Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sermon for 2/21/16: Lent II

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It’s Not about the Dog

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

If this account of Jesus and the Canaanite woman is supposed to be about us, too, then we're in trouble. We read this story and say, “OK, Jesus is just testing her. He's going to see if she has enough faith, if she's persistent enough.” So the conclusion is that God will help you if you trust Him enough, if you just ask enough, if you just show persistence! When you read the text that way, you make Christianity into a religion that’s about you; you make Jesus into a god who only answers when you have enough faith or trust. If you read and hear the story that way, you’re in trouble. After all, who has enough faith? Who has enough trust? Which of us doesn't just want to give up on the Lord because we feel like He's paying no attention to us? If the point of this story is that we all need to be more persistent like this woman, then we may as well throw in the towel; no one is strong enough to be as faithful as some woman who made it into the Bible. But this story is not about her. It's not about you. It's about Jesus. That's what saves us, just as it's Jesus who saves this woman and her demon-possessed daughter. 

Jesus says he only came for the Jews, the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But He deliberately went strolling around Tyre and Sidon, and that’s Gentile country! He acts like He is ignoring her, but He lets her tag along even when the disciples are trying to get rid of her. Then He calls her a dog, knowing full well that He intends to give her crumbs—and more than that, He gives her life and salvation! But she has no right to come to Him on her own. She cannot approach him on the basis of being a Gentile. She cannot come to Him just because she has the right words when she calls Him, “Lord, Son of David.” What Jesus has for her isn't based on what she does or what she says. It's based on who He is: the Savior of sinners, the One who has power over the devil. In fact, He comes to her as One who will be more of a dog than she ever was or will be! The dogs were the Gentiles, and the Gentiles were excluded. But Jesus was even less: counted as unclean, counted as a blasphemer, nailed to a cross, led outside the city where the criminals and the trash belong. The great irony here is that Jesus is the dog, the One Who is out. He is excluded for her. He is excluded for you. That's what He came to do. He came to Gentile land to save a Gentile and her daughter. It's a picture of the bigger thing: that He came into a world of sinners to save sinners, no matter their ethnicity. He came to save sinners: to save her; to save you. 

This woman's faith is Jesus. If she takes her eyes off of Him, if she stops calling out to Him, then she's done. Her daughter's done. He is all she has. That's what her faith is about. She knows only Jesus can save her. And He alone can save you and me. So the big deal for her is Jesus, no matter how much or how little He has for her. So it is for you and me. That's all we've got: Jesus. And though we don't see Him as she did, we have Him in our baptism, in preaching and absolution, and in His Supper. Here He is to cry out to, to hang on to as Jacob did, refusing to let go until He blesses us. And this isn't about you. It's not about persistence or anything else that you can claim to be. Understand this: the same Jesus who died and rose to save you, who washed, forgives and feeds you, is the same Jesus whose Holy Spirit gives you the faith that trusts Him for all things. Faith in Jesus is a great faith, and that’s because Jesus is a great Savior. So go. Your faith, your Jesus, has saved you. You have been healed from the very moment His Word said so. 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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