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Keep your faith safe and secure

September 27, 2015

Safe and secure17th Sunday of Holy Trinity

“Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment”.

Matthew 15:21-28

Faith that overcomes or victorious faith is the traditional topic for this week of the 17th Sunday of Holy Trinity. Several very important insights for every one of us can be gained from this story of Jesus with the Canaanite woman:
a. The urgent need in the life of a person; b. the recognition of a mighty God. c. the momentary apparent indifference of God; d. the strength of mind and courage of the desperate person; e. Why God is testing; f. the woman’s determination; g. the outcome of faith and the gift of God.

Faith is not only the term used to describe a religion or membership to a particular religion or a particular church denomination. As mentioned in previous sermons, faith is a whole; it is an attitude of life before God. Faith is a feature that shows dependence on a higher being. For us Christians, it is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There are many today, especially in developed, rich countries, who reject the notion of a God and, of course, the church. Many of those who reject faith mock God and all belief. The other day, I read online a comment about God and the church: ‘Enough of myths and imaginary stories!’ This is one of Satan’s strategies, to take advantage of the prosperity that God gives his children so that they feel that they no longer need God. It is proven that when you have everything materially that you need to live and you even have some to spare, it is likely that if one does not take care of the spiritual aspect, it begins to weaken by the imbalance in the person’s life. When a person is inundated with material things and when material things occupy much of his life and much of his daily schedule, if he does not take care of his spiritual side, it begins to weaken and gradually fade away and disappear. This continues until a time comes when the same person has no interest or need for God and the church. He has become like the person I preached about once: a ‘spiritual anorexic’; no longer hungry for God, church, or spiritual things. And of course, as the anorexic person is in danger of dying physically, so too the spiritual anorexic can lose his salvation, which is much more serious.

We talked many times about the consequences of a poor spiritual life that eventually leads to peoples’ mental and physical poverty, in short, their own destruction. Living a life of material wealth is a blessing from God, but that blessing can be removed from one day to the next if we don’t take care of our spiritual life and recognize that everything we have comes from God.

There is a well-known saying: “In the foxholes there are no atheists.” This means that when a person is going through a great need and is in danger of losing his physical life, he is driven strongly to his spiritual side because nothing in his physical and material surrounding can assure his survival. When we see our physical life threatened and everything material that we have cannot help, neither money nor material resources etc., we tend to seek extra help and that help is not just in the material things. In moments of risk, without exception, we cry out for help to a superior being that goes beyond our self. Why is this so? Because every one of us, as we said in previous sermons, is not just flesh and blood, but we are also spirit; we have a spirit within us.

Worst of all, when people swim in material plenty, their material possessions gradually become their God and they believe that they can obtain everything with all their achievements, efforts, hard work, money and material resources. Therefore, they believe they no longer need God. They have achieved many things with the money they earned, bought insurance that will take care of them, they bought a retirement plan that will help them, they have acquired a house that will shelter them, etc. The police will protect them. The money saved in the bank will feed and care for them lifelong. After death, their children will inherit the leftover money they have. The funeral home insurance they are paying will allow for organizing a funeral and burial with a minister and hymns of their preference too. It’s all done, safe and secure. Why do they need God or the communion of saints? God has no meaning in their life; He is not most important in their life! The material God is their confession now! Thus, gradually, perhaps without realizing it, they reject spiritual things and, of course, as Christians they stop reading the Bible, praying and going to church. Other activities are more important than church activities. We do not need all that stuff! Watching television gives me more pleasure than going to church and listening to a sermon, or to gather with other Christians to share experiences of life and how to live out the Word of God. This of course leads to going away from God Himself.
Spiritual things are no longer important in their life and there comes a day when they say: “Look, I do not need God anymore. I do not need the church. When I think about God, I don’t know if it’s that serious. I think all this talk about God is a fable, a fairy tale which was believed by my grandparents who were poor and uneducated and used to live in a poor and miserable land. I think God is just myths and fables”. And then we arrive to read such reviews on the internet about God and the church. And this way is how an atheist is born. And so we come to these statements. And so we can understand how these kinds of people arise, renegades of faith and people who are indifferent to the church. Some even hate the church and eventually even curse against God. They end up behaving as they like, as they feel everything is valid and permissive. And we hear those sayings: “The most important thing is ‘love’. And “Do whatever you like that makes you feel good.”
And why is all this happening? This is the work of Satan. It is the devil’s work, who takes advantage of the prosperity of the children of God who do not take care and watch, are tempted and become indolent, spiritually lazy and weak. His mission is to attack everything spiritual. When we are not spiritually strong, without us realizing it, he destroys everything that is spiritual until the time comes that the Holy Spirit of God leaves from our own being. And so we are told in the Bible when it warns: “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation (Mt 12: 43ss)

Is it then that material things, abundance and prosperity are wrong? No, they are not evil because it is God who blesses us materially. But we must take care so that material things do not make us forget what is most important. “We must not stand on the branch that we are sawing.” Everything we have comes by gift of God and if we do not recognize this, we eventually run the risk of not only losing it, but more importantly, we run the risk of losing God. And while we may not lose all of our material things, we will lose our faith and salvation. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” (Luke 12:23)” or, “No one can serve two masters; he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”(Mt 6:24)

Money or riches here can also be interpreted as material abundance. Of themselves, they are not bad. What is bad is to forget God and his church. Maybe we will not lose everything we have all at once, but we risk losing our faith and losing our eternal salvation if we put material things first in our lives.

The Canaanite woman approaches Jesus for an urgent material need, her daughter’s health. She no longer has the resources needed; she could not get help from anyone else. She was scared and desperate. She comes to Jesus, maybe for interest; we don’t know if she really believed in him as the Son of God. And Jesus realizes it, and this is why he wants to actually measure the urgency and necessity of this woman. He also wants that this woman comes to realize of her own spiritual and material poverty. In the end, her great need and despair becomes a great faith. And the love of Jesus does not disappoint her. In this case we see that Jesus does not want the people’s despair and need, but they to be blessed. Jesus wants faith. Jesus wants the woman to realize that the faith that worships, humbles and that recognizes God as the first and most important thing in life is the faith that sets God in motion, which touches God to bless in every sense and, most importantly, gives salvation.

That’s the kind of faith that Jesus is directing us towards: He is not willing us to have a faith like the belief that money buys everything. He is trying to build up a faith in us that arises from the depths of our needs, a faith that comes from our complete submission and fear of God. For the believer, fear of God is reverence for God. That is the faith that we must take care not to lose, even though we may have everything materially. Even though we may have been richly blessed by God in the material aspect, we must watch out because of the devil’s temptation to make us neglect the fear of God. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pe 5:8) This is the kind of faith that must prevail in each of us, because we risk losing our salvation, even though we may consider ourselves to be real members of a church.

God is asking us for faith, surrender, obedience and that we show our Christianity in words and deeds, even with our material blessings. May God allow us to save and keep our faith in Him and His church, as if we had nothing to which to cling to materially, and to honor Him with the same attitude as that woman to whom He praised: “- Woman, you have great faith!”. Amen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    September 27, 2015 11:40 am

    thank you for the copy of the sermon I really appreciate it. Margaret

    On Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 12:50 PM, Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church

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