Sermon: Lent 2 (Reminiscere).2012

Matthew 15.21-28
3 March 2012

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The present course of things / is deterioration. Just leave an orange out on your table (well, perhaps your picnic table outside would be a better option), just leave it there for a few days, maybe a week and you begin to see what I mean.

This is not natural. I didn't say, the natural course of things is deterioration, but rather the present course of things is deterioration. Deterioration, destruction, even death, these things aren't natural. Life was created immortal, eternal, after the image of its Creator. Man was not created to die, neither was the orange created to deteriorate.

Sin did this. You know the story of Adam and Eve, how evil entered the world through the great and terrible Fall into sin as the first human beings were tempted by the serpent to ignore God's law and disobey Him.

But do not be fooled. Adam and Eve were guilty for their own sin, they aren't guilty for your sin. Yes, it is true that you were born with a disposition, a tendency to disobey God and His law, but you don't have to. Your sins are your own fault. You sin because you are weak, / because you don't want to do the hard work of obedience. And for this reason, the law has become a burden to you.

But listen to the radical way that the Psalmist describes God's Law. This is from Psalm 119 (the really long one; by the way, in every verse of Psalm 119 the Word of God is mentioned: check it out sometime), / so the Psalmist writes:

97 Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
    therefore my soul keeps them.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
    because I long for your commandments.

And there are many more verses like this, suggesting that the Law is actually good and desirable and so we yearn for it, we want more law. You see this in children. When they are obeying you, and they know it, and you praise them for obeying you, they LOVE your every word, they are eager for you to tell them more things to do. Why? Because they are not burdened by guilt in those moments. Your sinning causes you guilt. Your guilt clouds your every thought, your every action, it even affects your mood and emotions. In other words, guilt deteriorates the joy and peace and comfort of the Lord.

How do you know you are infected with guilt? Ask yourself this: when is the last time you experienced the true freedom of the Gospel? The absolute relief and joy that comes along with the forgiveness of all of your sins? The hope and liberation of knowing that God is very pleased with you because Jesus lived perfectly and died for you?

Whatever gets in your way of fully knowing and experiencing these Divine gifts, / that is guilt, and if guilt is left unattended, it deteriorates your spirit and your soul / and will eventually lead you to a cold and lifeless faith. That is the current state of things in this world: deterioration. That / is not / the Christian life.

That is why the Gospel lesson, the story of the Canaanite woman (Syro-Phoneacian woman), / is so essential to the Christian life. Because most of you are out there today and are out there {point outside} each week, each hour being deteriorated by the current state of this world. Because most of you can say, “yes, pastor, that's me, I'm deteriorating and full of guilt and I see that I am mostly grumpy and hardly ever truly joyful over the forgiveness of my sins.”

To you, I say: hear this Gospel today as a life-line; something to get you back on track; back to a joyful knowledge of your salvation in Jesus Christ. Embrace the example of this woman by actually living it, putting it into practice. With St Paul (in today's Epistle lesson) I say to you, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God [Law], just as you are doing [the Christian life], that you do so more and more.”

The Canaanite woman was in great need; she knew Jesus was the only One who could meet that need; but she had no right to ask him for anything. Hear the story again:
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Prayer. // But not just prayer. Consistent, / Insistent, / tenacious, never-giving up, pushing and pushing and pleading over and over and over and over; that kind of prayer. Prayer that looks like a dear child asking his dear Father. Prayer that demands God to be faithful to His own promises. That is faithful prayer, that is righteous prayer, that is prayer that moves mountains, not physical mountains, but spiritual mountains, those impossible, impassible obstacles in life that prevent you from reaching the joy and peace and comfort of your salvation. Those obstacles of guilt and spiritual, emotional torment that the devil and the world and your own sinful nature love to through in your way. Those obstacles // which Jesus has already overcome.

“Woman, great is your faith.” Why? Because her faith was in Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the promised offspring of Eve, the mother of ALL living. Why was her faith great, because her faith was Jesus' faith. Faith comes by hearing; St Mark also recounts this story for us, and he tells us that unnamed woman heard reports of Jesus, in other words, she heard the Gospel, / and hearing the Gospel of Jesus, she also received the faith of Jesus. Jesus was a bit modest in his description. This woman didn't have great faith, she had perfect faith. Jesus faith is always perfect faith. If Jesus would have rejected her again, even if He would have picked up her Himself and thrown her outside the house where they were, still, she would have come humbly back. Persistent, insisting that Jesus be her God, too. And so He was. Her daughter was healed, the deterioration of her body stopped.

This woman represents us, the Gentiles. We have no right to God's mercy and grace. Yet, we follow her example. We cry out time and time again, Lord, have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord help me. We are persistent, not because we have the strength in ourselves, but because we know something that Satan hates to admit, that the world has long forgotten, and that our sinful nature ignores: we know that Jesus has already won, and we are beloved children of the Father. Our sins are already forgiven, and our spiritual life is growing day by day as it is watered and fed by the Blessed Word and Sacraments.

There is every reason for you to cower away and retreat into your glum state of guilt and hopelessness. You are, after all, a sinner. But there is something that reason can't comprehend, that only faith can grasp: Jesus came for sinners. And your forgiveness of sins means eternal life and salvation for you. And what's more, those same joyful and peaceful and comforting gifts are given you this day in the form of bread and wine.

So come, ENJOY this meal today, and enjoy your life. Life doesn't have to be gloom and guilt. Pray, / eat, / and enjoy. Persistently, insistently, over and over and over and over. God hears you, you are His.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

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