Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Woman's Bold Faith Matthew 15:21-28

Using the Crossings method

Initial Diagnosis: our external problem – with one another
Initially it's tempting to think that this story is only about a woman who needs help caring for her sick daughter. But we soon realize she has other hurts and broken dimensions in her life. If we are reflective at all we see that her problems, much like ours, are far bigger and more complicated than we admit. Jesus friends, and people today looking to get out of a hurting persons way, can find seemily reasonable excuses not to get involved. The disciple had reasons well understood in their time and place to ignore her: she was 1) a woman approaching a man and 2) she was not an Israelite.

Advanced Diagnosis: our internal problem – with Christ
What would a hurting person do? turn to God. But Jesus friends and even Jesus seems to reject her pleas. Churches and institutions meant to help can often turn away the hurting. The more complicated the hurt and the circumstances of the person's life the more clear the need for God's actions. Jesus response to her plea, “God sent me only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) The plea only confirms her desperation. She is truly among the lost of the world; but she doesn't even qualify for the initial work of the shepherd.

Final Diagnosis: our eternal problem – with God
Just like this woman we come to God with nothing to offer to God and in truth needing everything. This woman sought out help and at first all hope seemed lost. She begged for help. But Jesus recognized her unworthiness. “It's not right to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs.” Matthew 15:26. She didn't hide her need, she stood on no formality or attitude of entitlement. She stood before Jesus in faith that He was capable of revealing something of God's good and gracious will in the world.

Initial Prognosis: God's eternal solution – for us
the woman responded to Jesus standing on nothing besides faith. Jim Boyce wrote wisely

This woman is not to be put off, and against all the signs of apparent hopelessness, doggedly stands her ground, persistently seeking the Lord's help, even if it is only to be in those meager crumbs that might fall from the "master's" table. And in the wonderful surprise that is the miracle of faith, she meets the gracious healing power of God's Messiah.
This is faith. Standing before God even when the disciples want you to go away. This is faith hoping in the face of opposing circumstances that God can and will transform this situation

Advanced Prognosis: God's internal solution – in us
the Holy Spirit working Faith in this woman was God's response, God's gift for her. To often we view faith as an extension of our will. But Luther argues otherwise
no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone. For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is—or at least hopes or desires that there may be—some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation. But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; Luther's Works, Vol 33 Career of the Reformer III, (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1972)Page 62.
Final Prognosis: God's external solution – through one another
Faith in this world is not lived out alone. Sometimes it's lived out in community and sometimes its lived out even when the community stands against it. Luther wrote of faith
faith has to do with things not seen [Heb. 11:1]. Hence in order that there may be room for faith, it is necessary that everything which is believed should be hidden. It cannot, however, be more deeply hidden than under an object, perception, or experience which is contrary to it. Thus when God makes alive he does it by killing, when he justifies he does it by making men guilty, when he exalts to heaven he does it by bringing down to hell, as Scripture says: “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (I Sam. 2[:6]) Luther's Works, Vol. 33: Career of the Reformer III, (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1972) Page 62.
As we stand before God let it be in faith just as this woman stood. No person of faith can claim a special position of entitlement or honor because of what we've done. We claim only one thing: confidence that God can do amazing things. Let us be bold witnesses to the breadth and depth of God's mercy. AMEN
Pax, John

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