Lent 2 — Reminiscere 2018

Text: St. Matthew 15:21-28, Reminiscere 2018 A. X D.  (Redeemer-Ft. Wayne)
Theme: On the Cross, Faith, and Prayer

In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Lord lays a cross on us all – even St. Paul complained about a thorn in his flesh. And no man chooses his own cross. Who would choose their daughter to be severely possessed by demons or to flee from before his own brother? God tempts no one, but He does lay a cross of suffering and tribulation, affliction and adversity upon you…and it’s not a bad thing. It’s given to discipline your flesh that you would learn to control your body in holiness and honor.

Jesus is a Refiner’s Fire purifying your faith through the cross like gold and silver, tempering it like steel. By the cross, Jesus pulls out all that is impure and weak within you, all remaining excuses of self-reliance and self-justification. By it, He draws you closer to Himself. But fire hurts.

That’s why the flesh hates the cross. Faith, or so we’re told, should be easy and, once you believe in Jesus, everything in this life OK. Isn’t it easier to measure the proof of God’s favor in prosperity and reputation?

But look around you. What the flesh doesn’t understand, what you so often forget – especially when the economy crashes; when rust and moths destroy; when thieves break in and steal; when the whims of men change, you lose your job, fight with your family, schools become warzones, and you and your loved ones are surrounded by evil on every side – is that God does not promise an easy and happy life now in His Word. Your emotions are not the same thing as faith. Emotions and possessions are not proof of God’s love and favor. If they were, when trial and tribulation comes, wouldn’t that mean God never loved you to begin with?

Or perhaps you do feel sin’s burden and the pains of affliction but it seems God doesn’t answer. St. Paul prayed three times that the thorn be taken from him and Christ said, “No. My grace, made perfect in weakness, is sufficient for you.” Here, today, He even seems to stand opposed to this poor Canaanite mother in silence, in rebuke, and even in insult.

You know exactly how this feels. And those are the times when the devil, the world, and your fallen flesh rise up with lies and deceptions. Like he did in the Garden, Satan tells you “no” or “not yet” means God is a liar who’s holding out on you. Or that He’s abandoned you.

The cross, though it seems strange and even hurts, is not contrary to the Faith…though we like to imagine it is. God disciplines those whom He loves. Through the cross, He strengthens and purifies your faith, bringing about steadfast faith in Him and the right confession. By it, Jesus smashes all your idols with His holy Cross, tearing the demons away from you, and planting you firmly in His pierced side.

Learn steadfast, obstinate faith and how to pray, then, from both Jacob and the Canaanite woman. A fugitive on the run with a stolen birthright, Jacob yet wrestled with the Lord Jesus and would not let go until He blessed him. Jacob cries out for God’s Name, but the blessing is in the changing of his name. No longer who he was but strengthened, purified, and made new, he goes to face Esau.

So also the Canaanite mother. She holds Jesus to His Word and promise and will not let go. She cries out, “Be who You are – the Incarnate Lord, the Divine Son of David who hears prayer, who has come to trample Satan underfoot and to claim the victory over Death and Hell – be who You are and do not let my enemies triumph over me!” She falls down to worship Him, firmly clinging to the Good News she’d heard concerning Him and never gives up – even when experience and Jesus’ “un-Jesus” like responses would tell her otherwise. Her faith is tried and purified and she makes the good confession. Her daughter is healed instantly.

Note also the two parts of her confession. Jesus says, “It is not right to throw the children’s bread to the dogs.” And she says, “Yes, Lord.” She agrees with what He says. When you confess your sin, agree with what Jesus says about it in the Bible. Say the same thing about it that He does – that it’s vile and disgusting, separating you from God and damning you to Hell, that it requires Satisfaction.

Secondly, then, she confesses her need of His grace and mercy. As the Blessed Virgin, at Cana’s wedding, simply lays out the problem of no wine, so this mother says, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Master’s table.” Such is the extravagant loving-kindness and mercy of Jesus that even a crumb of whatever He might do or give is more than enough. But He doesn’t give her a crumb. Jesus blesses her and her daughter as was Jacob blessed. They are changed and the demons gone.

Neither do you receive a crumb but the only-begotten Son given into death upon the holy Cross and His Holy Spirit there breathed out for you. When you struggle with Him in prayer and in trial and tribulation, He will not and does not abandon you. Jesus desires to be caught in His Word. That cross He has laid on you is for your sanctification – you are called in holiness. Tribulation produces perseverance, perseverance character, character hope, and hope in Christ Jesus never disappoints. No matter what reason or experience may say, you are God’s own beloved in His Son.

And He changes your name in Holy Baptism, placing His own Name upon you and making you new. He drives the demons from you in Absolution. He joins Himself intimately with you in the Holy Communion. No matter what you suffer and endure in this life, Jesus brings you through to Himself, bestowing His Gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation upon you. Because He is your Sacrifice and Satisfaction given to open the Kingdom of Heaven to you once more, who has wrestled sin, Death, and the devil and claimed the victory, all things do indeed work together for your good and to His Glory.

So maybe your prayers aren’t answered how you desire or as soon as you expect, but Jesus does hear your prayer. Perhaps they are answered immediately, perhaps before you even ask, or perhaps He teaches you trust and patience. Whatever it may be, Jesus always gives what is needed more than anything: the forgiveness of your sins by His holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death. Jesus strengthens and fortifies you and your faith, in His Body and Blood, both to bear your cross in this life and against the further assaults and temptations of Hell. Your cries do not go unanswered.

And if you are a dog at the Lord’s Table, then Jesus is your loving Master who calls you by name to sit in His lap as He calls you good and beloved, holy and just. Your Master loves you and feeds you from His own hand not with crumbs or even the bread of children but with His own Body and Blood, crucified and raised again. Here you see God in the Flesh face-to-face and your life is delivered.

Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love, for they have ever been from of old. Let not mine enemies triumph over me. God of Israel, deliver us out of all our troubles.

In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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