Tag Archives: 1 Thessalonians

Reminiscere (2016)

Reminiscere

February 21, 2016 AD

Old Testament: Genesis 32:22-32

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7

Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28

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

From the Gospel for this the second Sunday in Lent:

“But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help!’ 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 master’s 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.” – Saint Matthew 15:25-28

It’s often been said that we Christians learn more from the hymns we sing than from the sermons we hear. Well that’s of course a humbling thought for preachers like me, but I happen to believe it’s true. We Christians learn more from the hymns we sing than from the sermons we hear. So if you remember nothing else of what I say this morning, remember these words of a hymn which I believe wonderfully expresses the teaching of the Gospel for this second Sunday in the Lent. Speaking of the Savior the hymn-writer says:

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
   On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
   All other ground is sinking sand.

“When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.” And you might well say that in the gospel just read darkness does veil Christ’s lovely face; in fact you might say that we see a stern and unfamiliar Jesus.

After a confrontation with the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees— the religious establishment of Jesus’ day— Jesus leaves the familiar neighborhood of Galilee and withdraws to the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon. And there a Canaanite woman, not a Jew but a Gentile, comes and pleads for Jesus’ help. To the Jews this Canaanite woman is a nobody and on top of that has a daughter “severely possessed by a demon.”

And yet this Canaanite woman comes to Jesus, no doubt having heard of Him through the crowds which not only heard Him but also witnessed His healing of those who were sick and troubled. She addresses Him as “Lord,” and “Son of David,” as the long-awaited Messiah and Savior. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.”

But Jesus doesn’t say anything in response to her plea, and His disciples urge Him to get rid of this nuisance! Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the Gentile woman doesn’t give up but comes and kneels at Jesus’ feet saying, “Lord, help me!” And Jesus replies: “It is not fair to take the children’s bread”— meaning the Jews’ bread— “and throw it to the dogs”— meaning the Gentiles, like this Canaanite woman. But the woman still doesn’t give up! “When darkness veils His lovely face I rest on His unchanging grace…” She speaks words of astonishing faith and humility: She replies, “Yes, Lord”— she doesn’t contradict Jesus— “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” As if to say, “Well as a Canaanite and not a Jew, I’m not much, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Such humility. Such faith in Jesus. And Jesus replies, “O woman, great is your faith!” and her daughter was instantly.

So what is Jesus teaching us here?

First of all, we learn that we must expect times in our lives when God seems strange, distant, when He seems to be indifferent to our plight and our cries for help. So it was with this Canaanite woman and such is the experience of every Christian. In such times God is teaching us to trust Him— no matter what! One thinks of the words of the much-afflicted Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

The second thing we learn here is that God never fails to answer our prayers in His time and in His way, even when we seem to be waiting for an answer for months and even years on end. He alone knows what is best for you and for me, and He also knows that at times carefree, happy days can be the greatest danger of all, as we then so often forget Him. And that is why in the ancient Litany, which Dr. Luther held to be the best prayer on earth after the Lord’s Prayer, the Church prays that God would deliver us not only “in all time of our tribulation” but also “in all time of our prosperity.”

Finally, the sufferings we Christians in fact endure are not punishment, because Jesus on the cross bore all the punishment we by our sins have deserved. Yes, we do indeed experience the painful consequences of our sins, but this is not punishment but rather a way in which a merciful Lord permits us to experience sin’s painful consequences so that we may turn from them and live.

“When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.” Even when the face of Jesus seems stern and strange, it is still always the face once crowned with thorns out of love for you and for me and for every child of Adam’s lost and fallen race. No one could see God’s love in that crucified body, that thorn-crowned face, but there most clearly God’s heart of love is revealed. And there can be no greater proof of His forgiving love than the gift He now gives us at this altar— the truly present body which once hung on Calvary’s cross, and the out-poured blood received under the outward appearances of the consecrated bread and wine. Here truly we taste the goodness of the Lord!

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
   On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
   All other ground is sinking sand.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. +Amen.