The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“The One Who Hears”
August 20, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
If only. If only the persistence of this Canaanite highlighted in our Gospel text was also the persistence of the Israelites… all the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” which our Savior mentions here. (Matthew 15:24)
If only the persistence of this Canaanite was also that of every Christian man, woman and child. If only her persistence was our persistence – yours and mine. As well as her humbleness, her humility, as she likens herself to of all things, a dog, and considered Jesus the Master, her Master.
I have shared with you before that unlike today, dogs back then were just that, just there, roaming around, not having the “pet” status… the “man’s best friend” status… of today. There were no Petsmarts, no pet doctors, no pet food. They ate whatever garbage was on the street and if one did make it into the house, as this woman attests to, they ate at best the scraps, the meager crumbs, which fell from the master’s table.
And she was perfectly willing to do likewise… to accept the same… crumbs of kindness, mercy, help and comfort from her Master and ours… Jesus.
She keeps pursuing this… mercy, that is, and in so doing, really puts us all to shame. We who, in some cases have stopped asking, stopped pursuing and seeking God’s mercy and help.
Maybe it is a matter of ignorance. The “I don’t need it” mentality.
Maybe it is a matter of pride. “I’m not going to beg or plea for mercy” we say.
Connected to that, maybe it is a matter of choosing to address a situation, deal with some issue, by other means, worldly means. It is the “I can handle this on my own” attitude and maybe when all else fails, I may turn to the Lord. Here, God is a last thought, final thought.
Maybe it is a matter of forgetting about the Lord… forgetting about the option and the opportunity to come to Him for help and consolation. Indeed, God’s intervention and assistance is too often an afterthought because there is no real constant thought, daily thought, let alone daily contact and connection with Him because we are too wrapped up in ourselves and the world around us.
And maybe, just maybe, we do not come to the Lord at times because we do not feel worthy… our life, our actions being such that we feel God will not hear us, let alone help us. Satan would love to get us to believe this way, think this way even though it is a lie.
The truth is… the Lord hears and helps all who call upon His name… all who lift up their prayers and supplications to Him be it silently, quietly, barely a whisper or clearly spoken out, cried out, shouted out like this Canaanite woman, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” (Matthew 15:22)
It must have seemed that Jesus wasn’t listening. After all, we are told that “He did not answer her a word.” (Matthew 15:23)
Think about it. Think of all of the times in your life and mine when it appeared that our Lord and Savior, our Master, wasn’t listening? And this, because there was seemingly no divine answer given, no divine answer forthcoming.
Remember my friends, that what seems to be the case is not necessarily the case… and this, especially when it comes to the Lord our God whose ways are not our ways, whose thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
The truth is, many times, God’s silence IS our answer. It is the answer to simply trust… to simply be patient, to simply have faith in Him… to simply keep on doing what He has called us to do, given us the privilege of doing and that includes, as was said, calling upon His name again and again… to… as we have heard so many times before… “pray without ceasing.” (1st Thessalonians 5:17)
This woman wouldn’t “cease!” And neither should we. To never stop coming before God’s throne of grace with all humbleness, humility, reverence and respect… just like that Canaanite woman. To be persistent and consistent in our prayers… just like that Canaanite woman.
But we cannot cease what isn’t even happening at all or on a regular basis, a continuous basis in our lives, dear brothers and sisters. And we suffer for it. We add so much stress to our lives… so much unnecessary anxiety, needless hardship and consternation. All because we do not “take it to the Lord in prayer.” Silly us! Foolish us!
Our dear Savior said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
Well did St. James, the brother of our Lord, declare, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James. 4:2)
And how sad and tragic this is. You and I have the very God of this universe… the only true God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – listening… always ready to listen… so desirous to hear and to help… to answer… to give… to open and reveal… and by and large what falls upon His divine ears, gracious ears, is silence? All that God hears many times are crickets?
What is also so sad and tragic is the prayers and petitions that are lifted up without faith. Why? Because Holy Scripture tells us they are for naught… of no avail. As it also makes clear that half-hearted faith is no faith at all. Praying so as to cover all bases, hedge all bets or as a last resort isn’t going to cut it either. Instead, God calls all people to believe and not to doubt… to fully trust… completely trust… and this by the work of His Holy Spirit.
My friends, the woman’s prayers were answered not because she was persistent, even though this is an admirable quality. No. Her prayers were answered simply, solely because of her faith… her certainty… her trust and confidence in the Lord… in the One who right there and then she claimed and confessed to be her Lord, her Master… and that even the meager crumbs that fall from His gracious table would be enough, more than enough, to heal her daughter… to rid her daughter of this oppressive demon.
We read, “Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Matthew 15:28)
As your pastor, It is tempting to say to all of you and to say it again and again to myself – “Have faith”… “Keep the faith.” And this is true. This is needed. But it needs to be said in the context of our remembering how faith… saving faith, healing faith… is created, kindled and sustained. In that regard, St. Paul reminds us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Absent yourself from the Word of God and your faith will soon be absent. Absent yourself from the Holy Supper and your faith will weaken to the point that it is no longer. Millions upon millions of people are proof positive of this including many who use to be right here, among us.
How many times has this word of warning been sounded here and throughout Christendom and still many fail to hear and heed it… many still play fast and loose with these, the Means of Grace… with these which amount to their eternal life line? How about you? How about your children and your children’s children?
And how many here and throughout Christendom fail to recognize and realize that demon oppression the likes of which affected the Canaanite’s daughter is still an everyday occurrence? That Satan and his minions could not be more active than today and these final days, last days before Christ’s coming. Just look at what is going on in North Korea, what happened in Barcelona, Spain… Charlottesville, Virginia… and throughout our country and world.
Things… which warrant our constant coming to the Lord in prayer and supplication… in persistent prayer and supplication… and most importantly, in faith… full faith, trusting in the Lord… trusting in His mercy… that which is now ours, certainly ours in Jesus Christ and what He won for us on the cross.
The Master… our Master… who endured the greatest degree of humility… who suffered and died for us… who gave us full victory over sin, death and the devil… who replaced every type of demonic oppression with complete freedom… for us… in Him… the One who hears us… always hears us and loves us so. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“The One Who Hears Us” 8/20/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport,