Aug16

A Dog's Life

Categories // Sermons

11th Sunday after Pentecost

A Dog's Life

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father, His Son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

        I am a ‘Dog’ person. Dogs have been in my life since I was a little kid. There were a few years, here and there, when I wasn’t able to have a dog, but they are few. I’ve had some dumb dogs, some smart dogs, some good dogs and some bad dogs. The dog I have now has some good traits and some… not so good.

        Dogs have been pets with humankind for thousands of years. In first century, A.D., the Roman writer Tacitus, mentions in his accounts of Britain that its principal exports were grain, hides, cattle, iron, silver, slaves, and clever hunting-dogs.[1]

        Dog collars and pendants with images of dogs have been found in Sumer and a cylinder seal from Nineveh has an image of a Saluki wearing a collar; both dated around 3000 B.C. Dogs are depicted in Mesopotamian art as hunters but also as companions. Dogs were kept in the home and were treated in much the same way by caring families as they are today.[2]

        Ah, dogs. Dogs have been part of our social structure for millenia. They have been our friends, our protectors, and even our workers. They have even been included in our literature and aphorisms. ‘Man’s best friend.’ we say. ‘Best to let sleeping dogs lie.’ And ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ just to name a few.

        Therefore, it is no surprise that we find our ever-loving companions mentioned by Jesus Christ himself. To be sure, his figurative use of a dog in this morning’s gospel was not necessarily a flattering use. But the point was well taken by all who heard. The disciples and the Canaanite woman all learned a lesson in faith, taught so well by our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

        The Canaanite woman came to Jesus because her daughter was being tortured by demons. She lived in the area of Sidon and Tyre, a region populated by what the disciples might call, heathen or pagan people. They were certainly not Jews and the term Gentile did not quite fit either. Considering them to be ‘unclean’, the Jews would often refer to them as animals or dogs.

        Jesus had no intention of preaching in these lands. It seems he was traveling in this area to a place where he and his disciples might find solitude to pray and discuss his mission here. But as with any person whose reputation becomes known, his ability to find privacy became more of a struggle.

        Remember that Jesus does not deny people his comfort and grace. Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus’ compassion for the sick, the dying and the lost. Even when he wishes to be alone and is physically tired from his work, he still heals, still comforts and still forgives sin.

        This Canaanite woman sees hope in Jesus. She has never met him. She is not a Jew nor does she even live in the region of the Israelites, yet she has heard of this man Jesus and she has faith. She calls upon the Lord.

        In the text of Matthew 15:22 it is written, “And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David;’” What is interesting in this statement was the word used by Matthew to describe the woman’s ‘crying out’. ????? is the term used. It means – to make a vehement outcry.

        This was not a woman of subdued disposition saying, ‘Oh, excuse me Son of David. Would you be so kind as to tend to my daughter’s needs? Thank you so much.’ No! This woman was crying out in pain and desperation. It is no wonder the disciples begged Jesus to send her away; she was making a scene, and they were trying to quietly slip away so the large crowds would not follow them.

        Jesus tells the woman that the food on his plate is not for her. ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ he says. It is not that she cannot have faith because she is not an Israelite. It is not that she cannot have the bread of life which Jesus brings to our world. It is not because Jesus has no compassion or knowledge of what the woman is enduring.

        Could it be that Jesus sees an opportunity to spread the good news while at the same time teaching his disciples the truth about for whom he has come into the world? Did he not say, ‘I have come not to destroy the world but to save it.’? Did he not come for Jew and Gentile alike? Does not God take all who repent back into his kingdom?

        The Canaanite woman kneels before Jesus, prostrates herself with her head at his feet and says, “Lord, Help me.” What simple and powerful words. Last Sunday we heard of the faith of Peter when he says to Jesus, as he sinks into the stormy sea, “Lord, save me!” His is a cry, almost a demand to his Lord, but the woman’s plea is loud but sorrowful, like a dog whining at her master’s table.

        He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” [Matthew 15:26] Now even though dogs had been used by the peoples of this time for herding and such, dogs were still considered unclean animals. They lived mostly on mice and other ground animals, considered unclean by Mosaic Law. It is true that some people had a house-dog that would eat the scraps from the table, but it does not seem to have been a common practice.

        As if she were a dog, she realized that he had spoken to her. He was paying attention to her. Instead of turning away, she grew in hope of a scrap from the master’s table. ‘Yes, Lord! If I am to be a dog, then so be it! I will take your gracious crumbs from your life-giving bread. Call me what you wish, just do not leave my daughter to die.’

        By her persistent faith, God’s grace and mercy gave this woman what she desired. Her daughter was healed in that very hour. This example serves us well in that, when our Lord God puts off answering, we do not let up but firmly trust that he will have compassion on us and even though he does not say it loudly and publicly, he still says it privately in our hearts.

        As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 11:

“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew… for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy.” [Romans 11:1a, 2a, 29-30]

        We may wish to come to our Lord, Jesus Christ, but we may be afraid. We may ask in prayer for our needs but do not receive satisfaction. We may think that we are like dogs, begging for scraps only to be turned away into the cold.

        But our supplications are heard. Our Lord does have mercy on us and gives us his gift of the bread of life. His body and blood give us the forgiveness of sins and with the forgiveness of sins comes healing and salvation.

        Christ gave up his life for all people, Jew and Gentile, slave and free. No one is to be left outside the gates of his father’s kingdom. Jesus Christ gave us this salvation through his crucifixion unto death on the cross. His resurrection on the third day was our redemption from our sin.

        God’s grace should be good enough for us but we desire more. We cry and whine though he seems not to hear us. We paw at him and he acts as though he doesn’t know us, and lets us go on in our misery as though we had no God. But it won’t go on like this forever; God will respond.

        Therefore, let us never doubt that we have a “Yes” in heaven, imbedded in the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Father’s, and that in his time it will be revealed. We must learn to say, ‘I will cling to the “yes,” that God will be merciful to his church and rescue all who cry to him for help.’ The “yes” is deep in his heart, in keeping with Christ’s promise when he says:

“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. [John 14:13-14]

        We cling firmly to this promise, never doubting that our prayer will be heard, even though for a time God delays. As in the case of this woman as she cries and implores, and will not let the “Yes” word be plucked from her heart – the word that Christ, the Lord, is friendly and will help.

        May our dear Lord God help us to learn this lesson well, so that with our whole heart we firmly believe his Word and promises, and through Christ, with the Holy Spirit’s help, are eternally saved.

Amen

 


[1] https://www.ancient.eu/article/184/dogs-in-the-ancient-world/ Downloaded 15AUG2020

[2] Ibid.