Sermon Text: This Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog

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Sunday Online Church at Home Service 11th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST SERMON

Proper 15A, This Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog

Proper 15A – This Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog!

  1. In this politically correct, environmentally conscious culture that we live in you don’t hear the phrase, “This shouldn’t happen to a dog!” very often anymore it sounds like a hold-over from an earlier time.
    1. Now when you hear it, it might conjure up images of the ASPCA commercials that run on TV with the poor dogs that have come from abusive backgrounds and sitting behind chain-linked fences, but that’s not what I’m referring to.
      1. For those unfamiliar, the expression refers to some event or happening that is so bad, so awful that no creature should have to experience it.
      1. There was a movie by that title from 1946, I’ve not seen it, but it was a crime comedy.
      1. I remember the phrase from Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes, like most children of my era anything worth learning about culture, pop classical music, etc was learned from Sat morning cartoons
      1. As an aside: I don’t remember much about civics or grammar from school but of you ask how a bill becomes law or how a preposition works I’ll probably recite School House Rock’s I’m Just a Bill and Conjunction Junction. Saturday morning was great as a kid!
    1. But what if what we see in our Gospel lesson this morning turns the meaning of the phrase, “This shouldn’t happen to a dog,” on its head?
      1. What if rather than something so heinous the event was so great, so magnificent, so full of grace no creature deserved to experience it?
      1. That’s what we see in our text this morning, the Canaanite woman and her daughter experienced something so wonderful dogs like us don’t deserve it
  2. Let’s begin in the Word of God and see what happens
    1. This account happens in Matt 15, it’s sandwiched between two confrontations that Jesus had with the religious leaders of Israel.
      1. In the beginning of our chapter (15) the Pharisees and Sadducees argue with Jesus because His disciples break their tradition by eating with unwashed hands – a question about ceremonial cleanliness.
      1. Then as chapter 16 opens, the religious leaders challenge Jesus again regarding a sign from heaven to authenticate His teaching.
      1. So, our account today presents a contrast between the religious people who should have gotten what Jesus was saying because they were supposed to be grounded in God’s Word but didn’t, and people like the Canaanite woman (a non-Jewish, religiously uneducated person) who nevertheless understood who Jesus was and what He’d come to do.
    1. Our account takes place just after the first run-in with the Pharisees and Sadducees, and Matthew reports, Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. (Mat 15:21)
      1. These were Gentile (non-Jewish) lands, the people would have been largely uninformed about Jewish law and life and happenings in Israel
      1. Yet, as Jesus is passing through this Canaanite woman calls out, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. (Mt 15:22)
      1. Jesus ignores her (you know Jesus…refuge of the weary, friend of sinners and all that…ignores her) – not the Jesus we’ve come to expect when people call for help.
      1. Not only that, when she persists, the disciples get irritated saying, Send her away, for she is crying out after us. (Mat 15:23)
    1. When Jesus finally does answer her, He says, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Mat 15:24)
      1. Where do you go when Jesus turns His back on you? What does that mean!? In this case, Matthew says, she came and knelt before him, saying, Lord, help me. (Mat 15:25)
      1. She is begging at this point, when was the last time you got down on your knees in an act of humiliation?
      1. Does Jesus give in…does He get all teary eyed? No, He says, It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (Mat 15:26)
      1. He just called her a dog, and treats her like a dog, there’s no hope for you or your daughter, you’re not worthy, you’re not of the children of Israel – Things like this shouldn’t happen to a dog!
    1. But by her response we see that she gets it, that she understands who she is and who Jesus is and the religious leaders, whose conflicts bracket this episode, didn’t
      1. She says, Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. (Mat 15:27)
      1. She doesn’t argue with Jesus…she doesn’t storm off in a huff complaining about that rotten Jewish guy…
      1. She acknowledges what He says about her and her daughter, she recognizes her helplessness and unworthiness yet begs for the blessing
      1. And now the Lord responds, O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire. And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mat 15:28)
  3. When was the last time your prostrated yourself like that before the Lord…were willing to hear rightly what the Word of God has to say about you and your unworthiness?
    1. This Canaanite woman, like so many non-Jewish people in the Gospels, actually got it, they knew where they ranked on God’s list – NOWHERE!
      1. That’s what the religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t get – they didn’t get what God’s Law says about all of us, we are all sinners in the eyes of God, deserving nothing but condemnation.
      1. As Paul says in Rom 3, None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Rom 3:10-12)
    1. They were hanging their confidence on being God’s chosen people, born of the line of Abraham, heirs of the promise – they were special in their own eyes much like we all are.
      1. You might come to church week in and week out, you may even be able to recite the blessed Catechism in its native German tongue but none of that means a thing to God.
      1. If you’re godly and you know it! – you’ve just fallen into the sin of pride and God doesn’t like proud people,
      1. Proud people, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, don’t need to be saved they’re doing fine on their own.
    1. It’s hard to be proud when you’re on your knees and acknowledging you’re a dog – that shouldn’t happen to a dog!
      1. But that’s where God begins to do His work, when we recognize that on our own we’re nothing,
      1. When we’re on our knees looking for the crumbs God’s going to work,
      1. Why? Because as Paul tells us in I Cor 1, But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1Co 1:27-29)
      1. James says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (Jas 4:6)
    1. That’s because God does His work through humble means, not in a splash of power and glory.
      1. As Paul says in Philippians 2, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Php 2:5-8)
      1. Your sins were forgiven through an act of submission where the eternal, almighty God submitted Himself to be born a human and experience something foreign to His nature – death.
      1. All for the sake of love to save you, me, all of humanity – His wayward creatures.
      1. Something that great, that glorious, that sublime shouldn’t happen to dogs like us, for dogs like us, but thanks be to God who chooses what is weak and low to the world, people like us, to be His beloved children!