The hymns in the Confession and Absolution section of our hymnal are, thematically, more difficult for us to sing, because to be a good Confession and Absolution hymn, you have to deal with a topic people don’t like.
We just sang these words:
“When in the hour of deepest need / We know not where to look for aid; / When days and nights of anxious thought / No help or counsel yet have brought” (LSB 615:1).
While true—that’s not the hymn with which we sing ourselves to sleep.
But—it is true.
Let’s start there: We know not where to look for aid.
So often, to care for others, we look only to ourselves.
And we should not.
I don’t mean the times when it’s my turn to change the diaper, unload the dishwasher, or fold the laundry—when it’s my turn, I just have to do those things.
(If I say that enough I’ll be ready in a few weeks, right?)
I mean when another person is stricken by God, smitten, and afflicted.
They’re hurting—and the burden for us is double, because we see their hurt—and—we convince ourselves that we can fix it. That we can help.
I could do this or that—or I could have.
I should do this or that—or I should have.
Or—if I had it to do over again, I would have—what?
You can’t fix everything.
Some things you must endure.
But with the hymn in mind, it does help if we know where to look for aid.
The Canaanite woman knew exactly where to look.
She put no trust in her own efforts.
She relied not at all on her own person or standing.
She knew Jesus as Lord, the Son of David. She knew the promises of God to establish His throne forever.
And as Jesus withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon, behold, this Canaanite woman came out and was crying, “‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’ But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out 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.’ And he answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’” (Matthew 15:21-26).
Consider this woman, this mother.
Her daughter is severely oppressed by a demon—which could mean the demon casts the girl into fire or water, constantly seeking her death.
If she acted as we often act, she wouldn’t dare leave her child—even to find help.
We’re practical—we think of what we can do.
Try this. Try that. What feels better? What works?
And when we fail, we consider only that we could’ve done more or less or different or better.
We don’t consider that we—actually—know not where to look for aid.
This woman left her demon possessed child—at best—in the care of others and—at worst—alone.
She acts on faith that’s willing to allow her daughter to suffer.
She acts on faith that simultaneously willingly endures the scorn of the Lord.
Jesus ignores her!
He denies that she has standing before God, saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” which seems to imply, “And not those incestuous Canaanites.”
And he answered her again, “It is not right to take the children’s read and throw it to the dogs.”
She endured the suffering of seeing her daughter distraught.
She bore the scorn of the Lord, seeking help.
And yet faith cries out all the more, “Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
And that was her hope.
Not preferential treatment—but crumbs.
She’s a dog with a bone, and she won’t let go.
She’s a Christian, with a promise from God, and she believes.
“Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly” (Matthew 15:28).
The gospel is not to be found apart from hardship, because the gospel is the forgiveness of sins—life after death.
Healing when all we know is hurt.
Joy when all we have is sadness.
Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
In the midst of sorrow and sickness and even death, that’s where the gospel will be found, because that’s where Jesus goes.
Into our flesh He’s born—to bear our sin and be our savior.
Upon Him was put the chastisement that brought us peace, and in our place He dies—destroying death and delivering us.
All He knew was pain—to pry us out of the grip of death.
He was despised and rejected; a man of sorrows and sadness, acquainted with grief—all so that we would know joy.
“O from our sins, Lord, turn Your face; / Absolve us through You boundless grace. / Be with us in our anguish still; / Free us at last from ev’ry ill” (LSB 615:5).
We find ourselves in anguish, still.
We all have this hardship, and all, therefore, suffer.
But Christians endure the will of God faithfully.
If the Equality Act, for example, which is obvious double speak, if it passes in the Senate, all Christians will be made to suffer, but use the mind that God has given you and see the world for what it is.
It’s no longer acceptable to say that “boys will be boys,” but our current government would require you think that it’s acceptable for “boys to be girls.”
“All men are created equal” means everyone is equal before God.
But “All men are created equal” does not mean that everyone is the same height—or that there aren’t obvious and good differences between male and female.
Be prepared to endure the will of God faithfully, to speak the truth in love to those who hate you.
It will happen. You will suffer.
But Christians prosper in the plans that God has made for them.
Walk the narrow way.
Honor your father and mother that it be well with you and you live long upon the earth (cf. Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:3).
Pray and live as Jesus teaches—for God to forgive your trespasses as you forgive those who trespass against you (cf. Matthew 6:12).
Build your house on the rock.
Walk in the narrow way of the Lord.
Be prepared, because all suffer.
But Christians hear and receive and hold on to the promises of God unto life everlasting.
“So we with all our hearts each day / To [God] our glad thanksgiving pay, / Then walk obedient to [His] Word, / And now and ever praise [Him], Lord” (LSB 615:6).
The Canaanite woman is a great example for us.
She knew where to look for aid.
She was a dog with a bone she wouldn’t let go.
She was a Christian with a promise from God that she certainly believed.
Great was her faith! And great is yours.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Reminiscere (Lent 2), 2021
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt