1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
That was the background of the woman who came to the Lord. She was from a lost, broken, beggarly people. They had once been mighty, once been giants on earth. But no longer. Not for a thousand years had anyone much spoken of the Canaanites. Moreover, she was not an Israelite. She had no claim to our Lord. In fact, Our Lord snubs her, utterly ignoring her when she first arrives on the scene shouting like a crazy person. He pretends she doesn’t exist. The disciples are all too aware of her existence though. Maybe its because they are on edge being in a foreign territory, a place known to be hostile to Jews. They say to the Lord, “Please, keep her quiet. Send her away. She’s acting crazy, shouting, shrieking after us and drawing attention to herself and to us. Letting everyone know we are Jews!”
And he answers them, “That’s not my problem. I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” implying that He was not sent for her. To which an observant person might say, “Then why have you left Israel’s territory and gone into a neighbouring nation’s territory if not for this one who believes in you?” The Canaanite woman is observant of this fact, and like an unruly beggar she gets in the midst of them, inserts herself where she is not wanted, invades their personal space, their comfort zone and demands, “Help me.” Finally, He speaks to her, rebuffing her, “It’s not right to take food for the children of the family right out of their mouths and put it instead in the mouths of the house pets who beg for scraps under the table.”
She sees her opening and she takes it! “Yes, Lord, you are right. Yet even those dogs get the leftovers, the scraps from their masters table.” In essence she says, “I am a dog. A beggar. That’s fine with me. Just give me the scraps of your merciful goodness. It will be enough!”
That is the faith that our Lord commends. She knows what she is, a beggar with nothing to offer in exchange, a scary, belligerent vagrant accosting Our Lord. Yet though you and I might get scared when a wine soaked beggar gets aggressive with us, not the Lord of heaven and earth. He commends her for this is faith. Faith in Christ is the admission that I am a beggar, a little dog looking for scraps, but I know who to beg from. I know who you are. You are the king. You are David’s Son. You sit on throne of salvation. You have all power and authority. You are mighty to save. You are the only one to beg from. Therefore, there is no shame in such begging. There is only self-damaging pride to not beg from the Lord God Almighty. For who else can save you or those you love?
Our spiritual father, Martin Luther, just before he breathed his last breath asked for a pen and wrote these words, “We are beggars it is true.” He knew who he was. A beggar before Almighty God. A beggar before Jesus our saviour. This day repent of any such thought that says that you are not a beggar. For we are all beggars.
But unlike we who hate to be confronted with a smelly street person who scares us, especially if they block our path and keep us from our goal, Our Lord loves beggars! He allows Himself to be conquered by them, to be trapped by them. He loves a beggar who keeps coming after Him, demanding that He be merciful to them. For that is faith! Christian Faith recognizes what you are, a beggar; who Jesus is, God Almighty; and acts on His promises. If He promises forgiveness then in faith you demand it of Him. If He promises to watch over and protect you, then in faith you demand it of Him. If He says He alone can heal, and He alone should be our God to whom we go to ask for all good things, that He is merciful, then you turn to Him demanding His mercy. For He allows Himself to be caught by you.
He didn’t have to heal the woman’s daughter. He rebuffed her, wrestling with her, allowing her to show her mighty faith in Him. He didn’t have to let Jacob hang onto Him throughout the night. He could have crushed, destroyed, or pinned Jacob at any moment. And there are times in our lives where it feels like He is ignoring us, where He is resisting us, even in the good things He has promised to us. But faith clings to His Word, and not to what our experience seems to be showing us. For we walk buy faith and not by sight, and faith persists beyond what your experience tells you. That is why Jacob was given a new name. That is why the Lord commended the woman and healed her daughter. They clung not to what their experience showed them, but to the Word about Him.
Persist in faith for He allows Himself to be caught by us! He is the beggar’s God. He is the one we go to for all good things. For no matter whether we are rich or poor, have been lazy or worked our tails off He is giver of all that we have. It doesn’t matter if you worked hard for it. Who gave you the skill, the strength, the cunning, the opportunities to earn such things? He did. If you squander those gifts, repent. But He gives to those who do not deserve it, for we are all beggars. It is true.
Let that truth change you. Let that truth cause you to trust all the more powerfully in your God. Let that truth cause you to repent of your pride which keeps you from so many good things your Lord has for you. Let that truth bring you to the cross and beg of the one who poured out Himself for beggars, taking our place, and our life as beggars, and giving us His royal place, His royal life as God the Father’s Son. For at the cross you find all that you need when you cry, just as we do every Sunday, “Lord have mercy” to the one who is merciful to beggars.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON