Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pentecost 12 - mid-week

Matthew 15:21-28
"Universalism" is a heresy that claims that God will not allow anyone ultimately to go to hell. According to this view, it does not matter if a person is a Christian who looks to Christ for salvation. The Lessons appointed to be read in churches this past Sunday stress the universality of God but NOT Universalism!
What these lessons do teach is the universal gift of God's Amazing grace which must be received as a gift. What that simply means to you and to me is that it comes to us by grace through faith. By looking at all three of our lessons for this morning, we can see that grace is not cheap but it is given by a gracious heavenly Father. This morning let us consider "the universal concern that God has for the entire world"
[1] God has a universal concern for fallen man but it is Faith which is necessary to receive God's help. That is the whole point of our Gospel lesson for this morning (Matthew 15:21-28)
No one is excluded from God's favor and help. This is illustrated in Jesus' healing of a Canaanite woman's daughter, who at that time had absolutely no claim for help from a Jew.
This pagan woman asked Jesus to have mercy on her. It is significant that she identified with her daughter to the degree that the help given to the child would be given to her. Here we see the depth of love that is possible between a parent and a child. A true parent wishes that he or she could take the pain and trouble of the child to themselves. She would have done anything to have her daughter cured!
Until Jesus said "O woman, great is your faith" no mention is made of faith. Jesus does not ask if she believe in Him or if she believed He was able to help her. In this struggle to overcome Jesus' reluctance to help, He saw her faith. It was a faith that He could heal her daughter because she addressed Him as the Messiah. She called out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus saw faith in her feeling that He would help her. This was demonstrated by her persistence. Faith is the key to getting a hearing and a blessing from Christ. It is not a matter of race, of nation, or of religion; the determining factor is simply faith in Christ!
[2] God has a universal concern but Faithfulness to God's Law opens the door to God's house. Consider our Old Testament lesson. Isaiah the prophet gives us the picture of foreigners from all over the world gathering in God's house as a house of prayer for all peoples. Again, this does not mean that all will enter.
Though God desires everyone to enter the Kingdom, not all will enter. God makes a universal appeal. His will is for all people to be saved. This is not "universalism" that teaching that in the end all will be saved and none shall suffer in hell. For the Jews of Isaiah's time this was a revolutionary thought: that Gentiles and foreigners would be brought to God and would share in the worship of God. How is this accomplished? It happens when there is faithfulness to God.
What does this say to you and me today? The church as God's house must be open to all who seek after God regardless of race, nationality, gender or culture.
This implies that all peoples are God's creation and have a right to worship in God's house. God will not approve of any sectarianism, prejudice, or particularism in His house of prayer.
[3] God has a universal concern but acceptance of the Gospel is what brings reconciliation with God. Consider our Epistle lesson. In this lesson (Romans 11:13-15, 29-32) Paul says that the disobedience of the Jews resulted in the Gospel going to the Gentiles.
Paul writes that God considers all people as disobedient so that He might have mercy on all. This is an unusual way of saying that all people are sinners and in need of God's mercy. If people have no sin, they need no Savior! If they are not in trouble, they need no help. If they are not separated from God, they need no reconciliation. It is a universal fact that since Adam, all are disobedient. As a result, all have need of mercy which is received in Jesus Christ.
All three lessons drive home the point that God's acceptance is based on those who repent and believe in Christ regardless of national and social identification. God is not for Jews only as was once considered in the time of Jonah and Ruth. It is for those who come in repentance and faith. May the Savior so lead us to remember that there is a universal concern that God has for the entire world as we share His story with those that we meet. In Jesus' Holy Name. Amen.

No comments: