The Glory Has Departed


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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Reminiscere Sunday, The Second Sunday in Lent, 2016. Matthew 15:21-28.
The Canaanite Woman

Annibale Carracci, Christ and the Canaanite Woman, 1595.
Oil on canvas, Palazzo Municipale, Parma.


Reminiscere Sunday, The Second Sunday in Lent, 2016

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson




The Hymn #652   I Lay My Sins on Jesus               
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #142    A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining - Gerhardt  


Comfort Revealed in Hard Passage

The Hymn #
454            Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire                
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 374                 Grace Tis a Charming Sound  

KJV 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God,even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

KJV Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Second Sunday In Lent

Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us, we beseech Thee, by Thy Holy Spirit, that He may strengthen our hearts and confirm our faith and hope in Thy grace and mercy, so that, although we have reason to fear because of our conscience, our sin, and our unworthiness, we may nevertheless, with the woman of Canaan, hold fast to Thy grace, and in every trial and temptation find Thee a very present help and refuge, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.


Comfort Revealed in Difficult Passage

KJV Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

This passage is listed in the difficult sayings of Jesus, one which seems to portray Him in a bad light. The skeptics crawl over these passages - like ants on spilled sugar, which only shows they do not see or grasp what they are reading.

The ongoing error in Biblical teaching is seeing passages, verses, even fragments of verses in isolation. That is the great merit of false teachers - they argue with great energy about their diamonds, as Zwingli called them, sections that support their wild ideas, which are contrary to the unified message of the Bible. These false teachers assume that the poor, rural apostles did not even realize they were putting together Gospels full of contradictions. The wolves are so much smarter than these simple folk, so we should stand back and admire the rationalists rather than the Evangelists - so they assume.

Studying the Evangelical cults helped me realize that many Fundamentalist preachers do exactly what the liberal apostates do - they pick out a verse and make it mean what they want, contrary to the well known concept that the Bible is one revealed Truth from God. If they can get an Amen Corner going for them, they are successful. One minister just died from rattlesnake bites because he was continuing the rather unpopular tradition of handling rattlesnakes to prove that poison would not hurt him. There is a great gap between God protecting us from danger and thrusting ourselves into danger for the thrills and crowd appeal. 

One literary argument against this idea of the simple Gospel writers, no matter what anyone believes, is that the small scale of publishing in ancient times made each work far more  consistent. The Gospels are brief, and yet we struggle to explain them with large books. People were far more used to hearing stories than reading them. The printed page really put a crimp on memorization, and with memorization the details really matter. 

In comparison we have great literature from the past versus an avalanche of books and essays in the present. Although technical knowledge has expanded rapidly, spiritual wisdom has been shrinking. Knowledge of the Bible is minimal, because it is more important to agree with everyone than to start from the foundation of God's Word being the final authority and revelation of God's will.

Beginning there, we have to ask how Jesus responded to those who asked for help. The Gospels show that He gave them what they needed and wanted, with each healing miracle being different in making subordinate teaching points. The question is not whether He could perform the miracle or wanted to, but what that particular miracle teaches us about the nature of God. 

The opening to this miracle identifies the woman as Gentile, not Jewish, and yet she addressed Jesus as Son of David. And she was praying for her daughter, vexed with a devil. This addresses the issue of the Gospel being limited to the Jewish audience, which was the primary group at the start. For many, the issue was being a faithful Jew in obeying the Law in order to be a real Christian. Paul addressed that in Galatians and it was also a question answered in Acts, where the concept of kosher eating was aimed at loyalists to that group of Christians.

Can the Gospel alone convert Gentiles? Paul said yes and acted accordingly, even though he worked effectively among the Jews in his role as a Jewish Christian rabbi.



Faith, Fame, Report
The reason the Gentile woman came to Him was the spread of His fame as a healer. We know the woman considered Jesus the Messiah because of the title she used - Thou Son of David. That was a confession of faith that this promised Savior would release her tortured daughter from the bonds of a devil.

I used those terms, fame and report, to reflect Isaiah 53 and Romans 10. How does God plant faith in the hearts of people? The proclamation of the Gospel Word accomplishes this. In this passage we have the effect - in Isaiah 53 and Romans 10 we have the explanation of how it happens.

Vast numbers came to hear and see Jesus in action, but many early disciples (learners, to be precise) were only there to hear what they wanted to hear. They did not like the entire message and fell away (John 6). "This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?"

As Paul always tried to show, reflecting the teaching of Jesus (John 8) being a child of Abraham - through the flesh - meant nothing at all. That was the claim at the time - We are the promised People of God. We are the Children of Abraham. How dare you tell us anything!

The true children of Abraham are children by faith, not by flesh. Jesus said, in a way that conveyed His divinity, "Before Abraham was, I AM." In other words, He used the name of God for Himself, showing with the verbs used, that He existed from eternity while Abraham belonged to a much later time. In Exodus 3, the Name of God is I AM.

So this woman, by faith, is a child of Abraham. Thus the miracle is really about being a Christian believer while waiting for God's answer.

23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.  24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The Canaanite woman came to Jesus in faith, addressed Him properly, and He remained silent. This is representative of people asking God for help and not getting an answer right away. The disciples want the woman's prayer answered, so she can be sent away in peace. They seem annoyed, as Lenski noted.


Lenski:
Yet the disciples had never seen Jesus deny anyone pleading for help, although at times he had delayed a little while (John 4:47, etc.; Matt. 8:5, etc.), namely whenever some question had first to be settled. It is fair, therefore, to conclude that the disciples think of a dismissal by granting the woman’s prayer. They indicate, however, that they are not moved entirely by pity for her distress.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 595.

In this brief miracle we experience with the woman the idea of praying for someone and seeming to get silence in return. This is reflected in the Lutheran country club attitude. There are many pastors who are not from the country club. That is their fault - they are not from the right families. Those pastors from the right families can do whatever they want, even follow their mistress to another location and still get a call. They can teach whatever they wish and be obnoxious to everyone from their financial angels - everyone excuses them.

Many Lutheran pastors feel like this Canaanite woman, asking for mercy and getting silence in return. 

Luther uses the expression of God exercising faith, making the individual stronger and not like those who stop by for a miracle when handy. The vast crowds were intimidating to the Jewish and Roman rulers, but they did not last. When the crowds experienced something unpleasant to their ears or emotions, they went away. 

Exercise is a good analogy, because our muscles adapt to the chores we do. If we change the chores for one day, the muscles howl in pain. In order to face big physical challenges we have to exercise with those tasks in mind. Lacking the support of major muscles, one's body will refuse to do the task or end up with major injuries.

Those who live in peace with error taught all around them will adapt to it, adjust for it, and defend the error. One ELCA leader is still in his synod although he loathes what it does and teaches. As an actor he cannot get work because word is out there that he does not approve of Left-wing activism. I said, "You are not a prisoner. By staying you are offering silent approval." Likewise, someone studying at an ELCA college is miffed at their teaching while friends suggest he stay and "bear witness." I said, "You cannot stay in the same stall with false teacher, as Luther said. You are casting pearls before swine."

The apparent silence of God is His effort to exercise our faith, which will be needed in difficult times ahead. Questioning His gracious will is a sin, as Chytraeus wrote.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Jesus' response seems to reflect the country club attitude. He is not say, "No, because I was only to the lost sheep of Israel." Instead He is repeating what would be assumed by Jewish Christians. The Gospels emphasize the rooting and grounding of Christianity in Judaism, but they also expand this into the Gentile mission, as Jesus did here.

This is what distinguishes the Christian Faith from ethnic religion. Although there are claims from others that they transcend race, only Christianity does by showing membership in the Kindom of God as derived from faith alone, not from race or station in life. And women are not second-class members of the Kingdom. There is no distinction in membership, only in role.

 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 

The ultimate sign of faith is this worship. Nothing deflects this woman from asking and trusting. And yet Jesus states the standard reply - This bread, this favor belongs to the children of Abraham (by blood) and not to the Gentile dogs. In the Apostolic Age, the Christian Church had to address this prejudice, which was natural in the old man, since they were trained from birth to consider blood member the key in being faithful Jews.

This addresses the feeling of unworthiness that people experience. The feeling works against the grace of God, since people want to make up for their sins, pay for their sins, or suffer sufficiently for their sins.

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

She catches God at His own Word, as Luther wrote and preached. Her confession is, "Yes, I am not worthy, but I will accept the crumbs from Your table."

Dogs are an interesting sidelight in the Gospels. They licked the wounds of Lazareth and are used as a standard insult here. Unspoken is what Jesus implied, these words - "Wouldn't most people tell me not to take bread from the children and give it to dogs?" Although the statement is not so diplomatic, her response is one that brims full of faith in His gracious will. Even an unworthy dog will accept a few crumbs.

We still use dog in pejorative way, yet we also know and appreciate their nature. They always expect the best. One stray followed us home and walked right into the bedroom, expecting food or lodging - or both. I can tell it was one of those loose dogs that gets away and trolls the neighborhood for food and affection. It was not an abandoned dog but a wandering one, at the time.

The moment I have meat or cheese ready for the morning omelet, Sassy sits in the way of the frig (which I used), getting in the way so she can obtain her tithe. She never doubts this and only poses there for meat or cheese. After that, she waits in the living room for the finish, then follows me in for breakfast, which we eat during the morning news on TV. Sassy waits for us to finish her breakfast (reading the expression in her eyes) and finishes up.

As Luther wrote, that should be our attitude toward God, always expecting the best from Him. 

We should not overlook the response of Jesus toward this woman, which was twofold. Great your faith! - literally, making a bigger emphasis than using "is." Her prayer was answered and her daughter healed that moment. If faith is so unnecessary and superfluous for forgiveness and salvation, then why does Jesus praise it? We have an example of faith, contrition (even the dogs), and the fullest expression of Jesus' blessing, forgiveness, and praise. What did she do? That was not a matter of doing, but believing. She became a member of Jesus' own family by believing in Him, before she saw Him, before He did anything for her, in the face of apparent indifference and coldness.

In times of self-torment and  external difficulties, the Canaanite woman is our example of persistent and cheerful faith.




Quotations
"But see in this example how Christ like a hunter exercises and chases faith in His followers in order that it may become strong and firm."
     Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1983 II,  p. 149.  Matthew 15:21‑28.

"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them.  Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,' Luke 1:53."
     Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 149.
         
"All this is spoken and written for the comfort of the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort and help."
     Sermons of Martin Luther, II,  p. 149.

"Now what does the poor woman do?  She turns her eyes from all this unfriendly treatment of Christ; all this does not lead her astray, neither does she take it to heart, but she continues immediately and firmly to cling in her confidence to the good news she had heard and embraced concerning Him, and never gives up.  We must also do the same and learn firmly to cling to the Word, even though God with all His creatures appears different than His Word teaches.  But, oh, how painful it is to nature and reason, that this woman should strip herself of self and forsake all that she experienced, and cling along to God's bare Word, until she experienced the contrary.  May God help us in time of need and of death to possess courage and faith!"
     Sermons of Martin Luther,  II,  p. 150. 
               

"As for example when we feel in our conscience that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the kingdom of heaven, then we experience hell, and we think we are lost forever.  Now whoever understands here the actions of this poor woman and catches God in His own judgment, and says, Lord, it is true, I am a sinner and not worthy of Thy grace; but still Thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and Thou art come not to call the righteous, but, as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15, 'to save sinners.'  Behold, then must God according to His own judgment have mercy upon us."
     Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1983 II,  p. 153. Matthew 15:21‑28; 1 Timothy 1:15