Proper 15 (2023)

The Church God Wants  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:57
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It was her own personal nightmare. Something terrible had happened to her little girl. There was something inside her, something tormenting her, something controlling her. She was under the power of the devil, possessed and afflicted. Her mother couldn't do anything about it. She surely tried. No doubt she tried everything she knew and everything anyone said. But it didn't stop.
Then she heard the stories about a man in the country of Israel who could cast out demons with a word. They said that He's the Son of David, the great King who was to come and save the people of Israel. They said he's the Messiah. “What if… What if… What if I could go an talk with Him? Wouldn’t He help my little girl?”
“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” she cried when she finally saw him. And Jesus seemed to ignore her. When he finally did respond, it sounded as if he didn't care about that woman or her poor daughter. It sounded as if she were worth nothing to him—a pet dog not fit for the children's food.
Then this woman said something so amazing, so profound, so trusting. She said,“Well, even if I'm a pet dog, I have a place in the house. And in the house of my God, I am content even for the crumbs that fall from the table, if that's what you have apportioned me, Lord. I know that this is your plan, I trust in your plan. But now be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”
The sneers and condescending looks must have vanished from the disciples' faces when they heard Jesus' words filled with love and pride like a father who watched his child do something very well: “Woman, GREAT is your faith!”
The Pharisees he called blind; the disciples he called people of little faith and spiritually dull. But this Canaanite woman, to her he says, “Great is your faith.”
Jesus showed them that the church was meant for all people. He took this woman, who only claimed the crumbs of the dogs, and invited her to the table of faith. She, in faith, trusted that crumbs from her master’s table were enough for her, and instead she found out that in the kingdom there are no dogs. In fact, there's no difference between Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free.
The Church is meant for all people. For the next five weeks the readings will reveal the Church God Wants.
Do you have a faith that tunnels through mountains when you cannot move them, trusting that God will provide a solution to your situation?
Certainly the woman was not giving up when Jesus seems to be saying no.

When God seems to say no

The trouble is that you and I often get sidetracked and stop pursuing God’s mercy. The cares, burdens, and riches of this life skew our vision, choke our breath, and weaken our steps so we end up choosing the path of least resistance. There is an old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” but sometimes when the going gets tough and believing seems useless, we act uselessly, quit believing in his desire to rescue, and do not hold on to Jesus through the problems.
What if the Canaanite mother had taken Jesus’ silence as his final answer? Perhaps she knew God’s promise in Christ to the Gentiles from Is 49:6
“Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”” and God’s invitation to keep seeking Him in Jer 29:13
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jesus tells the story of a widow who kept coming to a judge who neither feared God nor cared about people. Her plea was that he grant her justice against her adversary. Though he refused for some time, the judge finally granted her request. That story’s ending asks, “If the Lord Jesus returns today, in what condition will he find your faith?”
If we are honest with ourselves, we must sigh and repent as we admit we have not yet achieved the level of faith in Christ like this Canaanite woman. We do not always seek persistently and kneel before him, confident that he will in his due time restore, establish, and strengthen (1 Pet 5:6–10) as he shapes and fashions his life in us.

God takes nothing and turns it into something precious, holy, and living.

Jesus looks at this Gentile Canaanite. He knows her anguish and her trust. He looks at his disciples. He knows their lowly background. Likewise, he knows your background and circumstances, and the condition of your heart. He came to seek and save the lost, to redeem and rescue, to build one new community including both Jew and Gentile by means of his cross.
The Canaanite mother, in spite of her background, somehow knows Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David, who would provide an eternal home for his people, where they would no longer be disturbed nor oppressed by their enemies.
But look at how he treats her. He gives her the “cold shoulder,” shunning her with silence so that her faith, empowered by the Spirit, may rise to the challenge.
He then exercises her faith further, first by delay and later by training with the Word. He does this for her own good and also so that the disciples may see what great faith is, and how it is developed.
You and I know him who achieved an eternal place for us. He entered our world to overcome sin and death through his cross, and to make available to us new life, love, and liberty through his resurrection.
He has opened the kingdom of heaven, the household of faith, to all.
But look at how his love sometimes treats us. He disciplines those whom he loves. He prunes and trims and cuts us way back or down to size, then builds us up with faith, hope, and love. As Paul says, suffering produces endurance (Rom 5:3–5).
Psalm 119:75–76 NKJV
I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, According to Your word to Your servant.
Consider how Jesus was treated by his Father, who said, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father delivered him into the hands of sinful men according to Satan’s wiles, and on the cross he endured the unspeakable torments of death and hell itself. He gives the one he loves into the hands of the enemy (Jer 12:7). Then He stands back at a distance, and Jesus cries out from a state of abandonment. Jesus drinks this cup handed to him by the Father, for the joy set before him (Heb 12:2). Can you or I resist such love? He takes our place in suffering and death, and then in exchange gives to us his life and wisdom and enduring strength, so that we can persevere to victory through our life’s struggles.
The Lord Jesus is greatly concerned with the progress and development of your faith in him, as you live through the afflictions of Satan, the pressures of life, and the torments of your own conscience. Consequently, he works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure (Phil 2:13), nurturing and fashioning your faith, which is your victory over the world (1 Jn 5:4). Sometimes faith can even count hardship a joy. With James 1:2–4 you can consider your trials to be pure joy, leading to maturity.
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…
And He receives those who have faith in Him. This is the faith the Lord Jesus cultivates in you. As the Canaanite woman is a model for us, so we model this faith before all people and verbally share with them. This kind of faith is a saving faith—for you, for me, and for all people.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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