Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sermon for 2/24/13--Lent II

Crumbs for the Dogs

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

This Canaanite woman's daughter was possessed by a demon. The devil attacked her daughter and her family. But when the woman cried out to the Lord, He ignored her. Can you imagine? Here is the one man who can help this woman's daughter and He treats her like she doesn't exist. And if that's not frustrating or insulting enough, He then tells His disciples, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It’s as if she's not even there.

We know that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh are against us, tempting us to turn from the Lord's Word and give in to sin. But what if our problem is with the Lord? What if God is the problem? We thought this woman's big problem was that he daughter was demon possessed. It seems like that's small potatoes compared to the treatment she's actually getting from the Lord! And haven't you gotten the same treatment from Him too? You pray and pray and nothing happens. It seems like the Lord is ignoring you.

So the Lord called the woman a dog. The woman falls down to beg Him to help her and He calls her a dog. A dog! I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine calling a woman a dog back then was any better than is today. “Yes, Lord,” she answers, “but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the table.” Wait—did that lady just admit to being a dog? Indeed, she must be a dog—not worthy of Jesus, not worthy of the Jewish Messiah, not deserving of anything. She has no claim on Him at all…except for one thing. She has His Word. When Jesus calls her a dog and she agrees, she's got Him! “OK, Lord, I'm a dog. Fine. But even dogs get crumbs, and crumbs from you will be enough to overthrow Satan's kingdom and save my daughter!” Jesus is trapped by His own words! Notice that this woman has claimed nothing about herself except what Jesus says of her. She’s a dog. That’s the truth. The only reason she has for Jesus to help her is Jesus Himself. She’s a dog, but He's the Master. His crumbs will be enough for her. And so Jesus does what He does: He saves her daughter. With a word, He casts out that demon and rescues this woman and her daughter from the tyranny of the Devil. And says to her: “Great is your faith.” It’s not because she's so persistent. This story isn't about the woman. It's about Jesus giving the woman something to trap Him with: His Word. She grabs a hold of it and does exactly that. And Jesus remains the Savior He came to be.

That's because Jesus came to be the kind of Savior who rescues His people from the devil. He rescues from sin and death. That's the kind of Savior He came to be, and He can't be any other kind of Savior than that one. From the earliest promises the Lord made to Adam and Eve throughout the Old Testament and the promises and pictures of the coming Savior; from His birth of the virgin to His baptism and temptation, to His casting out demons; from His arrest and mocking trial, to His scourging and crucifixion and death; from His resurrection and ascension to His future return in glory—we know from all these things that Christ is the one who saves. He is our God and Lord and Savior and Master from whose table even the crumbs save us. Jesus was not born with one purpose but then got sidetracked and ended up at the cross. The cross was always His destination, always the Father's plan. Remember that when it seems as if God isn't listening: Jesus is always Jesus, always the Savior, always the Lamb who is slain for our salvation.

What do you do as a Christian when it seems that the biggest problem you have in your life isn't the devil or the world or your sinful nature but the Lord Himself not doing anything about them? The answer is that you continue to take Christ's promises and speak them back to Him. Quit trying to negotiate with the Lord based on anything within you. Approach Him with His own promises in His Word. He has placed His name on you in Holy Baptism. That means you can approach Him as a baptized child of God. That’s the only hold on Him that you need. Like Jacob, grab a hold of Him and don't let go until He blesses you! It may seem for a time as if the Father is against you, but it can't be so. All that He does is to work out all good for you in Christ, who can only ever be the Savior that He is. Hold Him to that, dear Christians, for He delights to be trapped by His own Word and promises. His Word and those promises declare He will not leave you to your enemies; He will save you from all of them. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

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