Sunday, August 30, 2020

Luke.7.36-50; Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 30, 2020;

Luke.7.36-50; Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 30, 2020; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; 36One of the Pharisees [Simon] asked him [Jesus] to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50 (ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Well, Jesus is certainly using a “teachable moment” here, isn’t he? And what a nice little story he uses too. It’s so simple and so easy to understand. Two guys owe lots of money. We’re talking a year and half’s wages for the one and a month and a half for the other. It’s a lot of money and neither of them can pay the debt so the moneylender cancels it all and send them on their way. “Who’s going to love the moneylender more?” It’s simple and obvious. The story is about loving the moneylender because he cancels debt. It’s all about forgiveness, isn’t it? God forgives our un-payable debt. We respond in love. It is straight forward. But I wonder do you see something funny in this parable? Do you see something just a little bit out of whack? I think you should. Jesus does this all the time. He tells a little story to make a point… but the story is deceptively simple. The meaning is usually buried much deeper that we think at first. And the more we dig in the more the point becomes clear. One of the best ways to understand Jesus parables is to find that little fact that seems to be out of joint… that little thing in the parable that isn’t quite right… the thing that would never happen. Think about the parable of the Good Samaritan. We all know it very well. A traveler is beat up on the road. Three likely helpers just walk right by, but the unlikely helper, the man’s mortal enemy actually stops to help. And he doesn’t just help he goes above and beyond. He sacrifices himself for the sake of his enemy. The story is out of balance. The unexpected happens. And Jesus makes his point. He’s the person who sacrifices himself for his enemy, doing what is unexpected, doing the unthinkable. So, what about this one? What’s out of balance here? What’s the thing that would never happen? Well, it’s not that people get into debt beyond their ability to pay. We see that every day. No, the thing that’s not as we would expect is for the money lender to cancel the debt. Now this guy is a “moneylender” (Greek δανιστής) He isn’t just a relative who is helping these guys out with a little loan. He’s in the business of lending money. He’s given them money expecting his money back with interest. He’s a banker. It’s his business to make loans and collect interest. No self-respecting loan shark is going to make money by canceling debt. He’d never be able to collect on any loan again. And yet, this one does cancel the debt. In spite of the tremendous debt that is owed, he lets his debtors off the hook. That’s the peak of attention here. This unlikely banker forgives the debt… of course the guys who owed him are going to love him. He’s done the unbelievable and the unthinkable. He’s not thrown them and their families into prison. He’s not broken their legs. He’s not held them accountable at all. They are walking away owing nothing. And Jesus asks the question that brings the whole point home. “Now which one will love him more?” That brings us to the dinner, the place that Jesus told the story and the place that made for him the “teachable moment.” It also brings us to the dinner’s host. Jesus is telling this parable at a dinner feast in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Now let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly. It’s easy for us to hear the word Pharisee and think “bad guy.” That’s not really the case. Especially in his own community Simon the Pharisee is a respected person. He’s a law-abiding citizen. He’s a community leader worthy of respect. People look up to him to do what’s expected. That includes have a dinner conversation with a traveling preacher who has won the hearts of the people. So, Simon invites Jesus to a festival dinner. But we also learn that Simon is a skeptic. Along with doing what’s expected he also wants to find out if Jesus is really the prophet people are saying he is. Simon apparently has his doubts. And in fact, as we learn, Simon must not think very much of Jesus at all. Because even though Jesus has been invited to eat and to speak, he hasn’t been treated with even the common courtesies that are normally offered to guests. Jesus isn’t welcomed to the house warmly with the customary kiss, his feet aren’t washed to remove the remnants of the dusty road, and there is no olive oil given to cool his head. Simon wants Jesus to show his true colors, but Simon already thinks he knows who Jesus is and what he is not. That’s what the dinner really is about. But he doesn’t expect Jesus is worth all the fuss. Now there is something unexpected that happens here, too. The party is crashed by and unexpected guest. “A woman of the city, who was a sinner,” comes in and makes a scene. And what a scene it is. Uninvited, she does what Simon the host has neglected to do. She washes Jesus feet. She pours oil on him and she greets him with a kiss, but not in the normal sense at all. There’s no towel and basin, it’s not ordinary oil, or even regular manner of kissing. It’s all out of the ordinary and unexpected. She washes Jesus feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She uses expensive myrrh instead of common olive oil. And the kisses she gives, well they go overboard. Not a kiss of greeting on the cheek, but non-stop kisses on Jesus’ feet. It’s safe to say that even though it all seems to be going overboard; this woman is expressing great love for Jesus. And, it seems, in many ways she doesn’t think she’s doing enough. She makes a scene, and she doesn’t care what people think. For Simon, the whole scene is disgusting, and it confirms his suspicions of Jesus. Simon is thinking “Well, that settles it… he’s no prophet… no self-respecting prophet would let a woman like that touch him like that.” In his mind the dinner is over. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Nothing Jesus could say now would be important for him to hear. This woman doesn’t belong in his house and neither does Jesus. And that’s the teachable moment… “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Go ahead teacher.” Simon replies lightly. “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” “Well,” Simon answered carefully sensing a trap, “I guess the one who had the bigger debt.” “You have judged rightly.” And then Jesus himself breaks all the rules of common courtesy as he points out Simon’s failures, “Simon, you see this woman. All the things that you should have done for me when I came to your house, she has done, and even more. You didn’t wash my feet; she did it with her tears and hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss; she can’t stop kissing my feet. You didn’t even give me simple oil for my head, but she has put expensive oil my feet. Her sins, which you know as well as I they are many, are really completely forgiven. Her love is like the love of one who has had a great debt forgiven, because she has been forgiven much. Those who have been forgiven only a little bit, only love a little bit.” For Simon and his guests, the point is obvious. Her sins are forgiven by Jesus, her love for Jesus shows that it is true. “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus confirms. This woman, sinner that she is, sees Jesus for who he really is. He has forgiven her sins. She owes him everything. Simon hasn’t even showed the least amount of love to Jesus, he has shown only contempt and doubt. Simon is not the debtor who loves much. But it is also true that Simon is not the debtor who loves little. Actually, it’s far worse than that for him. Simon sees no need for forgiveness at all. All he can see is a sinful woman who is overdoing it. And what do we see? Is it all too theatrical for us? The wetting of Jesus feet with tears and wiping them with hair; Kissing his feet and anointing them with oil? Does it seem to us to be overdone, bordering on hysterical? Do we sit with Simon thinking that we are better than she is? Well maybe that’s because we haven’t fully come to grips with the debt we owe. Or the price paid to cancel it. We can easily find examples of our loveless ness; our failures to be welcoming to people who we don’t want around here. So much of our life is spent as if Jesus doesn’t mean anything at all us. We don’t want to make a scene in public. We are afraid to show our love for Jesus outside of these walls. We don’t defend the truth that he teaches us in his Word. And when we do make a public statement of faith, it is usually so generic that could very well be any god at all we refer to. But our problem is more than just a little stage fright. And we well know the problem is much deeper than that. Sin is so much a part of our everyday life, so much a part of us and everything that we do, that we can’t get rid of it. No matter how much effort we give, we can’t remove it. No number of tears will drive it away from us. Jesus didn’t forgive the woman because she showed him great love. She was forgiven because she knew that she was helpless to do anything about her sin. She was forgiven because in her great need for forgiveness she turned to the One she knew could forgive. Jesus Christ didn’t become human flesh to dine with angels. God became a living breathing man to come into contact with living breathing, and sinful people. The point of the parable, the point of Luke whole account of this “teachable moment” is that God does what isn’t expected, he does what he doesn’t have to do. The debt we owe is more than we can pay. It’s not the amount that matters. Any debt that one is unable to pay is trouble. A poisonous snake is deadly poison even at a few inches. Our debt of sin can be paid only with our death and eternal separation from God. The woman’s sins were forgiven by the skin and blood, and innocent suffering and death of the very flesh that she knelt and kissed with her own lips. The body that she washed with tears and dried with her hair was the very body that was pinned to the cross for her sins. The oil that she poured on his feet was poured on the very place that iron would pierce for her. Now when we see the cost of the debt, and the greatness of our sin for the first time we may not break down in tears, but we can better understand the woman doing what this woman has done. Jesus forgives your unpayable debt. The sin that seeps up from the darkness that is in your heart has been taken care of by him. The amount of the debt isn’t important. You need what Jesus did just as much as the “sinner from the street.” You need the forgiveness Jesus gives just as much as the “delinquent” members of our church. So today, sinners that we are, we turn to Jesus, the only one who can forgive. We may not drop our tears on his feet, or pour any oil, but our love is great, because we know that we know how much we have been forgiven. There is an old hymn that says it as well as I could. Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me By: Augustus M. Toplady 1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee; Let the water and the blood, From thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure: Cleanse me from its guilt and power. 2. Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill thy law’s demands; Could my seal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and thou alone. 3. Nothing n my hand I bring; Simply to thy cross I cling. Naked, come to thee for dress; Helpless, look to thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me Savior, or I die. 4. While I draw this fleeting breath, When mine eyelids close in death, When I soar to worlds unknown, See thee on thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee; Hymn # 361 from Lutheran Worship Author: Thomas Hastings Tune: Toplady 1st Published in: 1776 Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Matthew.16.13-20; The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; 26-Aug-2020;

Matthew.16.13-20; The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; 26-Aug-2020;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marias, MN;

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 ESV)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

Well, the confession doesn’t get any clearer than that. “Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.”  Peter surely doesn’t understand all the implications of the confession, but he is saying something miraculous. The man, Jesus, his friend, his teacher, standing before him, breathing the same air, eating the same food, wearing out the same sandal leather, this human being is from God, himself; the promised Messiah; the Christ.  Christ is a title that means “the anointed one.”  Saying that Jesus is the anointed one is saying that he is the one set aside and appointed to do a specific task for God. The specific task of the Christ is to save God’s people from their sin. Peter was saying exactly that. He knew who the Messiah was supposed to be and why he was supposed to come. That’s the promise of God that Peter heard from his parents and his church. That’s the promise of God throughout Peter’s bible.

Peter may be thinking about the promise made in the garden:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

It means that Satan is defeated. He won’t have control over God’s people anymore. This is the first promise of what the Messiah, the Christ, is going to do.

Peter may have been thinking about the promise made to Abraham as he sheathed the knife that was held at Isaac’s throat. God tells Abraham to take his son, his only hope for the future, and offer him as a sacrifice, a burnt offering. Abraham faithfully obeys all the way to placing the knife against the soft flesh of his son’s neck. God intervenes and provides a substitute and a promise. A ram is caught in the thorns. The lamb’s life is sacrificed in place of Isaac’s. Isaac is spared. A different sacrifice is given. Its blood is shed instead. And God promises Abraham:

and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18 ESV)

This event isn’t just a picture of Abraham’s willingness to do what God said. It is a picture of faith, but also a picture of the object of the faith. It is a picture story of the Christ and Peter’s confession of faith. Jesus is the substitute in death for the sin of the world. Jesus is The Lamb of God, who comes to take away the sin of the world.

Peter may have even been thinking about the confessions of the prophets. Like King David who writes in Psalm 22 the very words Jesus uses on the cross:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1 ESV)

Jesus is suffering the just punishment for sin. He uses David’s words (which are God’s Words) to describe it. God turns away from Jesus. God abandons Jesus to punishment and death and hell. Jesus receives the just punishment for sin, eternal separation from God, that’s exactly what hell is. The just punishment for sin is poured out on Jesus on the cross.

Peter may have been thinking about Isaiah. He describes the Christ as the one who carries the load of sin. The Messiah is the one who removes the punishment of the sins of the world, by bearing its burden.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)

All this is Peter’s confession. It comes from God’s Word. All this is what it means when Peter says that Jesus is the Christ. It is something miraculous and amazing. He didn’t just figure it out on his own, God, the Holy Spirit revealed it to him. God, the Holy Spirit spoke through him. And it isn’t just the words that are amazing it’s also the fact that Peter utters them so clearly without reservation. In this instance Peter lives us to his nickname, the Rock. He is rock solid, faithful, and confessional.

My friends in Christ, Peter’s confession is our confession.  “Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.”  We’ve said it already a half a dozen times this morning. We’ll say it more times before our worship time is through. It is one of the reasons we gather as a congregation; to say clearly what God has given us to say about Jesus; to confess our faith in Jesus as the Messiah, our Savior from sin, death and hell.  To worship God by proclaiming who He is and what He has done for us.

Peter gives a great confession. But he very shortly erases all that he said. When Jesus tells the disciples all what it really means to be the Christ, Peter reacts outside of his clear confession.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21-23 ESV)

Jesus sets Peter in his place. It’s as if he says, “You’ve forgotten what you just confessed. You are off topic. You’ve got something else at the center instead of me, and my life, death and resurrection, all that I have come to do. You are listening to Satan speaking to your heart instead of the Holy Spirit that spoke in your confession before. Get back on track. I am at the center. Confess me again as the Christ. Keep clear what I have come to do for you.”

But we are no different than Peter. Life happens. Stuff happens. Roofs leak. There are bills to pay. Pastors come and go. Long faithful members die. Communities change. Families fight and struggle for power. We worry and fret about survival. And our confession evaporates in a cloud of trouble. Jesus is not at the center anymore. So, our Lord Jesus rebukes us. “Get behind me Satan. You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but instead the things of man have been put at the center.”

Jesus puts us in our place. “You’ve forgotten what you just confessed. You are off topic. You’ve got something else at the center instead of me, and my life, death and resurrection. You are listening to Satan speaking to your heart instead of the Holy Spirit that spoke in your confession before. Get back on track. I am at the center. Confess me as the Christ. Keep clear what I have come to do for you.”

How do we survive at such criticism? How do we react to God’s Word that convicts us of our sin? It is all in the confession. It is in the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, come into the world to bring us forgiveness of sin. This isn’t some un-practical, un-relevant thing. You and I are sinful. We tend push Jesus out of the center. We do it not only as the church, but also in our personal lives. As we just heard:

“… we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.”  (Divine Service, Setting Four, LSB, p. 203)

Life happens. Stuff happens. Our sin comes to the surface again and again. We pay for it over and over again, broken church, broken lives, broken promises, and broken friendships.  It never ends as long as we live. We cannot free ourselves. And more than that, when we die in our sin, without faith in Jesus, there is only eternal punishment. There is nothing more relevant, more important than the message spoken by Peter, “Jesus, you are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

My dear Christian friends, today I come to you to proclaim exactly what I did the first time I spoke from this pulpit. With Jesus there is forgiveness. There is forgiveness in Jesus only. He has forgiveness for your failures, forgiveness for your broken promises, forgiveness for your thinking more of money than of Jesus, forgiveness for thinking that it is your job to save the church, forgiveness for thinking of yourselves first instead of others.  Forgiveness is all here, in Jesus Christ. It is found here at the font, where born sinful people are washed clean and adopted by God; where sin is washed away forever, where God’s promises put on people with His name.  It is found in Jesus on the cross. It is found in Jesus in His holy and precious blood shed for you. You receive it right here in, with and under bread and wine, Jesus’ special meal for you.

Quia semper pecco, semper debeo accipere medicinam. Because I always sin, I always ought to take the medicine (Lord’s Supper). St. Ambrose

It is found in his suffering and death as payment for the debt you owe for your sin. It is found in his bearing of your grief and sorrow over sin. He is wounded for your transgressions. He is crushed for your iniquities.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:3-4 ESV)

What does that forgiveness mean? It means that as life happens, as stuff happens, our sin is taken care of. We can serve each other without fear. The things we do for one another are washed clean of sin. Our self-serving motives are taken to the grave by Jesus. Dear Christians, confess with me and Saint Peter, the confession that makes all the difference for us. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Matthew 15.21-28; Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, August 16, 2020

 Matthew 15.21-28; Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

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. (Matthew 15:21-28, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Great is your faith!”  That’s what Jesus says about this Canaanite woman.  It’s pretty amazing, considering that at first, he doesn’t even listen to her. There she is crying out again and again, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” Have mercy on me… Have mercy on me…  But [Jesus] didn’t answer her a word. Nothing at all. Not a peep… not a whisper… nothing at all. In fact, you might infer from the way that Matthew, the Gospel writer puts it, that Jesus flat out ignored her. But she’s persistent in her plea for help, so much so, that the disciples get tired of it. “Get rid of her. Tell her to go home. Remind her that she’s not worthy. Send her away, for she is crying out after us. If it doesn’t bother you, Jesus, we’re telling you now that she is bugging the heck out of us.

It’s pretty clear what the disciples though of her. She was and outsider. Not a member of Club Jesus. She was outside the loop. A dirty beggar looking for a free handout. One of those folks that just take what you give for free and abuse it. If she gets a handout today, I’ll bet you’d find her buying cigarettes or beer tomorrow. She doesn’t even know how to keep quiet in church. Her kids were probably ill behaved, too. Can’t you see the looks she must have been getting? You know the ones. They say, “Hey, can’t you keep quiet, I can’t hear what Jesus is saying… to me. I can’t concentrate on Jesus with all your bellyaching.”  Well, the disciples were just being human. They are reacting just as you and I react all the time. We are incredibly careful in helping, or as the woman was asking, “showing mercy.”  We like to hold back until we see a sign that the help we offer will be received correctly. We like to hold back until we see a sign that it will be received by a person who is worthy of our help. We hold back our real welcome until “unacceptable” behavior changes. After all we don’t want to be taken advantage of. We don’t want to be enable rotten behavior. But most of all we don’t want to act in any way that would give anyone the impression that we don’t value money. After all there’s nothing worse than wasting money on people who don’t deserve help. There is no greater sin than being over generous.

Well, maybe the disciples were taking their cue from Jesus. After all, he didn’t say anything to her. He didn’t encourage her. He didn’t rebuke her and tell her to be quiet. Nothing. So, the disciples must have thought that he was agreeing with the way they felt. They must have thought that all Jesus needed was a little nudging to get rid of the annoyance, so that they could all get back to the important business at hand… so that everything could get back to normal… without rude interruption.  Send her away…” they said to Jesus.

[Jesus] answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Those words might have set the disciples faces to grins. They might have even been thinking about turning to the woman and giving her the brush off. For once, something Jesus said seemed to agree with the way they were thinking. Instead of the phrase, “you of little faith…”  Instead of feeling lost and confused, Jesus seemed to agree with what they thought. For once they were right, they thought. There was no place for this woman in their crowd. There was no place for this non-Jewish woman among them. Her problems were hers to deal with. They had more important things to do. But the woman wasn’t about to cooperate. She took one last stab a Jesus’ attention. She pushed through the disciples to get to Jesus and fell at his feet, shouting, “Lord, help me!” 

The next words Jesus speaks just don’t feel right. It’s not the kind of response to a hurting person that we expect from Jesus. We might scratch our heads in wonder because the words seem callous… almost rude. It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. How could the man who let people touch the tassels of his robe to be healed say such a thing to a needy person? How could the man who restored a man’s withered hand begrudge this woman what she sought? How could the one who said, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, ESV)  Turn this woman away. 

But the woman’s response is also just as unexpected. Her response is really at the heart of what’s going on here. Her response opens up her heart and shows us what’s inside. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  At first look you might think that she’s disagreeing with what Jesus says. Especially the way it’s usually translated. “Yes, Lord, yet…” or “Yes, Lord, but…”  But she’s what she’s saying is really more like “Of course not, Lord, the dogs get their own food from the scraps that fall from the table.  The children are taken care of but so are the dogs. Each in a way that is appropriate. Think about the dog lover who drops food to the floor for the dog. The dogs aren’t neglected. They receive what’s left over from the table.

So, what’s so great about what she says? What’s so profound? What’s so exceptional about the faith she expresses here? Well, this woman, this outsider, this gentile, is absolutely convinced that Jesus has something for her. She is sure that Jesus isn’t just for the disciples. She is sure that Jesus will help her. She shows it in her persistence. She shows it in her words. Her faith isn’t in her ability to speak to Jesus. It isn’t in the disciples. She has faith in Jesus. He is the one, the only one, who can save. Great faith is great not because of the one with faith but because of the object of that faith. She sees Jesus clearly as one who can and will help. She sees Jesus for who he really is… just as she spoke earlier, “O Lord, Son of David…” words that say she recognizes Jesus as the promised Savior of the Jews, but also as her promised Savior.  The author of Hebrews says it like this, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)

“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Jesus heals the daughter. But don’t think of what Jesus does as a reward for the woman’s “Great faith.”   It is nothing less than she expects from Jesus. Jesus heals because he is gracious. Jesus heals because he has mercy. Jesus heals to show that faith in him is well placed. He speaks his words of praise to her for the sake of the others who were listening. The disciples would have sent her away, like we might have done, too. It was Peter who rightly spoke that he wouldn’t leave Jesus because he had the words of eternal life. Yet, he expected this woman to be forced away. Faith held her there, faith in God through Jesus Christ. She would not be sent away.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV)

Jesus demonstrates his exceptional mercy in action. He demonstrated it through the healing of the woman’s daughter… but he demonstrated it even more clearly at the cross. It was because his cries for mercy there went unanswered that God hears our cries for mercy now. God, the Father, turned his back on his only begotten son on the cross. It is the rejection that we should experience. It is the punishment that should be ours for disregarding the law of God. It is the punishment we earn for our unwillingness to give help where help is needed simply because we think it won’t be appreciated, or properly received. We should be sent away, outsiders from God, no better than that woman from Canaan. But we too, know what she knew.  Jesus is for us. Because of Jesus death and resurrection, we are gathered to God. It isn’t because we are worthy, quite the contrary we are wholly unworthy. It’s because we have faith in Jesus to be for us exactly what he promises to be, and to do for us exactly what he promises to do.

Martin Luther once said, “Faith clings to the Word in the heart and does not doubt the Word.”  What he means is this: 

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Creed)

That’s the great faith that Jesus is talking about. The faith that the Canaanite woman had, believing that Jesus was for her. That’s what we believe too. Jesus for me, Jesus for you. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Isaiah 55:1-3; Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; August 2, 2020;

Isaiah 55:1-3; Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; August 2, 2020;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

So, have you ever been really thirsty? Or really hungry? I don’t mean just a little, I mean really, really thirsty; hot, and dry and parched. Your tongue gets thick and stiff, and sticks to your teeth and the roof of your mouth. Your lips crack and if you lick them, they just get more dry instead of less. You can pull dry layers of skin from them, too. Even your eyes seem to be dry and the wind burns in them. That’s dry. How about hungry that’s more than just a little rumble in your stomach. I remember a time when I worked for my cousin on his garbage truck. It was a cold January day. He was sick and needed someone to help run the route. I bundled up and made the rounds. It was a smelly, dirty, exhausting job. But what I remember most was lunchtime. I had worked extremely hard and I was very hungry and very thirsty. Lunch was packed for us… a large jar of water, clear and wet, and simple cheese and mayo sandwiches. I drank the water like I never had before. And never had cheese and mayo tasted so good. We ate and napped and then went back to work. It was a long and hard day.

Hunger and thirst are universally understood. Everyone’s been hungry and thirsty at sometime in their life. There are some who are always hungry and always thirsty, they are literally starving. It’s sad to realize that there is well enough food to feed everyone, and yet millions are on their way to death from starvation. It is particularly difficult to see when it involves young children.

The children of Israel were thirsty and hungry, too. After settling into the Promised Land they had basically ignored God, the one who had rescued them from Egyptian slavery, and given them the land. They went through the motions, but it was empty worship. It was empty action without real meaning. Isaiah asked them “Who’s your real king? Are you trusting in earthly kings, are you trusting in foreign kings? You shouldn’t be you should be trusting in your God.” But, life went on for them. They ignored Isaiah’s pleas to the people to return to the true king, God, YHWH the one who had chosen them and saved them.

“Watch out!” He said. “Babylon is coming, and you are going to be taken into exile. Everything you have now, your wealth, your families, and even land is going to be taken from you. You will be taken to a far away land.” His words went unheeded… Babylon came and conquered the land and the people, and the survivors were hauled off into slavery and exile. Earthly things and kings had failed them. They had lost everything. They were thirsty and hungry for things to be different.

You see, Isaiah wasn’t talking about a famine where food and water were scarce; he was talking about spiritual hunger and thirst. And that too is something we understand. The world is thirsty and hungry, actually starving to death, and not even aware of why. People everyday search for meaning in their lives. They go to every well and banquet they can find. What they are experiencing doesn’t seem all that bad, it is a less immediate hunger and thirst, but it is no less dangerous. Famine and drought are common today, even in areas (especially?) where there is plenty to eat and drink. If you know and watch people at all you know you don’t have to look far to find emptiness. For lots of people life is a void, an undefined dissatisfaction with the way things are, even though they have all they could ever want or need. Most people that we come into contact with every day are filled with good, and yet they feel that something is lacking. People today are spiritually hungry and thirsty. Many are actually starving and parched, even in the midst of plenty. In their search for satisfaction people stuff themselves with a steady diet of spiritual junk food. Sects and cults have never been more popular. There is a constant demand for spiritual gurus and advisors. People are turning to television personalities to answer spiritual questions of life and death. But the food they are eating is food without spiritual value. And the drink they are guzzling doesn’t quench their thirst. In fact, they are overweight from eating, and still starving. They are waterlogged from drinking and dying from dehydration. It is all poison. Instead of leading of to health, it all leads to death.

Jackie was happy, she thought, and yet something was still missing. She had been happily married for so long, it was difficult to remember a time when she wasn’t a wife. Her children were grown and successful and happy. She had everything she needed and most everything she wanted. Her husband was highly successful, too. They were comfortable, if not well off. But ever increasingly she felt as if something was missing. There was a vague dissatisfaction in her life but she just couldn’t put her finger on what it was. It was a longing for something unknown and illusive.

Jackie had many friends and acquaintances. Gloria seemed very much like her. But there was a difference. Very frequently she had invited Jackie to attend a bible study with her. Finally, she gave in for the sole reason of being able to say that she had tried it, and put the request to sleep for good. At the gathering one of the women read this text.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. Isaiah 55:1-3

Jackie was startled. Were the words talking to her? Is that what her problem was? Is that why she felt so empty? Was she spending her life in pursuit of things that didn’t really satisfy? What exactly was being offered in those words that would fill the emptiness?

Maybe today you are hungry and thirsty, too. You’ve had questions about running here and there trying to do everything that needs to be done, and yet you wonder if it’s all worth it. Year after year you do the same thing, standing on the assembly floor, sitting in the tractor seat, cleaning the same carpet, feeding hogs in the same building. Work has provided you with everything you need, and most of what you want. It’s all going very well, but maybe you’ve said to yourself there has to be more. So, you do more. Social clubs, sports teams, fair boards, and more… but there is still that little emptiness in there, a thirsting for more, a hunger that isn’t ever really quite satisfied. I’ve been there too. It’s an easy place to get to. It’s easy to be hungry and wanting, and thirsty for what seems elusive.

I’ve got good news for you. No, I’m not going to pass around a jug of water, and some cheese sandwiches. Actually, Isaiah has good news for you. It’s the same good news he had for the people of Israel. Remember they were hungry and thirsty, too. “Come all who are thirsty…” he said to them. You’ve forgotten who your true King is, you are wondering around looking for something you can’t find. Come to your God and King and he will satisfy you. He is what you’ve crowded out of your life with all of life’s troubles and problems, wants and desires.

God is there for you to calling to you to come… It’s not that you don’t know who he is, and what he has done for you in Jesus Christ, but it’s easy to let “more practical” concerns set Jesus aside. I’ll get back to Jesus when I have time. But, before you know it your thirsty again, and hungry for that missing something. The missing something is Jesus.

Remember the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. She was drawing water for drinking. Jesus asked her for a drink.

“I can’t do that,” she said, “I’m an outcast and you’re not. I a Samaritian.”

Jesus answered her; “If you knew who I am you’d be asking me for living water. Anyone who drinks of it will never be thirsty again.”

“That’s the water I want! I’d not have to make tiring trips to the well every day.”

“Go get your husband.”

“I don’t have one.” She answered.

“Yes, I know.” Jesus said, “You’ve had 5 husbands and now your living with a man. It looks to me like you want more than just water from this well. You won’t find what you’re looking for it in those men. You’ll find it in me.”

It’s when we find our life lacking, when we are hungry and thirsty that we hear the words of Isaiah and Jesus as Good News. What is truly and finally satisfying is a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the bread of life. He gives the water of life. He has a never-ending banquet of food and drink. With Jesus “my cup overflows.” When we partake of Jesus Christ, through faith, we are not disappointed. He gives us what we really need: The Bread of God.

Here in this place God feeds us with the Good News about Jesus Christ. Here we are fed by words that travel through the air to reach us and tell us what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. How he fills that elusive empty feeling, that space that can’t be filled. He shed his blood for you and he did it so that you’d never be hungry and thirsty again. He took your sins to the cross and sacrificed himself there for you, so that you could have a relationship with him forever.

But, God knows you need more than just colorful metaphors about his promises for you. He knows that your diet needs real food and real drink. It’s easy to say, “Come to me and I’ll give you what you need.” He does more than that; he actually gives you something to eat. And he gives it right here. Open up your hand and in it, God gives you the very Bread of Life. “Take and eat this is my body… take and drink this is my blood.” It’s more than just spiritual, ghostly eating. It’s real and physical. We receive Jesus in his body and in his blood right there in the bread and wine. God gives us food that is more than food, and drink that is more than drink. This is the blood of the covenant given for you for the forgiveness of sins.

While we live in this world, we’ll always be hungry and thirsty. We can’t get rid of our craving for food that doesn’t satisfy. Jesus gives us food that satisfies. Wholesome bread and living water to take care of what we need, and also to remind us of the time when we will be with him, sitting and eating and drinking in the banquet that will never end. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.