January 2018

OK, Let’s cut to the chase. This sermon is a test. For me, it is my first sermon. If I pass my test, hopefully someone here will remember what I said. It’s also a test for you.
I am a Sunday school teacher. I teach. However, when I teach I ask a lot of questions. You’ve been warned. However, I will answer these questions for you. You’re almost off the hook. How do I teach you to pass the test of connecting to my sermon? Easy, I’ll give you the answers.
This sermon is His grace moving through my words based on His Holy Word.
Connecting is easy if you open up. Visualize your self as an empty jar and the words will fill you up. Or see yourself as a dark room and let these words light up your darkness. If you can’t visualize then feel the words. Let their sound fill your emptiness.
His grace flows through this church. It flows through you and I. 
Open your eyes to really look at me. Do you see a sinner who is lost without Jesus? You get an “A.”

Open your ears? Do you hear a broken man whose heart cries out to God daily? You get another “A.”

Are you an open vessel to God’s grace? Hmmmm, let’s get back to that one.
The answer to our Gospel reading is that there is salvation for everyone, even a puppy, who is an open vessel for God’s grace. Did I just say puppy? Can dogs be receptive to His grace? Can all dogs go to heaven? Keep listening to find out.
Oh, let’s address our Gospel verse by verse and let’s see who here is open to His grace. This Gospel has to do with the faith of the Canine-ite woman. Did I say Canine-ite? I meant Canaanite or did I?
Verse 21, “Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.” 
Why does Jesus withdraw? Does He need a rest? Does that ever work out for Him? How about you?
Tyre and Sidon are unrepentant Gentile pagan port cities located in modern Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast. Oh, it is likely that we will find an open vessel in port cities but it is unlikely that we will find an open vessel for the word of God, right?
Verse 22, “And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; …” 
Oh, what has just happened here? A Gentile, pagan woman not only approaches a Jewish man but she cries out to Him in prayer as if He is a God and refers to Him as the Jewish Messiah. Actually, not just a Gentile pagan but a Canaanite. Canaanites are one of Israel’s oldest enemies. Are these the eyes of faith that recognize, know and acknowledge Jesus? Will our heart, mind and soul tell our eyes to recognize Jesus when we see Him? Will it be automatic?  Will His name drum a powerful beat into your soul? How would you stand before God? Would you drop to your knees? Is it our natural default setting or do we allow Satan to tamper with our settings? 
This woman recognizes Him and it appears that His word has found fertile soil in her heart.
I’m also guessing Jesus is not getting a break here. No rest. Can you relate? Do you feel that you need a rest?
Verse 22 continued, “my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 
I’m going to go from Oh to Whoa, here. Now we are taking about a supernatural, malevolent being. A fallen angel. A demon. Wrap your head around that for a second. A demon terrorizing her little daughter. What would you do? What are your demons? 
This woman is a great example of what we should do.
Verse 23, “But He did not answer her a word.”
How do you see this? Is this a test? Does God test your faith? Do you think God tested Abraham, Job, Isaiah or David? Does God seem uninterested in you? Does God seem cruel? Was the tree in the garden of Eden a test OR was it an opportunity to trust God?
Could it be that the delay gives the woman one of these opportunities? A timely delay so that she will overcome?
I don’t know about you but there have been times that I’ve been hit pretty hard. This world tells me to stay down. In my head, I often tell the world, “My sister hits harder.” And if you know my sister, you’re probably smiling right now. I say that in my head and get up and focus on this thought. When you’re down to nothing, God is up to something. Let’s see what this woman does.
Verse 23 continued, “…And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.
This can sound very negative on the part of the disciples. Do you think the disciples were used to Jesus ignoring people or granting their prayers? Do you think they understood the motives of Jesus? Do we?
Verse 24, “He (Jesus) answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’
His answer reveals the “commissioned” plan of the Jewish Messiah to bring about redemption in the Jewish Nation so it could then be carried to all the world. Do you find this answer helpful? Does it help when you’re hurting? Does it make sense to you? Does this Gentile woman understand Him?
Verse 25, “But she came and knelt before Him, saying ‘Lord, help me.’
This woman found her way to His feet and prostrated herself before Him. She is worshiping Him! She goes to her knees, with her head to the ground.
Verse 26, “And He (Jesus) answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’
How’s that for an answer? Did He just call her and her daughter dogs? Does Jesus ever answer the way we expect? Let’s break this verse down for some clarity. To me, these translated words don’t convey the proper meaning. I’m not saying the translation is wrong just that it doesn’t sit well with me. When He says, “It is not right,” for me it translates better as “It wouldn’t look good” or “It wouldn’t be ideal” as opposed to not right indicating that it would be wrong. Also, the term for dogs here was chosen to indicate a “house pet” or “a pup” as opposed to another term which could have been used for an “owner-less cur” or an “unclean stray.” So for me this verse makes more sense translated to “It would not be ideal to cast our children’s bread to our puppies.” 
This term for dog reminds me of something I once heard. There was this country doctor who made house calls and his dog followed everywhere. One of his patients was dying and asked the doctor, “What is it like when you die?” The doctor thinks about this a moment and then turns away from the man. He opens the door and his dog comes rushing in. The doctor turned back to the dying man and said, “Do you see this dog? He didn’t have any idea what was on this side of that door. All he knew was that his master was there, and he wanted to be with him.” “That’s how I feel about death,” the physician continued. “I don’t really know all the what’s and how’s about dying. I’m not totally sure what’s on the other side of that door. But I know who is there, and that’s enough for me. I’m looking forward to being with my Master.”
Verse 27, “She said, ‘Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table.’
This amazing woman answers as one with the ears of faith. She wholeheartedly understands and accepts what He says. When I started this sermon I asked how you see me? A broken sinner crying out to God, right? Here we have another broken sinner crying out to God. A broken-hearted mother will recognize Jesus. Her broken-heart will cry out to His heart. The heart of God. 
We are slaves to sin. That is our world but not God’s plan. His plan was for us to dwell with Him in Eden. He allowed us to back burner that plan. So now that tree in the middle of the garden becomes a wooden cross. Where Jesus was crucified there was a garden. A broken-hearted Mother watched her son die. A broken-hearted Father gave His son to die for you and I. 
His plan involves salvation and redemption which ends with us in a place better than Eden. I repeat BETTER THAN EDEN. We will see this place of no shadows with new eyes and a new brain that will praise His everlasting light. This Canaanite woman gets it. A loving master will not only care and feed His dogs but He will allow them His crumbs as well. Here is a show of faith in all it’s lowly, humble splendor. She passed the test. She gets an “A.” And what’s her “A?”
Verse 28, “Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.
How often does Jesus say “Oh?” He says it more than a dozen times and most of the time it referring to a lack of faith. Here is great faith being openly praised by the Master Himself! Humbly accepting and understanding the love and grace of Jesus. Trusting God and seeing opportunities instead of obstacles. Her pain and heart-ache didn’t blindfold her heart and soul to the Son of God. Her “A” was an answered prayer. 
God hears every prayer. God answers every prayer. God gave Eden to you and I, we chose to disobey. This world is molded by our choices not His. We continually make this world a testing ground for the devil. Satan tests you and I to convince us of our weakness and failures. If God tests you it is because you need to know how strong you are and that He believes in You. You pass His test and you will receive something better than an “A” and BETTER THAN EDEN.
Are you an open vessel to God’s grace? How do you make yourself an open vessel? Where do we find the answer? I have one more verse for you that answers that.
Hebrews 12:2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Open your eyes, open your ears, open you heart, mind, body and soul and trust in God. I’m paraphrasing the First Commandment here.
In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.