Reminiscere (Lent 2), 2014
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
March 16, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 15:21-28

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

What kind of church do you want? Do you want a church that’s really just a nightclub on Sunday mornings where a band plays and a singer sways to the emotion of the music; a scene built to play to your emotions and pump you up, making you fall in love with Jesus. Yeah, that’s in the Bible.

What about a church that’s really just a live variety show like those of yesteryear on TV? You know the ones: jokes and stories are told and skits are performed and there’s an MC we call pastor, and there’s always a lesson but it’s wrapped in comedy and down home common sense. Kinda like the Red-Green Show, or Garison Keeler’s “Prarie Home Companion”. Where we make fun of ourselves and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Yeah, that’s in the Bible.

Well what about a church wherein Jesus calls you a dog? One of those mangy beasts that returns to its own vomit. I know, you love your dog. You groom your dog and feed it and let it jump up in your lap and snuggle with it and all that stuff, some of you even have insurance for your dog. You take your dog hunting and fishing and play fetch with it. You even clean up your dog’s business. Your dog is your friend and companion. I get it. And I don’t want to insult your dog, but your dog is only that way because dogs are weak and dumb. They’ll go to any fire, no matter if the person that made the fire hates dogs or love them. They’ll eat anything if their stomach is hungry. Oh, I know, your dog is picky, but that’s because you pamper it. Leave alone for a few days and you’ll see how unpicky dogs really are. They truly do return to their own vomit.

I know I’m being tuned out by the dog-lovers among us, but a dog is a dog. It’s not a person. It’s an animal. And, frankly, it’s a low-end animal. It will befriend anyone who will care for it a bit and who’ll feed it. Apart from human interactions, dogs are little more than the dingos of Australia or the hyenas of Africa. They’re pack animals that scavenge and the weak are killed by the pack. In Jesus’ day dogs weren’t pets. The dogs of Scripture, not the dogs of that insane talking dog movies, or even the dogs of PetSmart. They were always strays, always nasty, always unwanted. Dogs are never cute and cuddly in Scriptures; they’re never man’s best friend. They’re always nasty and associated with disease and filth.

That’s the church this Canaanite woman got: the one where Jesus calls her a nasty, disease-ridden, unwanted dog. We like our dogs; dogs that are cute and cuddly and friendly. We don’t like the neighborhood stray that’s always coming around begging for food and trying to sneak in our garage. The dog that tears up our trash for a scrap of uneaten pizza. We hate that dog. That dog is a blight. We call the cops on that dog. (What a society we live in when we can call the cops on a dog!)

But we wouldn’t stand for it if the pastor called us a dog and ignored you… people have left for far less haven’t they? That’s why people love those other churches, the ones I described a few minutes ago. There’s no chance of being called a dog there. No way. Those churches are built on the idea of please ‘em and keep ‘em. Give ‘em what they want and they’ll keep coming and tithe their money and volunteer for your programs and be happy. They’ll even invite their friends. Look like the world and have the success of the world. And who doesn’t want to sparkle like Hollywood and sound like Nashville? Those places succeed and are fun and they would never, never, never call their customers dogs.

But Jesus did. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?

Oh, I know, those churches talk about Jesus, right? So do the demons. They even call Him the Son of God and know He is here to vanquish them. Knowing who Jesus is doesn’t make one a Christian. Faith makes a Christian. Faith like this Canaanite woman. Even though they are disease-ridden bags of worms, dogs have faith. Not the animals, but the dogs like this Canaanite woman.

True Christians are like the neighborhood stray: they hang around even when they are unwanted and chased off. They come back, even if only for a scrap of food. They know there is food and warmth with Jesus, so nothing deters them from following Him. Even when it seems as if He is ignoring them and not listening, when His disciples try to chase them off – those disciples who try to make Christianity look like the world. True Christians don’t abandon Christ in the Sacraments because one of the disciples offended them. True Christians don’t turn tail and run when there’s no money and no fun. True Christians are like Jacob, they will not let go until they have received their blessing; even when God has wounded them. They know that with God there is life and restoration and true peace. True Christians are like this woman of Canaan: they will not stop until they’ve received something from the Master.

Your faith, Christian, has saved you. Not your goodness and works of charity. Not your pedigree of Lutheran or American or being white or middle class. Your faith. And what is your faith? It is the tenacious grasp you have on the promises of God in Christ that He will save you and forgive you and love you to the end. So that even in the midst of your sin and shame you cry out with full assurance of being heard: “Lord, have mercy!” Even though you feel as though you don’t belong and that others are begging you to be silent and go away, you cry out with tenacity and boldness: “Lord, have mercy!”

You have caught the ear of the Savior. He has turned His attention to you. Here is His mercy. Your faith has saved you. Here is the Master’s table. And far from mere scraps, from it falls the Master’s body and blood for you. No matter your station in life, your income, your pedigree, or your sinful ways. Here His blood is poured out for you and here is Body is given to you that you may be whole; that you may be holy.

+ In Nomine Iesu +