Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Matthew 15:21-28; February 8, 2015

Sunday Scripture is Matthew 15:21-28

You can read this Scripture here: NIV and ESV

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 452 – My Faith Looks Up to Thee

UMH 63 – Blessed Be the Name

UMH 88 – Maker in Whom We Live

This is a third Sermon in the Series.

To view sermon notes for sermon # 2 {Click ME}

To view sermon notes for sermon # 1 {Click Me}

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The last two weeks we have been looking at miracles. There is not a human being alive today that has not asked for a miracle at one time or another. This happens because we live in a fallen world. Humans are endowed with free will; we are free and able to make choices that put our actions either in accord with God’s guidance or against it. Sadly, since the original fall, we are predisposed to make irrational decisions and wrong choices. St. Bernard of Clairvaux said around 1150 C.E. that “the path to hell is paved [covered] with good intentions…”

These good intentions, irrational decisions and wrong choices manifest themselves in conflict, illness, bad/unproductive habits, and addictions; and they come to haunt us. It is usually during those uncomfortable and anxious times that we ask God for a miracle: a healing, a financial windfall, for a difficult situation to resolve itself, for something to happen that will take our pain away.

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We started this journey two weeks ago when we looked at the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof by his friends and the miracle of healing that was granted. We saw that before the healing happened, the friends of the paralyzed man reached towards God; we saw that Jesus saw their faith and that as a result there was a connection. That connection was experienced by humans as a miracle.

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Then last week we looked at the miracle of feeding the multitudes. We saw that there was some food on that lake-shore (all of the Gospels agree that there were at least five loaves and two fish); we also saw that there was definitely not enough food to feed everyone. We saw that when the available resources were “surrendered” to God, that is when the miracle of multiplication happened.

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That brings us to today’s reading. This story is recorded in two Gospels: Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. Today’s reading is a story of the complexity of the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman, and a testimony to her resilience and perseverance.

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Have you ever felt uncomfortable? I am talking about the times when we are out of our element. I am talking about being uncomfortable at a party where you do not know anybody. I am talking about being uncomfortable on a blind date that you felt obligated to go on. I am talking about feeling anxious and uncomfortable at a time when we are not sure what our role should be, or when we do not know how to act or to behave.

Who among us has not felt left out, lonely, vulnerable and unwelcome at one time or another. It is not a good feeling and most, if not all, of us will go to great lengths to avoid it.

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Today’s reading from Matthew tells us a story of a woman who made a choice to reach out to Jesus in spite of being uncomfortable and in spite of her fears and anxieties. Not only was she uncomfortable, she also made the disciples feel so uncomfortable that they asked Jesus to tell her to go away.

Let us reread today’s Scripture and pay more attention to the dialogue between Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman.

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Matthew 15: 22 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.”

23 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.”

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

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

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

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

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

I can hear and feel her anxiety, fear, frustration, and hope when she said, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Jesus recognized her faith in that response. As a result “her daughter was healed at that moment” (Matthew 15:28).

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Today’s miracle of healing is rooted in the Syro-Phoenician woman’s discomfort and anxiety. Today’s reading hints that no miracle ever happens because everything is honky-dory and we are at a place of comfort wearing soft slippers, sipping hot cocoa, enjoying the next episode of Downton Abbey. Miracles are God’s response to our needs, and being in need, whether physical or emotional, is uncomfortable. Miracles happen when we reach towards God in faith and in action. Miracles address needs that we have.

{Illustration: Not all our needs are addressed by miracles}

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Miracles are lessons about faith. I do not know of a miracle in the Scriptures (be it a healing, restoration, multiplication, etc.) that happened because of someone’s decision, determination, resolution, ability, strength, intelligence, rituals, courage, moral fortitude, etc. We do, however, hear Jesus say over and over, “Your faith has healed you.”

Every miracle that has happened in the past or is happening around us at present exposes our falleness and inability to save ourselves. Jesus’ words, “Your faith has healed you,” reinforce faith – faith in God’s Love and Grace towards us, God’s children. God challenges ordinary men and women like you and I to strive to be the best versions of what God created us to be, to step out on faith in prayer and in action, and in the process to perform extraordinary feats of faith that give us a glimpse of the loving nature of our Creator.

{Illustration from the Scriptures}

In the process we become consciously aware of the miracles that God is performing all around us all the time. As we experience God we are changed in the process.

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Miracles happen all around us. They begin with us bringing our problems to God, and they happen when we are willing and able to hear God’s guidance on our lives. Sometimes the answers that we receive from God are not what we hope them to be; in my personal experience the answers that God gives are more challenging than I ever expected. The miracles that I have experienced in my life are much more vivid, powerful, transformative, and exciting than I ever knew or thought to ask for.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

Next week I will share with you some of the miracles that I have witnessed on my journey.

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