- Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
This passage often leaves people scratching their heads. After all, why doesn’t Jesus immediately want to help this distressed woman? But if you read carefully, you begin to see Jesus is engaging in some witty repartee with her. He says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” but she doesn’t take this for the final answer. She engages with Jesus. She continues to try her best to enlist the help of the One who can help. And her faith is rewarded. This woman is a Canaanite (IE: not a Jew) yet ultimately Jesus helps her – because she has faith that He will.
How often do we give up after one prayer, one time of asking, one instance of “help me, Lord?”
Do you ever find yourself praying as a routine rather than a belief that God will respond? Is your prayer life ever dry and repetitive, but without belief? It happens to many of us – we get so stuck in a routine that we forget to stop and consider what prayer really is at heart – a conversation with God (and as any good conversation goes, we need to listen to the other party at least as much as we speak). And we must be faithful and persistent, knowing that God will, in some way, answer our prayer.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Mt 5:4
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Ex 13:21
You might be wondering what these two passages have to do with each other. And honestly, they are not related. Except for one thing. They are both reminder of God’s presence.
Yesterday (11/3/19) was All Saints Sunday, a day on the liturgical calendar set aside to remember those who have gone before us. There is a long history of Christians remembering the dead, and that history extends into Judaism as well.
Jews practice something called “Yahzreit”, which includes lighting a candle on the anniversary of a person’s death, or at significant times in the Jewish calendar. It is a way of honoring those who have gone before.
Notice the candle – the flame – the light. Now I turn to the passage from Exodus. God’s presence was known in the pillar of fire. As long as those wandering in the desert saw that pillar of fire, they were reminded of God’s presence.
And as Christians, we believe that the dead in Christ are not truly dead, rather they are in God’s presence, so lighting a candle of remembrance is a way of reminding us that God is present with us, and our loved ones are present with God, therefore we are blessed – even when we mourn.
Yesterday we lit candles in memory of our departed loved ones. Yesterday we had a prayer of thanksgiving for their lives, and we gave God all praise and honor and glory.
And the flames reminded us that God always goes with us.