Reminiscere (Lent 2 - 2016)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
February 21, 2016
Central Passage
Matthew 15:21-28

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

It’s only at the end of the struggle that the Lord blesses the faithful. It was only after Jacob had wrestled all night with the Angel of the Lord, who is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, and not just some angel, as the text makes clear, that the Lord then blesses him. It is only after being ignored and dismissed and insulted that the Lord blesses the Syro-Phoenician woman. And it is only after you have suffered the angst and troubles of this life, even suffering death, that the Lord will bless you with eternal life.

Dr. Luther said that what makes a theologian is oratio, meditatio, and tentatio. What makes a theologian is hearing the word of God, which gives way to prayer and meditation on God’s word, followed by tension or struggle between what we have heard and meditated on and the world around us, even our own flesh. But this 3-fold theologian maker isn’t like taking Theology 101, then 201, then 301, then you’re done. Rather it’s like learning to swim for the first time when the boat you’re on is sinking.

We hear the word of God, but the only reason we listen is because of some trouble we’re in. It might be as vague as our unknown day of death so we listen to the Man who walked out of the tomb. Or it may be a more specific sickness or trouble in our life such as family trouble or financial trouble, so we listen to the Man who promises to wipe away our tears and fill us with joy. And once we’ve heard the word with ears to hear, then we pray and meditate on it. This, then, leads to more struggle because the word is opposite what we experience in life. It promises peace and blessings, and what we get is war and trouble. And more trouble and struggle leads to more listening, which leads to more praying, which leads to greater temptation and struggle against the flesh.

And on and on it goes. This is the picture of Jacob wrestling with God. This is you wrestling with God. You don’t wrestle with God because you lack faith but because you have faith. And the greater your faith the stronger you are in your wrestling match. So much so that as day broke, the Lord perceived that He would not prevail against Jacob. Jacob’s great faith would overcome God! Same with the Canaanite dog of a woman. Her great faith would wear down and overcome the Lord.

What has the Lord promised? He has promised life and salvation, resurrection and peace with God. So that is what we wrestle for. He has promised to heal our diseases and take away our infirmities. So that is what we wrestle for. He has promised to wipe away our tears and fill us with joy and peace. So that is what we wrestle Him for.

Don’t stop wrestling. We stop wrestling when we doubt His promises – why engage the Lord if we don’t believe His promises? We stop wrestling when our faith has become sidetracked and we have been misled. This is what happens to so many Christians and why they no longer come to church, or why they start going somewhere that doesn’t preach the gospel or administer the Sacraments, but preaches peace now, prosperity now, the good life now. Such churches are synagogues of Satan.

But so many are misled and they begin to ignore God’s promises and listen to Satan’s promises. Remember Eve? She had God’s promise, which was life and paradise. But she began to listen to Satan’s promise. She should have wrestled with God. She should have turned to Adam who was with her and said, “Is what this serpent is saying true? Will we be like God?”

Then she would have heard the word of God and that would have been wrestling with God, which, interestingly enough, is what God wants.

God wants you to wrestle with Him. He wants you to ask Him as children ask their father, never giving up, content with his love but desiring his blessing and gifts. He wants you to be persistent, like the Canaanite woman, because persistence means faith and the Lord, above all, wants to nurture and grow your faith so that you would overcome even Him and obtain His blessing.

Don’t be afraid. God is not wrestling with you to destroy you or to have victory over you. In fact, He has given you the victory in Christ. You’re not wrestling with God because you’re afraid of the outcome and you want to stop the bad man, but because you believe God and you are set on receiving His blessing. So you continue to come to Him week after week to wrestle with Him. Here you present yourself as broken and sinful, unclean and undeserving, but here you also remind Him of His promises to you. Here you engage the Lord, not letting go until you have received His blessing.

And here He blesses you. He engages you. The Scripture gives a physical depiction of Jacob wrestling with God, but your wrestling looks different. Your wrestling looks like singing hymns and hearing the Word. Your wrestling with God looks like eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ. In the face of your weakness you claim His strength. In the face of your sin your claim His obedience. In the face of your death you claim His life. In the face of your misery your claim His everlasting joy.

You have been renamed in the waters of Holy Baptism. And the name you bear is child of God. Because ultimately Jesus, the true Jacob and the true Israel, wrestled God for you on the cross. And His name is placed on you you and covers you. You were called sinner and slanderer, murderer and God-haters, but now you are called God’s children. So you don’t wrestle with God hoping for a victorious outcome. You know the outcome. Jesus is risen from the dead. He won against sin and death. And His victory is yours. His righteousness is yours. His life is yours.

You are blessed of God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +