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Crumbs For Every Dog (Matthew 15:21-28)

Second Sunday in Lent – Reminiscere

“Crumbs For Every Dog”

St. Matthew 15.21-28; Genesis 32.22-32; 1 Thessalonians 4.1-7

17 March 2019

Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor

+ In the Name of Jesus +

Today, we opened the Divine Service with the hymn “I Bind Unto Myself Today” the strong name of the Trinity, attributed to St. Patrick, the great missionary to Ireland who led the pagan people of that island to the Christian faith.

We sang the hymn not to be cute or trite just because today is St. Patrick’s Day – and I had a certain mischievous suggestion given me that a leprechaun holding a beer be printed upon the front of our bulletin today – but the story of St. Patrick fits with our Gospel reading and theme for the second Sunday in Lent. Even in suffering and trial, even through much prayer that seems to never be answered, yet, the Lord does promise and deliver of His mercy and grace, in His time. Both St. Patrick and the Canaanite woman whose daughter suffers from a demon bear with the Lord with great faith, patience, determination, and humility.

The Canaanite woman shows her great faith in Christ as Lord and Savior despite His initial silence, and then despite Jesus appearing to be harsh with her – “I am not sent but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Despite this, she persevered and continued to plea for mercy. Jesus seems to act even more harshly toward the woman, “It is not decent to take the children’s bread and cast it before the dogs.” You are a dog, unworthy of this heavenly bread of God’s grace, you are not numbered among the children of God.

It would be no surprise if this poor woman’s heart broke in a thousand pieces for the pain and the anguish. When we are in troubles, sufferings, or trials we can understand what this woman was going through, because sometimes we too pray, we plea for mercy, we persist, we ask, seek, and knock and knock some more – and the answer to our prayers is slow to come, or it does not come as we hope, or it just does not come, we hear and see nothing for a long time.

What ought we do when the door is not opened right away? St. Patrick’s hymn teaches us:

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,

His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need,

The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward,

The Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

 

Against the demon snares of sin, the vice that gives temptation force,

The natural lusts that war within, the hostile foes that mar my course;

Of few or many, far or nigh, in every place and in all hours,

Against their fierce hostility, I bind to me those holy powers.   (LSB 604:3-4; public domain)

We are tempted to shake our fist at God and demand what we want and think is just and right, and on our schedule. The Canaanite woman does the opposite of what we are all tempted to do. Her perseverance is born of faith in Christ as the Lord and Savior of her and her daughter, and she willingly humbles herself.

“Yes, Lord! Nevertheless the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” I too, will gladly eat of those crumbs, she’s saying. And if she’s a dog, she’s happy to be in her master’s house and content with even a little thing. The scrap of God’s grace – that Jesus is her eternal salvation is enough – no matter what earthly suffering and blows she might take.

It will be the same for us. In the anguish of death we too will cry out and call to God, and He will act as if He does not hear. But we must hold fast and firmly to Christ as the Gentile woman did. We must not let ourselves be sent away. Even if the Law of God’s Word accuses us, even if the devil tries to snare our conscience – we confess and persist and remain humble with the woman:

Yes, Lord, I am a dog too. I am a poor, miserable sinner, yet Lord, you did not come for the righteous, but for sinners, and Lord, you call out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest and refresh you.” And Lord, you also promise, you will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoldering wick. Against the fierce hostility of all that I may face in these difficult, gray, and latter days, Lord, I bind to me your holy powers, your holy promises, and you, Lord Jesus, will not fail me.

St. Patrick lived from roughly 372 to 466 AD, and he died on this day, March 17. He left behind the hymn and other prayers, and a testament of his life and work in the Gospel, his Confession. He writes first in that testament,

“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many. My father… was a deacon; his father was… a priest…. [At my father’s] home [on the British isle]… I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time. At that time, I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. We deserved this, because we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. We would not listen to our priests, who advised us about how we could be saved. The Lord brought his strong anger upon us, and scattered us among many nations even to the ends of the earth. It was among foreigners that it was seen how little I was….

“It was there that the Lord opened up my awareness of my lack of faith. Even though it came about late, I recognized my failings. So I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance. He guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son…”

Patrick goes on to write how he tended sheep in Ireland in his captivity, and after years of praying day after day out in the fields, God enabled him to finally escape his captors and obtain passage back to Britain, and after enduring a hard journey, he made it back to his parents.

But Patrick is given a vision. Or two. Or more. The Lord makes it possible for him to become a priest and return to Ireland to preach the Gospel, to baptize thousands, to give out the crumbs of God’s grace to the people who once held him captive and enslaved him, a people who apparently worshipped the sun in their pagan rituals.

“It was not by my own grace,” writes Patrick, “but God who overcame it in me, and resisted them all so that I could come to the peoples of Ireland to preach the gospel. I bore insults from unbelievers, so that I would hear the hatred directed at me for travelling here. I bore many persecutions, even chains, so that I could give up my freeborn state for the sake of others. If I be worthy, I am ready even to give up my life most willingly here and now for his name. It is there that I wish to spend my life until I die, if the Lord should grant it to me.” [1]

Now just why does the Canaanite woman put her faith in Christ despite all things that try and test her, and why does she humble herself and persist with the Lord? And why does a man like St. Patrick pray for deliverance for many years, and then answer the call of God and return to the same pagans only to be persecuted as he preached and baptized and did such a marvelous and holy work to bring many to Christ?

Why can you put your faith and trust in the same Lord Jesus Christ, and believe with them that God can make a confessor from a thief hanging on a cross, an apostle Paul from a persecutor Saul, an evangelist Matthew from a tax collector, can make sons for Abraham from stones, can turn even the most shameless dog of a Canaanite or a lowly enslaved young man far from home or a pagan Irishman into an Israelite sheep? [2]

They knew and you learn to know that the Lord will be true to who He is. He will show mercy. For He did so upon the cross for everyone. On His account, the tumults of our depraved hearts and minds and bodies will be expelled and the bonds of our sins will be loosed at last, as is begun in us in Holy Baptism and is continued in us through preaching and absolution and Supper until the end. He does and will show such mercy to us that our conscience is cleansed now and at the last, and He will enable us to stand upright before Him and with Him at His heavenly table.

St. Patrick confesses: “There is no doubt whatever that we will rise on the appointed day in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our redeemer. We shall be like children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ and to be fashioned in his image, since it is from him and through him and in him that we are to reign…

“The sun which we see rising for us each day at his command, that sun will never reign nor will its splendor continue forever; and all those who adore that sun will come to a bad, miserable penalty. We, however, believe in and adore the true sun, that is, Christ, who will never perish. Nor will they perish who do his will but they will abide forever just as Christ will abide forever. He lives with God the Father almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the ages began, and now, and for all the ages of ages. Amen.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +

[1] Saint Patrick’s Confession, accessed at https://www.confessio.ie/etexts/confessio_english#

[2] Paraphrasing the Venerable Bede, sermon on Matthew 15.21-28; accessed at http://www.lectionarycentral.com/lent2/Bede.html

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