Proper 15 (14–20 Aug)
Almighty and everlasting Father, You give Your children many blessings even though we are undeserving. In every trial and temptation, grant us steadfast confidence in Your loving kindness and mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
The Lord accepts Gentiles into His Kingdom “All Nations” - The faith of the Canaanite Woman -Matthew 15:21-28 – The Commissioning of Alicia Drier -
The story and legacy of Zion Friedheim congregation is familiar to us all. We don’t always talk about it, that’s fine with us. Let history speak for itself. We are a charter member of the Lutheran Church –Missouri Synod. From this parish FCD Wyneken served as president of the Synod at the height of the Civil War. From this congregation numerous sons and daughters have heard the Lord’s call to be servants and have entered into full time kingdom work.
But it’s been a while. In fact, it’s been about thirty years since one of our own has entered into public ministry. But the times, they are changing. This past year, Candice Sielschott –McMullan completed her Colloquy training. She is now eligible to be on the Roster as a called teacher in our Synod. And today, after successfully fulfilling all of the requirements of our Concordia University System, and having received and accepted a call to be a teacher at Concordia Lutheran High School, you will be commissioned as a called Lutheran teacher.
Today is a day for great rejoicing. We thank God that He continues to send workers into His harvest field. Just as He sent the needed rain, in a timely fashion, the Lord provides. Today is a day of possibility. Soon school will start. One of the reasons we have schools is to find out what you students do best. In this room are people filled with talents, abilities and gifts. The Lord simply asks us to put those talents to use for His purposes.
The possibilities are endless. If its farming – then go out and farm. If its service – then serve. If it’s laying bricks – then build a wall. The Lord needs all of us together, servicing Him. That’s the pattern of our life. We go to a worship service and then, in service, we worship Him. You become, a sermon in shoes. There might be someone in this room who might be thinking, “Could God use me as a pastor, a teacher, a Kingdom worker?” The opportunity for service is always there.
St. Paul reminds us, “We preach Christ crucified”. I understand, that’s an imperfect participle! Yet, that is what each of us as Christians have been called to do, to share Christ with others in our speaking, in our doing, in our living.
In planning a service there are any number of texts the pastor could use, that speak about ministry, service, and the like. But I always go back to the appointed text for the day, to see if it might be appropriate. Now at first glance, the Gospel lesson for today, which involves a pagan woman, seeking relief for her daughter, who is demon possessed, might not be the appropriate text for a Commissioning service. However, there may be some corollaries.
At your baptism, you managed to scream throughout the service. It was an exorcism, as the old Adam in you was drowned and died and a new person in you was born, the new Adam. And there will be times, throughout the school year, when you will wonder if some of your students are controlled by some sort of “spirit” and I suppose they – you.
But look at the text deeper, especially the exchange between this woman and the Savior. This is the kind of faith that is needed as you enter into full time kingdom work. This is the kind of prayer and kind of faith each of us needs as we face the challenges of living.
Jesus yields to the persistent pleas of a Canaanite mother. Jesus retired to a territory outside Israel and consequently a pagan, Gentile mother, a Canaanite, who begged Jesus to heal her daughter, approaches him. She persisted in her appeals until He was impressed with her faith. As a result, she was complimented and her daughter was instantly healed. In this story, we learn of the universality of Christ’s ministry and we see that faith has no racial boundaries.
The key to our Gospel lesson is the woman’s faith. It is not in Jesus’ power to heal even in absentia, nor in Jesus’ reluctance at first to help her. The faith of this woman impressed Jesus and won His favor — “O woman, great is your faith!” Faith, and no other possession, is the only necessity for God’s help. It was a faith that would not take “no” for an answer. It was a faith that would not let go.
1. A faith of confession — “O Lord, Son of David.” Until Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith,” no mention is made of her faith. Jesus did not ask 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 Messiah, “Son of David.”
He saw faith in her knowing 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, religion; the determining factor is faith in Christ. As you begin in full time Kingdom service be a witness. May people always see your faith in Christ.
2. A faith of dependence — “Lord, help me.” The pagan woman asked Jesus to have mercy on her. It is significant that she identified her daughter to the degree that the help given to the child would be given to her. Here is a depth of love that is only possible between parent and child. A true parent wishes she could take the pain and trouble of the child.
As you start your ministry, continue to show passion, empathy, and a genuine care for the students and families in your charge. It’s not about you! – It’s about the people that you serve. And who are they? They are ones redeemed by Christ the crucified.
3. A faith of persistence — “She is crying after us.” When the woman begged for mercy, Jesus was perfectly silent. He ignored her! As though she said nothing. As though she did not exist! There are times when God is silent when we cry to Him for help or for answers. In this silence, God is saying something to us. It is a testing of faith. The test is whether we have patience and persistence in our prayers.
We have no right to expect “instant answers to our prayers.” Prayer is not like Google where we say a petition, ask a prayer, and expect to have an instant answer in less than a second. Prayer often is a wrestling, a waiting upon God.
Alicia, today you begin the life as a Lutheran teacher. There will be days – There will be days when you will question, when you will struggle, when you will freak out, when you will feel like giving up. But don’t! When those days come, remember the faith of this woman who so many wrote off. When Jesus belittled her, to something less than the family pet – she was content, to feast on crumbs. She was persistent. With tenacity, her faith carried her. And it is that sort of faith that will allow you to experience great and wonderful blessings – too many to count. Fare thee well child of God. Godspeed and God bless!