat me like one if you like. Give the bread to the children, and seat them at your table… only allow me to sit under the table and pick up the crumbs those children drop. With those scraps I will be happy. Taking the place of a dog she receives the privileges of a child. And here, forced by his own words, Jesus gives in.
Satan would have us believe it is a dark and gloomy day. But really it is the light of Christ that dawns. The rays of God’s pure light make manifest what really is happening here in this place. The Holy Spirit is creating faith in your hearts. He is using the very Word of God come from heaven to create and sustain this faith – deep within the soil of your heart. And this makes the devil frustrated because this faith reaches forth and grasps ahold of Jesus… just like this Canaanite woman’s faith. It draws you to Jesus in your need.
Christ’s repulsive treatment of the Canaanite woman did not proceed from an unfriendly disposition towards the Gentiles, but it was his purpose to test and make manifest the faith of this woman, so that we might learn from her. Jesus is so well pleased with this woman that he can no longer withhold his mercy and kindness, but tells her: “O woman, great is your faith. Be it done to you as you desire.”
And so likewise he is please with your faith. No longer stuck under the table eating the scraps that fall to the floor, Jesus commands that you come up higher and sit with him as he restores you in the forgiveness of your sins and gives you life and salvation. He does this by his body and blood shed upon the cross. This the Holy Spirit testifies to you and this your faith reaches out and grabs ahold of. Jesus died upon the cross and now the devil’s trickery and lies have no depth. The grave can’t hurt you and death has no sting. For in the renewal of life, the Lord of life showered you with his blood, drowning the dog that was your old Adam and instead brought forth a new man – righteous before the Father and holy in his sight. You are made new in the death of Jesus. You are given new life in the resurrection of the flesh of Jesus.
Satan would have you believe this is a dark and gloomy place. He wants you to stop praying for this congregation and to ignore its people. The devil works overtime to make sure that there is division and strife among you. But I tell you today – in your hearing – that Jesus, the Son of David, the Lord of life is here in this place. Satan has no hold. He is a liar. But Jesus speaks the truth. He is here and he has called this place holy and vibrant. He looks out and sees brothers and sisters – not dogs – Children of God. Angels are singing because of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. All the vault of heaven resounds because of this family. Jesus is building you up. He has made you alive. Today he sets a table in the presence of your enemy the devil. He sets it here for everyone to see. Your faith is great – your sins are forgiven – come dear brothers and sisters and feast with Jesus and celebrate with God.
The day is now. This is the day of salvation. This is Our Redeemer’s prime. Celebrate with Jesus. The Father is celebrating because of you and because his Son has picked this people. In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Houston
The Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak