Rocklin, California

Tag: Lent (Page 1 of 2)

Lent 2 Sermon “Put Your Trust Where It Belongs” Luke 13:31-35

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Lent 2c, (February 21, 2016)


Luke 13:31-35

TITLE: “Put Your Trust Where it Belongs”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter thirteen.

No one likes to hear bad news. When bad news comes, it is our instinct as human beings to blame the messenger. If I don’t know about the bad news, then surely the news doesn’t affect me, does it?

Yet that is exactly the scenario we have with Jeremiah. In the prophet Jeremiah we have a picture or image of what Jesus would suffer in His ministry and death and life again. Jeremiah was a prophet and priest about six hundred years before Jesus. He was a prophet at a time when the people of Israel had really forgotten their identity. They had forgotten what it meant to be God’s chosen, and to live in the grace and mercy which only He could give. They worshipped other gods. They let the places of God’s mercy decay. The ones who were there to shepherd the people were instead fleecing the flock. They did not care for the sojourner and foreigner, but rather mistreated him and left him to rot. But when Jeremiah prophesied against Jerusalem and her people, well, the people were not very happy about the process. They did not want to be convicted of sin. And when confronted with the Law, ultimately there are only two reactions: either repentance or rebellion. They rebelled, and so they wanted to kill him, and intended to do so.

We see the same thing with Jesus in our Gospel. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. He has preached of the people’s need for a Savior, over and over again. They are broken, they are dead in trespass and sins, they are lost, without a God and therefore without each other.

The people then are just like you and me. Each day there is another death, another loss, another sin that separates and divides us from God and from each other. While in one respect, the world asks “why”, in another way we really don’t want to hear the answer. Do you want to hear that it is your sin which drives the world to madness? It is their fault, it is society’s fault, it is those people, over there. It’s their fault. But your fault? No, surely not. Surely you are not the author of your own downfall. Are you? St. Paul reminds us of the danger here in Philippians 3:

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18–19 ESV)

There are many in the world, sadly, who do not see themselves as the problem, but only want to push away, and to place the blame squarely on someone else, anyone else. So I say to you this day, repent of your sin. Recognize that you are the cause of your own disaster. Repent.

Yet in our text Jesus laments over Jerusalem, not out of anger but out of love. He loves His children, near and far. He loves even the ones who hate Him so. Do you remember His words from the cross? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 ESV) He loves them all, and that includes you. And because He loves them all, he will not be deterred from His purpose, His end and final goal of bringing you back into communion with Him.

The tears of our God are for the lost ones, for the broken like you and me and others the world over. And you also know that not all will be saved. But know this, God’s love is for all, and His mercy extends out to the whole world.

The last words in our text point us to where we are to find Jesus. Our Lord says, “And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”” (Luke 13:35 ESV) We sing those words every Sunday in the liturgy, right before hearing the words of our Lord in His Supper.

In Jeremiah’s day, the city of Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians within years of his words of warning. In Jesus’ day, the rebuilt city of Jerusalem fell to the Romans a generation after our Lord’s words. Cities collapse, kingdoms fall, civilizations crumble, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Don’t put your trust in places or the things of this world.

Put your trust right where it belongs, on the shoulders of Jesus Christ the righteous one. He comes to you now in His Word and meal, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. He comes because you have no strength to save yourself (collect of the day). But His strength lies not in the power and might of the world. His strength lies in His compassion and mercy for you. Trust in Him, for He will take care of you.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

The Mind of God (Palm/Passion Sunday 2013)

Palm Sunday 2013 (March 24, 2013)
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California

palmarum2013.mp3

TITLE: “The Mind of God”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the Epistle just read from Philippians chapter two, as well as the Gospel from St Luke chapter 23.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” So Paul begins this beautiful section of this Epistle. God is His mercy through St. Paul calls us to have the mind of Christ. But what does that really mean?

What St. Paul is talking about is really asking the question first of why God created us, and secondly, of what we are to make of our lives here on earth as His children. As we enter into Holy Week and suffer our Lord’s death with Him, that is a question really worth asking. What is the point of all these readings and celebrations of our Lord’s death and resurrection? Here is what Martin Luther had to say about it in the Large Catechism:

Why did God create us? “For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Spirit, by whom to bring us to Himself.” – Large Catechism (Martin Luther)

Let’s put it this way. God didn’t create us in order to DO something. He created us first in order to BE something. Now don’t get me wrong. We have all kinds of things to do here on earth. But our lives are far more significant than a do-to list for you to check off at the end of each day. We are so easily caught up in this mindset. Productivity and efficiency are very popular words, even in churches.

But that is not why God created you. Hear again those words from St. Paul, “Have this mind among yourself, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Did you catch that? The mind of Christ is yours already. It is what God gave to you in Holy Baptism, when He gave you His Son and the Holy Spirit. What this means is that you ARE God’s child, first and foremost. It is that which shapes what you do in service to your neighbor.

Think of it like this. You don’t start a family and have children so that they will do things for you. If the reason we have children is in order to have cheap servants, well, then it isn’t a very good investment. No, we don’t get married and start families because want want to get something from it. Not finally, at least. The reason we are families is because that is who we are. We have children because, well, because we love them and we want to care for them and give to them as God has given to us.

So our text here from Philippians gives us an important insight into the nature of God. Jesus did not think equality with God is a thing to be grasped. Striving and working toward becoming a better person, even reaching up to god’s divine nature, that’s not the point. The Christian faith isn’t a self-improvement program or a better community service plan. No, God has way, way bigger plans than a little self-help. Rather, our text says, Jesus made himself nothing. Literally it is that he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant or slave. And He was born in the likeness of men.

So when Jesus took on our human form, He because a servant. Even more, He became your servant. And He became obedient, to the point of death itself. The very essence of the Gospel, the very throbbing heart of the Christian faith, is that God serves you, loves you and cares for you above all else.

So because of God’s great love and care for you, He sent His Son, Jesus, who took on this form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death on a cross. When we hear the story of our Lord’s suffering and death, this simple, beautiful reality must always be the motif, the theme that runs through every verse and every hearing of our Lord’s Passion. For you. For you. Always and evermore for you.

Hear Luther’s words again on this:

In the heart of God you will find a divine, good, fatherly heart. As Christ says, you will be drawn to the Father through Christ. Then you will understand what Christ meant when He said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This is how we know God as He wants us to know Him. We donʼt know Him by His power and wisdom, which terrify us, but by His goodness and love. There our faith and confidence stand unmovable. This is how a person is truly born again in God. (From Luther’s “How to Meditate on the Passion of Christ”)

This Holy Week we will hear anew God’s great love toward wayward sinners like you and me. We will hear how’s God’s love and service to you goes even unto death. So come now and receive the Testament of His love in His Son’s body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Come and find refuge in Him, for He has given His Name and His very life for you, so that you might dwell with Him forever.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

The Tower and the Fertilizer (Lent 3c, 2013)

00 159 166 PS2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke, chapter thirteen.

Why do bad things happen to good people? That’s the question that is asked of Jesus in our text. What did these Galileans do to deserve having their blood mingled with their sacrifices? Or why, as Jesus then asks, did a tower fall upon those 18 people in Siloam, outside Jerusalem?

Our questions today are often not that different. Sandy Hook Elementary School. The theatre in Aurora, Colorado. A tsunami in Japan. A meteorite in Siberia. Our stories can go back even farther. I remember preaching on this very text after 9-11. The Twin Towers. With each passing generation we have our Federal Building bombings, our Kent State or Berkley riots, our own Hiroshima or Pearl Harbor.

Each one of these disasters, either natural or man made, asks the question of why. Why this person and not that person? Who, we might ask, is at fault? Was it the person or the nation? Or perhaps it is more serious than that. What if it isn’t our fault at all? What if it is God’s fault? Could God really do such things? Those are the questions of the day.

These questions, as serious as they are, cannot be asked apart from one more thing: the cross of Jesus Christ.
It’s like this: The only way you and I really know anything about God is through Jesus Christ, his birth, death and life again for us. That’s it. If we look for God anywhere else, we will be seriously disappointed and even misled.

So what happens if we look for God apart from or out outside of the cross? It starts, so often, with finding God in beauty, the sunset, the love of family, flowers, and the like.

But it can’t stop there. Sooner or later we end up at the tsunami. And there we find the God of disaster. This God, so it seems, is arbitrary and, well, just plain mean. This God doesn’t stop with beauty. For this God, things get ugly pretty quick.

In all honesty, this is the God that we see and feel and know, or think we know. With this God it is dog eat dog. With this God it is survival of the fittest. With this God we live and die the divine “if/then” statements. If you do this, then you will live. This is the covenant of the Law we talked about Wednesday night. If that is all you think God is about, then your God is pretty tough.

So this is what the people were asking Jesus about that they didn’t get or understand.

Jesus answer is both disturbing and comforting. His answer for them is that no one sinned more than another. As St. Paul would later put it, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and a little later “the wages of sin is death”.

This is why Jesus answer to the question of why bad things happen is repentance. Repent, Jesus says! Jesus calls you to not think so highly of yourself, and to recognize that you live by the mercy of God. This is not a bad thing, because frankly, God’s mercy is far more reliable that our own ability to do well at anything.
Let me say that again, because it needs to sink in. God’s mercy is far, far more reliable than anything we say or feel or do. That’s what makes it God’s mercy, and not our own works. That is why we need the cross of Christ.

So teach us how God uses these disasters and hardships of our life, like the Tower of Siloam in our text, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree.

This fig tree story, we have to admit, is as disturbing as the Tower and all the repentance talk. First, there is a warning. The warning is that trees that don’t bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. The second disturbing thing is the fertilizer. Let’s talk about the warning first.

The warning and the fire at its simplest is judgment. Each tree of the vineyard must produce good fruit. At first glance, this sure sounds like good works, doesn’t it? If you don’t do good works, God is going to judge you. There is a warning here to recognize that we never do enough, and to recognize this all the time. But the problem is as long as I am focused on the fruit, things will never change.

It’s like this. When a tree isn’t bearing fruit like it should, you don’t start yelling at the fruit: “Get better! Grow more! Be more fruity!” How well would that work? Not very well.

No, if a tree isn’t bearing fruit, it is because it isn’t getting enough sun, or water, or nutrients in the soil. It may need pruning or some other kind of care. The fruit is the end product, and when the fruit isn’t growing, you look to the tree, not the fruit.

The warning Jesus gives to you and me is that if we aren’t bearing fruit in our lives, it is a faith problem, not a good works or fruit problem. That’s the warning God gives you and me. Examine your life and conduct and ask yourself if you are bearing fruit in your life. Fruits of love, patience, kindness, mercy and long-suffering. You know the fruits. If you aren’t bearing the fruit you ought to bear, then it is time to repent and trust in the mercy of God once again.

But guess what. You never bear enough fruit! Not by yourself, that’s for sure. The only way you bear enough fruit is by being connected to the tree, and that tree is Christ. Not bearing fruit, therefore, is a faith and trust problem. It isn’t a good works problem.

That’s the warning. Now let’s talk about fertilizer.

What is the fertilizer that God piles upon you so that you might grow and bear fruit? What is it that will show you your need for your Savior? The fertilizer is the trials and suffering you endure in your life. Faith rarely grows from success and victories in life. Faith thrives and grows when there is lots of, uh, fertilizer piled on it. These trials force us to examine our lives, repent and trust that God will take care of us, because we cannot take care of ourselves. St. Paul helps us out with this in Romans chapter five:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:1–6 ESV)

God uses the Towers of Siloam in our lives, the fertilizer that piles up all around us. He uses these things for you and for your benefit. The towers hurt when they fall. The fertilizer, truth be told, the fertilizer stinks. We should never pretend it doesn’t. As St. Paul said, while we were weak, Christ died for the ungodly.

This is what happens, beloved. God uses these trials and hardships for you. He feeds you and waters you. The trials show us our great need for God, and God longs to serve you and care for you.
Today God longs to be with you, to be your God so that you may be His child. It is easy to get stuck in the why questions. It is easy to get distracted by the fertilizer in our lives. Why did this happen to me and not someone else? You can’t answer those questions, because they are unanswerable. Our Heavenly Father, however, longs to feed you and care for you, to water you with His Word and Spirit as only He can do. The fruits of Christ’s work in you for for you rise up to heaven, where God says, “Ah yes, that is my tree, my beloved. That is just the way things ought to be.”

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Rejected (Lent 2c, 2013)

Lent II – February 24, 2013
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

lent2-2013

TITLE: “Rejected”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter thirteen, as well as the Old Testament reading from Jeremiah (26:8-15).

Jeremiah is in trouble. He has proclaimed God’s Word to the people of Israel. They are going into Exile. This was around 610 B.C. It is their unbelief and hardness of heart that will cause the disaster that will befall them. It is their own fault. No one else is to blame. Jeremiah is simply announcing the way things are. But they are ready to kill the messenger, because they don’t like the message.

Often this is your reaction when it comes to confronting sin. It is mine as well. You don’t like to be wrong. You don’t want someone to show you your weaknesses, far less your sin. Can you imagine the audacity? Actually telling another person that they’re wrong? We don’t do this today. We just don’t. Right and wrong today is, well, it’s a private opinion. Our culture today would have you believe that if there is a right and a wrong, you should keep it to yourself.

But God loves you too much for that. God loves you so much that He is willing to risk your rejection in order to save you.

So He sends prophets, preachers who speak the truth in love both in season and out of season. And sometimes that warning, that cry to repent and turn away from your self-centered and empty life, well, sometimes the rejection gets ugly.

This is what was going on with Jeremiah. And for speaking the truth to these people, He was rejected.

The same happened to most all of the prophets. Even John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the prophets. He had the nerve to tell Herod, that old fox as Jesus calls him, He had the nerve to tell him that adultery and murder is a sin. Herod didn’t like this message, not one bit. He threw John in prison, and eventually murdered him. It’s a dangerous thing, bringing bad news. The only thing worse is not bringing it.

By the time we get to our Lord in our text, He is heading the same was of Jeremiah, and John, and all of the rejected prophets who went before Him. Our text says that some religious leaders, Pharisees, they come to Jesus and urge Him to go away, because Herod wants Jesus dead.

At first glance it sounds like they are doing Jesus a favor. After all, they do go and warn Jesus and urge Him to leave. But they aren’t saying this to Him as a favor. Basically they are trying to pressure Him and manipulate Him into leaving His divine mission of salvation for the world. Like Satan before them, they try to get Jesus to look after Himself and let the world go to hell all on its own.

But that’s not God’s way. It’s our way. Our way is conflict avoidance. Our way is to ignore the signs of our brokenness. Our way is to avoiding talking about things like sin and death. Why? Well, they are so negative. If we don’t talk about them, maybe they will go away. Maybe things will just work out all on their own. And so we run from God, and hide just like Adam and Eve in the Garden.

But God is not like us. Not in this way, at least. God sees your need. He knows that the path you are on by nature only leads to death, sorrow, and to everlasting guilt. He knows this. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus, to come into the world to save us from our sins. And it begins with the call to repentance. Recognize your sin for what it is. Know that you are the cause of your own impending death. You, and not someone else.

St. Paul warns us of this in our Epistle today. He writes,

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18–19 ESV)

When our minds are so focused on the things of this world, we forget our baptismal identity. Each one of you knows some, maybe close friends or even family members, who no longer recognize their deeds and life as full of sin. We don’t have to go far to find those who glory in their shame, who flaunt sins of greed and sensuality and desire before the world, and don’t care if God or anyone knows about it. Their minds are set on earthly things, as St. Paul says. And we are right there with them.

This is why Jesus weeps and laments over Jerusalem, His own city. You can imagine this scene in our Lord’s life. He’s on His way to die, and still they try to keep Him from saving them. You can imagine Jesus looking over His city and saying these words,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not!” (Luke 13:34 ESV alt.)

Hear yourself in those words, dearly baptized. For you have caused our Lord’s anguish as much as they. Repent and believe the Gospel.

The time is coming, and is even here, beloved, when our Lord enters into His city once again. Soon we will sing those words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna to the highest!” Jesus enters Jerusalem with forgiveness and healing, life and salvation for you, always for you. He goes to Jerusalem to die on the cross so that you may receive His own body and blood for the forgiveness of all your sins. That is love that knows no bounds.

God has established a New Jerusalem here at His Altar. Come, leave behind all of the sin and hardship that brings you low. Come and rest. God has it all taken care of for you, always for you.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

God For Me (Lent 1, 2013)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, CA
Lent 1 – 2013
February 17, 2013 (rev. from 2008)
Luke 4:1-11

2013-02-17-Lent01.mp3

TITLE: “God For Me”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from our Gospel lesson just read from St. Luke chapter four.

Johann Gerhard once wrote that the entire life of Christ was one of fighting temptation, and that we, through Holy Baptism, enter into that same battle. Temptation has been the struggle of man since the Fall into sin. All the way back to the Garden, the struggles of the flesh in food, of twisting God’s Word for our own desires, and of worshipping the false god who promises the world but instead gives us hell, these have been our constant companions, the thorns that prick us and will not go away.

This is your life, O Baptized. This is your life, for when you were baptized into His death you were also baptized into His life, and Jesus life was one of constant temptation and struggle against the devil. Every step He took, from His birth, His epiphany and baptism, His ministry of healing the sick and preaching the Gospel, every step was beset with this constant question: Will you go to the cross? The people want Him to provide food for them, to satisfy their basest needs. The Pharisees and scribes want to trick Him with the Word of God, so that He will deny his messianic purpose. And the disciples, His own closest followers, when He speaks of the cross and His impending death, they are aghast. They cannot fathom a God who would become Man and then would die. What kind of a God dies? It’s not possible, and so even His closest friends sought to deter Him from His holy purpose.

But what of you, O Baptized? How often have you forgotten God in favor of satisfying your own flesh? How often have you justified your sinful actions with a misplaced bible passage, or a cover-all like “love” which means do whatever you want? How often have you forgotten the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice for your neighbor, of giving of what you have and trusting that God will provide for you? You know the answer to these questions. The answer is you justify your false actions and forget. You forget who you are all the time. You forget that you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Psalm 103:14). You forget that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). You forget that apart from Christ you are nothing, but in Christ you are kings and queens in the heavenly kingdom.

It is for this, our wretched forgetfulness, our willful disregard for God’s Word that our Lord came into the flesh. It is for this reason that He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. It is for this reason that He fasted. It is for this reason that He allowed the devil to do His worst. It is for this reason that He lived. It is for this reason that He died the lonely death of the criminal, the greatest sinner, for He took all our sins into Himself.

So what does this mean for you, O sons and daughters of Adam? What this means is everything. The walk of the Christian life is not one of victory to victory. It is a life of sorrow and hardship, where joy is found not in the little battles with sins each day. It is in those battles that to our eyes we lose all the time. The walk of the Christian life is Christ’s life, and that means a life of suffering, rejection and even death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”2

But this, dearly beloved, is not a sadness or some sort of gloomy message that only Lutherans can really appreciate. Far from it. Our Lord said, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24). It is in this suffering, rejection and death that you are most like Christ. Where the world sees weakness, we see strength. Where the devil sees his victory, we see his greatest defeat. Where our sinful nature cries out that we are giving up our very lives, we cry out with joy that we have been given Christ’s life for us.

Our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness is not an example for us to follow, like some sort of formula for beating temptation. His temptation in the wilderness is your defeat of Satan. No matter what may come your way, no matter what the temptation, no matter what the sin or grief or sorrow that you bear, Christ takes it all into Himself. The suffering that you bear ties you to Christ in a way that is mysterious and yet very simple. Your suffering ties you to Him, because He suffered for you.

That is where the Cup of our Lord’s Supper fits in so beautifully with your life as a Christian. The Cup of blessing which we receive from the Lord’s hand is the sure and certain promise for you that our Lord has died and rose again for you, and that the trials you undergo today, the temptations you face every day, that our Lord has given Himself to you in those trials, and where you fail by weakness or sin, that He Himself has paid the price for your forgiveness.

So come, beloved, receive the blessing of the Lord from His own body and blood. Christ has won the victory for you.

Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;They shall not overpow’r us.

 This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none.

 He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him. (LSB 656:3)

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

The Faith of a Dog (Reminiscere, Lent II – 2012)

Reminiscere Sunday 2012 (Portions received with thanks from Johann Heermann)

lent02-2012 NewImage

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.  Our text for this morning is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter 15.  Today we hear and learn about the holy persitence of faith, and how we are all beggar dogs who receive God’s mercy at His table.  Let us pray:

O my most beloved Lord Jesus, at whose table of grace I wait even now: cause, I beseech You, a mere crumb of Your help and assistance to fall to me, and I and my hearers will be satisfied with instruction, comfort, and exhortation.

Today might properly be called Canine Sunday or Doggy Sunday.  Jesus calls this Canaanite woman a dog and she agrees with him!  It is a very odd thing, you have to admit.  See how the Christian faith is like the dog seeing the crumbs or scraps from his master’s table, and how this is a good thing for poor sinners like you and I.

 

In the Bible we find that dogs are almost without exception seen as dirty, generally unpleasant animals.  You may remember the giant Goliath mocking David and saying, ““Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?”” (1 Samuel 17:43)  And you know that you are down on your luck when the dogs are the only ones who will help you, as in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:21).  Dogs are both pathetic in the Bible, but also not to be trifled with.  We hear in Proverbs, “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (Proverbs 26:17)

So this woman comes to Jesus with the simple request: heal my daughter!  She is possessed by a demon, and cannot free herself.  Jesus answers her with silence, then seems to question whether God’s promises are for her, and finally says ““It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”” (Matthew 15:26)  It is as if Jesus is saying to her, “Look, you aren’t of the people of Israel.  You have no right to sit at God’s table.  You are nothing but a dog.”  Harsh words, coming from the compassionate one.

But if we are honest with outselves, there are times when that is exactly what God does with us.  We pray and get silence.  We beg and get put off.  No amount of tears or weeping or questions seem to give us the peace we long for.  Eventually things may even get so bad that we are stuck wrestling with God in His Word.  Like Jacob in our Old Testament reading, there are nights where we do nothing but fight with the One who is one our side.  ”I will not go unless you bless me,” Jacob cried out as he wrestled with the Lord (Genesis 32:26).  That’s this woman.  Her persistence is rather amazing.  It reminds us of Luther’s words introducing “Our Father who art in heaven.”  Luther says,

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father.

Truth be told, this dog of a Canaanite woman sounds more like a, uh, persistent child than anything else.  She will not be put off. She will not be deterred.  She will not quit until she receives what is promised to her.

 

For you parents, you know that when the child starts flinging your own words back at you, that you are in trouble.  When the dog begins to know what to expect, then you really have to keep up with things.  I eat at this time!  They know what you give them.  Give it once, and they fully expect you to keep on giving it.  Luther once remarked,

“See how the dog jumps, leaps, and scratches at the table, and does not give up until you give it a bit of bread or a piece of meat. Even if you chase it off, it comes back. Would to God we poor men might be more like them…”

So it is that our Canaanite woman catches Jesus in His own words.  He calls her a dog, and her response is “yes, Lord, and even the dogs get fed from the master’s table!”  She will cling to these words of our Lord as a burr does to your clothes (Katie Luther).

 

In 1941, the newly elected Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, met at the Harrow school and gave a speech. It was shortly after the Blitz, while London was being bombed almost to oblivion.  It wasn’t a long speech, but here is the line that concerns us here.  Churchill said,

Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Today God invites you to persistence.  He invites you to come to Him with boldness and confidence, as dear children come to their dear father.  He invites you to come to Him like our Canaanite woman, like blind Bartemaeus, like the Centurion, like Joseph, and yes, even like Jesus Himself prayed to the Father in the Garden.  He says to you, NEVER GIVE UP.

 

Dearly baptized, suffering remains for the night, but eternity comes at the break of day.  Job suffered for seven years, then prospered for one hundred and forty.  Joseph suffered for thirteen years, then ruled over Egypt for many more.  Yet even if the relief for your hardships does not come in this life, it will come in the next.  God promises you an end like Simeon, when you may depart in peace.  He promises never to leave you or forsake you.  He promises to hear your cries, and to answer them every single time.

Sometimes the answer may seem no more than a crumb., a pittance of a promise against all the forces of evil.  But with that crumb, that drop of His blood comes everything He won for you in His death and resurrection.  The crumbs and drops can move mountains, create faith, give hope, and draw you into Him.  We pray it this way in the hymn,

Thou, like the pelican to feed her brood,

 

Didst pierce Thyself to give us living food;

Thy blood, O Lord, one drop has pow’r to win

Forgiveness for our world and all its sin.

Or if we want something more appropos to our text today,

The Lord His little dogs adores,

 

And from His table crumbs He pours;

Wait but on Christ, who satisfies,

With bounteous grace—’tis sure advice.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

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