30 March 2015

Homily for Palm/Passion Sunday

"Ride On...to Die!"

Philippians 2:5-11 & Matthew 27:11-54

Listen here.

St. Paul sums it up well. Jesus “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). You see, the “likeness of men” comes from the “image of God” given to Adam and Eve in the garden. And that likeness and image is to be servants—servants of God and servants of one another; trusting God and loving one another. But that’s what Adam and Eve and all of us lost in that fateful Fall into sin. “Here, let me be ‘like God’…on my own terms…in my way…according to my desires.” And that’s what King Jesus marches on to overcome. So He made Himself nothing.

St. Paul continues: “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). Our Suffering Servant King completely and utterly emptied Himself on that Cross. We just heard St. Matthew tell the story in all its grueling details. So the simplest—and perhaps the best—application for each of us is to hear these words: “For you! All for you!”

But let’s ponder it a bit more. Let’s use our final hymn for today to ponder how Jesus’ emptying of Himself, Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, and Jesus’ death on a cross changes you and your life.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry.
O Savior meek, pursue Thy road,
With palms and scattered garments strowed. (LSB 441:1)

He rides in majesty, but this ticker-tape parade will soon give way to jeers and boos and whips and nails. The adoring crowd, though, shouted something life-changing, even if they didn’t realize how life should change. “All the tribes hosanna cry,” we sing. “Hosanna” means “save now.” And that’s exactly what our meek Suffering Servant King does. He doesn’t necessarily save us from occupying armies or corrupt governments. But He does save us from what enslaves us most—our sin and our sins; our inner rottenness and our thoughts, words and deeds that reveal that inner spiritual “cancer.” So “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming sitting on a donkey’s colt!” This week we get to follow our Lord as He rides on…to die. Don’t miss any of it.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin. (LSB 441:2)

Jesus’ majesty IS lowly pomp. His triumph DOES come in dying. You see, that’s the only way to conquer sin—yours and mine—and capture death that holds all of us captive. It’s that sin and death that make you and I think we are the center of the universe. It’s that sin and death that make you and I think we can dictate to God how He ought to bless and come to our aid. It’s that sin and death that must be conquered in each of us. And that’s what Jesus rides on to do. He dies. He sheds blood. He forgives. He washes you clean. He makes you new. That’s His real triumph. That’s why He rides on…to die. Don’t miss any of it later this week.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The angel armies of the sky
Look down with sad and wond’ring eyes
To see the approaching sacrifice. (LSB 441:3)

King Jesus is commander-in-chief of “the angel armies of the sky”—Lord God of Sabaoth, Lord God of power and might. All He had to do is nod and those mighty heavenly soldiers would have come to His rescue, eyes blazing, swords swinging, with more shock and awe than we could imagine. But no. They sit. They wait. They watch. From the stands. "Our Commander is sacrificing Himself? He doesn’t want our aide?" What a wonder it must have been. King Jesus, Lord God of Sabaoth, was sacrificing Himself to bring an end to this ages long spiritual conflict. King Jesus, Commander-in-Chief, was surrendering Himself in order to win the war. To end the hostilities. To bring peace between God and people. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” (Lk. 2:14). “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:1, 10). That’s why He rides on—to die.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh.
The Father on His sapphire throne
Awaits His own anointed Son. (LSB 441:4)

Amazing! God the Father sits and watches too! Since He’s the father from whom all fatherhood is known, and since we know that any human father worth his salt would want to step in and help his suffering son, this is truly amazing. But no. God the Father sits on His sapphire throne. He watches. He waits. His own anointed Son single-handedly engages in this “last and fiercest strife.” His own anointed Son single-handedly bears the full load of sin and death. His own anointed Son single-handedly endures the scorn and the forsakenness. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His Son cries out. “Why are You so far from saving Me, from the words of My groaning?” (Ps. 22:1). And the Father just sits there, letting it all happen, without lifting even a finger. But all this was by His eternal will. All was going according to His loving plan. King Jesus was heard because of His reverence (Heb. 5:7). And now we get to draw near God’s throne of grace with confidence. Now we get to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). That’s why He rides on to die.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, Thy pow’r and reign. (LSB 441:5)

So, His majesty is seen in lowly pomp. His royalty is evident in a crown of thorns. His throne is a bloody cross. His warm stately hands and feet are pierced through with cold metal spikes. He bows His “meek head to mortal pain.” Why? Why go through all that excruciating shame and torture? Why suffer? Why shed innocent blood? Why gasp in agony for six long hours? Why voluntarily give up His spirit? Why? For you. All for you! That you “may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”

That’s why He rides on. To die. For you. That you may live. That you may be restored to the “likeness of men” and the “image of God.” That’s what we celebrate this week and into next Sunday. Don’t miss any of it! Amen.

16 March 2015

Homily for Lent 4 - Laetare

"Rejoicing in His Refreshment"
John 6:1-15
with "Farewell and Godspeed to a Pastor Entering Retirement" for Rev. Daniel Preus

Listen here.

For three weeks we have been struggling. First, we struggled with temptations. Second, we wrestled with our Lord for His mercy. And last week we struggled with the demonic forces that influence and inhabit us.

Today we get a break in the struggle. Today we receive some refreshment. Today the Lord of the Church feeds and refreshes us. So, before we plunge into the Lord’s painful Passion and dehumanizing death, we get a breath of refreshing air. Psalm 122 summons us to rejoice in the Lord’s refreshment: “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast.” So let’s consider 1) Our Need for Refreshment, 2) Our Source of Refreshment, and 3) Our Lord’s Miracle of Refreshment.

1. Our Need for Refreshment
St. John says the time of the Passover was near. The Passover was the meal given by God to the Israelites just before they left Egyptian slavery. After they were liberated from slavery, they lived in and traveled through the wilderness. There they discovered what it meant to rely on God. They had no food. They grumbled against God and His servant Moses. But God in His grace decided to provide for His people—to refresh them with bread from heaven.

When Jesus feeds the 5000, He realizes that the multitude is far from home and food. He has been teaching God’s Word, and they have been listening. He had even healed many in the crowd. But they needed refreshment; they needed food for strength and sustenance. So Jesus provided it—and in ample quantities.

We also live and walk in a wilderness—the wilderness of this world. This world is not our Promised Land. This world brings all sorts of enticements and temptations to draw us away from Christ our Savior. This world teaches philosophies and mantras that feed our self-serving egos and keep us ignorant of God’s good ways. This world is where we like to grumble and complain just as the Israelites did. Against whom do we complain? Against God and His servants. “How dare He give us salvation and forgiveness and then leave us to struggle in faith!” “How dare He leave us in this world and not make life easy and perfect and carefree for us!” “How dare God tell us not to believe or do things that are popular in the world around us!”

You see, you and I are much more like the Israelites than we want to admit. We want bellies full on food more than we hunger for God’s Word and ways of forgiveness and life. We strive for ease of bodily life but we think little of the refreshment and life that come from Jesus. We wrestle against temptations and sin, and often they put us in a sleeper hold. And so we get drowsy to our need for Christ. We struggle with trusting our Lord, because sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered, and sometimes His great promises don’t seem to change the harshness of life. Yes, we live in a wilderness. Yes, we need refreshment.

2. Our Source of Refreshment
Our Lord Jesus knew the multitude needed Him and His provision. All they had was a poor boy’s lunch—five loaves of barley bread and two little fish. That could not provide refreshment for well over 5000 people. Neither could the Israelites provide refreshment for themselves—not in the hostile wilderness. Neither can we provide eternal, spiritual, faith-strengthening refreshment for ourselves. Even as forgiven children of God, we need help.

Your Lord Jesus Christ is very glad to give you that refreshment and help. He is your true Source of refreshment. You see, it is truly a blessing that you know and feel your need, your poverty, and your inability to refresh yourselves. It’s a blessing because Christ wants you to turn to Him for relief. He takes the insignificant five barley loaves and two fish, and makes a feast for five thousand.

But poor five thousand! If they had to depend on the disciples, they would not have had a crumb apiece! Poor Church if she must depend on us! You and I are not the source of refreshment for the Church, not even for our congregation. Our “niceness” and our good intentions are poor substitutes for the Lord’s rich feast. When we draw attention to ourselves, we give other people a poor boy’s lunch rather than the Lord’s rich feast of refreshment.

However, our Lord Jesus Christ drew faith out of the need of the disciples. He also raised the faith and expectation of the multitude when He said, “Have the people sit down.” Five thousand people sat there, eagerly waiting. Yes, waiting on Christ is the secret of the Christian faith and life. When you wait on Christ, He fills you with Himself, the Bread of Life. When you wait on Christ, you’ll never go away empty from sermon, prayers, or Sacrament. When we draw attention to Christ, we draw each other and others around us to the true Source of Refreshment!

3. Our Lord’s Miracle of Refreshment
When Jesus feeds the five thousand, He’s teaching you that He, and He alone, has the power and ability to satisfy human hearts. Your Lord Jesus Christ satisfies your human nature as nothing else can—not the world, not sin, not passing pleasures, not high positions, not great learning, not even health, wealth, or happiness. Today your Lord Jesus teaches you that He alone is Bread for you; He alone is your daily Bread. And He is the true, solid, satisfying, sustaining, life-giving Bread of Life.

After Jesus fed the 5000, He taught His disciples and the crowd what it meant. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” He said. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (Jn. 6:51). Notice how your refreshment flows from the Savior’s torture on the Cross. Notice how your life is found in the Savior’s death. What a miracle of refreshment!

Jesus went on to explain it this way: “My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides Me, and I in him.” (Jn. 6:55-56). This may not yet be the Institution of the Lord’s Supper in Jesus’ ministry, but who could miss the connection? Real refreshment comes from the Holy Communion with our Lord. As you eat and drink, you are abiding in Christ and Christ is abiding in you. After our Lord fills us with Himself, we thank Him for His refreshment. One prayer after Communion says, “We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift.” Another prayer says, “You have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament.” The Lord’s Meal of Body and Blood is real refreshment indeed!

Is it any wonder, then, that the early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers”? They knew their source of refreshment in this barren wilderness of a world. And when the Lord added to their numbers those who were being saved, it reminds us that many outside the church need the Lord’s refreshment in our day too. The Church is not a place for us to think only of ourselves. No, it’s a place where the Lord refreshes us, and His refreshment energizes us to bring others to be refreshed in and by Christ.

Today we also get to rejoice in the refreshment that our Lord has given through Pastor Daniel Preus. By God’s grace, Daniel has served the Lord and His people for many years. Our Lord has used Daniel’s service to bring the real refreshment of forgiveness, life, and salvation to many. Whether Daniel served in the parish, or at Concordia Historical Institute, or as one of our synod’s vice-presidents, or as Director of Luther Academy, he has always labored to dish out the Lord’s refreshment that comes only from Christ crucified and risen. In his book, Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center, Pr. Preus says this about the Lord’s Supper: “In this family Meal, the Lord provides the forgiveness and life that we need. In this eating and drinking, our bodies and souls receive hope and strength as we spend a moment in eternity” (122). That’s the Lord’s real refreshment!

Today we also get to rejoice in the refreshment that our Lord is now giving to Pr. Preus in retirement. We have been blessed by his faithful service here at Hope these past ten years, and we thank God for bringing him here to us. Now we say, “Farewell and Godspeed.” But we also know that our Lord will continue to refresh Pr. Preus with forgiveness and life. And, while we may say, “Farewell and Godspeed” now, we also know that we have an eternity of our Lord’s refreshment where we will all be reunited.

Rejoicing in the middle of Lent? Yes! Here we find true refreshment in the Lord’s House, with His Word and at His Table.

“O living Bread from heaven,
How well You feed Your guest!
The gifts that You have given
Have filled my heart with rest.
Oh, wondrous food of blessing,
Oh, cup that heals our woes!
My heart, this gift possessing,
With praises overflows.” (LSB 642:1) Amen.

09 March 2015

Homily for Lent 3 - Oculi

"One Stronger"
Luke 11:14-28

Listen here.

In Judges 14 Samson was looking for a wife. He came to the vineyards outside the town of Timnah, and a young lion confronted him. “The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon [Samson], and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat” (Judg. 14:6). Some time later Samson returned to Timnah to take his bride. He turned aside “to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate” (14:8-9). A while later Samson gave this riddle based on his victory over the lion: “Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet” (14:4).

What does Sampson have to do with Jesus and our Gospel reading? When we view Samson as a prototype—a preview, a teaser trailer—of our Lord Jesus, our Gospel reading makes perfect sense. Just as Samson went to Timnah to find and marry his bride, our Lord Jesus comes into this fallen world to gather His spiritual Bride, the Church. Just as Samson conquered the strong lion, our Lord Jesus conquers the hellish lion, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Just as Samson scraped sweet honey out of the lion’s carcass and gave some to his parents, Jesus scoops sweet salvation out of His conquest of the devil and gives that sweet life and love of God to us. We can also say that our Lord Jesus scoops the sweetness of a holy people—forgiven, redeemed, and rescued from sin—a people who in turn give a sweet smelling aroma in their lives of thanksgiving, praise, service, and love—and He gives that people—us—to His Father.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus heals a demon-possessed man. You would think that people would rejoice. After all, a man had been freed from Satan’s shackles. But no! Some folks complain. They accuse the loving Lord of life of committing nefarious no good. “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” they claim. Then our Lord Jesus speaks to the nonsense of Satan being divided against himself. He says it’s foolish that a kingdom would be so divided. After all, Satan and his evil horde of devilish minions are far from divided. They are very much united. They are united around the single purpose of drawing you and me away from God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are united in consuming you and me in order that we may not enjoy the sweet life, love, and salvation of our Mighty Savior.

Consuming? Yes, consuming! Remember St. Peter’s words. The devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

C. S. Lewis illustrated this quite nicely in his book The Screwtape Letters. In these fictional letters from the underworld, senior tempter Screwtape instructs his young nephew, Wormwood, on the art of tempting a Christian “patient.” Like salt and pepper throughout these letters, Screwtape sprinkles little hints about the demonic urge to sink their teeth into and devour the souls who belong to “the Enemy,” who is God. C. S. Lewis capped off these delightfully wicked letters with a juicy sequel. It’s called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” Screwtape is the guest of honor and main speaker at a banquet of young devils who have just completed their training at tempter school. Screwtape begins his toast by commenting on the low quality of the souls on which they were feasting. Screwtape says:

It would be vain to deny that the human souls on whose anguish we have been feasting tonight were of pretty poor quality…. Oh, to get one’s teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII or even a Hitler! There was a real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own…. Instead of this, what have we had tonight? There was a municipal authority with Graft sauce. But personally I could not detect in him the flavour of a really passionate and brutal avarice such as delighted one in the great tycoons of the last century…. Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn’t…. The Trade Unionist stuffed with sedition was perhaps a shade better. He had done some real harm. He had, not quite unknowingly, worked for bloodshed, famine, and the extinction of liberty (The Screwtape Letters, pp. 154-155).

Screwtape goes on to say, however, that the quality of the souls is not as important as the quantity, the numbers. Even though it means less “quality,” Screwtape rejoices in the greater numbers. He says, “The sort of souls on whose despair and ruin we have—well, I won’t say feasted, but at any rate subsisted—tonight are increasing in numbers and will continue to increase” (p. 157). What’s the point? Satan and his minions love to devour Christians. And by ourselves, we Christians are powerless to prevent it—as powerless as juicy, red slabs of meat tossed to a hungry lion.

And just how do Satan and his army of tempters try to consume and devour us? You see, they are constantly trying to stew us and marinate us in the juices of the fallen world.

Ponder how Satan and his tempters flex their muscle in the world. ISIS persecutes Christians in Iraq and Syria, abducting and killing them. Security in shopping malls increases due to terror threats. Moms and dads at odds with each other, fighting over child custody. Hospital beds where labored and irregular breathing signals death’s nearness. Inappropriate images of men and women causing lustful thoughts. Adulterous hearts enjoying a love affair with earthly riches and pride. Tongues twisted with unkind words about another child of God. Indifference towards hearing and learning God’s Word and receiving His Sacrament. New man-made teachings which ask “Did God really say?” Nonexistent family devotions because life is too busy. Constant accusations that God could never forgive such bad thoughts and actions.

Also ponder what St. Paul tells us today. He warns us against sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking, and deceiving with empty words. These are just some of the ways that the devil prowls around looking for tasty little filets of Christians to devour. While we’re at it, we might as well remember St. Paul’s list of works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21). When you find yourself participating in such things, Satan is sinking his claws into you, basting you for his consumption, and just waiting, with mouth watering, until you finally end up on his dinner plate.

Not a pretty thought, I know! And that’s why we need One Stronger than strongman Satan. We need Someone to come into Satan’s domain—this fallen world—and attack him, overcome him, take away his armor, and divide his spoil. That One Stronger is the Son of God Himself, the Word made flesh. Just as Samson fought against the lion at Timnah, our Lord Jesus came into our fallen world to fight against the old evil foe, the lion who prowls around looking for souls such as ours to devour. Every time Jesus healed someone from a disease, and especially from demon-possession, He showed that He is the One Stronger who came to defeat strongman Satan. But never forget the way that Jesus ultimately defeated the devil! The ultimate disarming of the devil came in the death of the Son of God. The devil thought that he had his greatest feast of all eternity—conquering and consuming the Son of God. But death cannot swallow the Lord of Life! Even in death, our Lord Jesus is like a poison pill, a good dose of arsenic, to Satan and his minions. On the cross, in the tomb, and then on Easter Sunday, our Lord Jesus conquered our hellish foe.

So now, returned to life, our Lord continues coming to His world to fetch His Bride, the Church. And He brings to her—to you, to me, to all who belong to His Bride—the sweetness of forgiveness, life, and salvation with God. Yes, your house—the house of your soul—has been swept clean by Jesus’ dying and rising. Now, you can leave it empty, and risk more demons moving back in to ravage the place again, or you can keep it filled with the Holy Spirit. And how does the Holy Spirit fill the house of your soul? He comes to you in the Gospel proclaimed, in your Baptism, in the Absolution, and in the Holy Supper. I highly recommend the sweetness of the life of God over the bitterness of satanic captivity. You see, the sweet life of God leads you out of your sin and death, and into real life—life of trusting our Mighty Savior, life of living in His love for you, life of practicing His love for those around you. As St. Paul says in our Second Reading: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

So, when you sense Satan prowling and growling, eager to sink his teeth into you, remember this: your Savior Jesus is the One Stronger. By His Cross, He has overcome Satan. In your Baptism, you have been joined to Christ for His sweet life and love. In the Supper, you get to taste and see that out of the strong one has come something sweet. Ah, how sweet is that forgiveness, life, and salvation with God! All of this helps you defy sour-puss Satan. As we sang in the hymn earlier:

Satan, hear this proclamation:
I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation,
I am not no soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny,
God, my Lord, unites with me!” (LSB 594:3). Amen.

02 March 2015

Homily for Lent 2 - Reminiscere

"Eyes Fixed on Jesus"
Matthew 15:21-28

Listen here.

It’s a hard thing when God turns against you—when He ignores your prayer with the silent treatment; when He does not come to your aid right away; when He seems to work against you and for the good of others; when He seems to lash out at you; when He afflicts your spirit and troubles your mind; when He causes you sleepless nights; when He allows you to endure various physical and bodily afflictions.

It’s a hard thing when God turns against you. If God turns against you, who else is there to help you? Really, there’s no where else you can turn.

Scripture says our God is compassionate and gracious. It says He does not willingly grieve His beloved children. It even says that He promises to hear and respond to our prayers. So if all of that is true, then why does He turn against us? Why does He test us? Why does He let evil happen to us? Why does He say to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and sacrifice him”? Why does He touch Jacob’s hip and dislocate it so that Jacob must limp through the rest of his life? And why does He give the devil permission to destroy Job’s family, and afflict Job with horrible sores and sickness? And why does He treat the woman in today’s Gospel with such disdain and harshness?

The Catechism gives the answer: “God’s will is done when he breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come.” God’s will is also done “when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”

So our Lord turns against us, or is slow to help us, or allows evil to happen to us for two reasons. First, so that He might break our stubborn, unbelieving will. And second, so that He might lead us to rely solely and completely on Him and His Word. You see, our Lord’s desire is not to torment us. No, He wants us to confess our inability to help ourselves and trust His ready and constant help. Our Lord’s will is not to give us the fleeting happiness we so often look for, but to give us the true joy of salvation, firmly rooted in the Gospel that the Spirit delivers to us. Our Lord sees the big picture. He has the long view of our salvation. And so He does whatever He must in order to turn our eyes, our hearts, and our hopes away from ourselves and toward Him and His unwavering mercy—toward His dedicated, persistent and resolute compassion.

The woman in today’s Gospel is our role model. Jesus tells her, “Woman, great is your faith.” Her faith is not great in and of itself. No, her faith is great only because of Jesus. She believes that Jesus will help her in spite of His harsh treatment. Her faith is great only because she believes God’s promises over against God’s threat. Her faith is great only because she relies and depends so persistently on our Lord’s mercy. She believes that His mercy is so great that even He will not be able to turn her away from her hope and her heart’s desire.

So let’s always keep in mind what this woman does not do. She does not point to her faith. She does not say, “Lord, you must help me because I believe in you.” Also, she does not point to her rights. She does not say, “But Lord, I have a right to your help because I have lived a good life.” Instead, the woman fixes her eyes solely on Jesus as the embodiment of the Father’s compassion, as mercy in the flesh. That’s why she says, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” That’s why she cries out with persistence, “Lord, help me!” And then the most daring and marvelous statement of all: “Yes, Lord, I believe what you say about me. I am exactly what you say—a dog not worthy of your goodness. But even little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. And so, I will be satisfied with even the smallest amount of Your kindness, even the tiniest portion of Your forgiveness, even the faintest hint of Your smile, even the most grudgingly spoken forgiveness. I know that will be more than enough.”

Do you see where the woman fixes her hope? In nothing but the Lord Jesus. You see, she knows that the only thing that stands between her and the death of her little girl, the only thing that stands between her and God’s fullest anger, is our Lord Jesus and the mercy that only He can give. In fact, her eyes are so fixed on God’s compassion in Christ that she will let nothing—not even Jesus Himself—dissuade or discourage her. She is like a pit bull—her teeth are clenched for dear life to the promised help that our Lord gives in His body—the body that would later be nailed to a cross. And nothing will make her let go.

So, if you’re looking for an example of faith, then look no farther. But if you’re looking for faith itself and the help and compassion that this woman received, don’t look at her. After all, she’s ignoring you. She doesn’t care what you or anyone else thinks about her beggarly persistence. She is intent on hearing and receiving the help that only the Lord can give. Instead, let your heart and mind turn to the same Lord who helps this woman. Fix your eyes on the same Lord to whom the Holy Spirit even now directs you. Fix your eyes on the same Jesus “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Remember, He also received the Father’s “silent treatment” and cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). Remember the physical and bodily afflictions He endured to heal you and bring you back to God. Focus your gaze on the same Lord who speaks and gives you His mercy and compassion and help even now in His Word, in His Baptism, and in His Supper.

When your eyes are fixed on the Lord Jesus, when your ears are tuned to His cross-won forgiveness, and when your teeth are clenched to His Body and Blood, then you don’t have to worry about what others think or say; you’re not ashamed of your tears or your kneeling or your humility. And above all, when you fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith, then you let nothing—not your pride, not your sinful desires, not your fear, not the enticements of the world, not all those daily chores—you let none of those things stand between you and the comfort your Father gives by His Spirit in His Son’s Absolution and Supper.

You see, the will of God is not only that He makes you His holy child—just like His only-begotten Son in His sight. The will of God is also that you remain holy, that you continually have the heart and mind of Jesus, that you constantly live the holy life that He has given you right here and now. Our Lord does whatever it takes to keep the eyes of your faith fixed on Him—even things like the silent treatment when you pray, or the responses that make you wonder if He really does hear you or love you. Just remember: our God is compassionate and loving. And He continually presents, offers and gives to you that mercy located nowhere else but in the flesh and blood of His own beloved Son. Amen.