Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 16 August 2020

by Andy Cokayne 16 August 2020

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Our first hymn is ‘Faithful one so unchanging’

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Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

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Our second hymn is ‘My faith looks up to thee’

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One of the passages of scripture set for today is : Matthew 15:21-28

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 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.

Faith Stretched to Growing Point?

Last week Peter led us through the story of Jesus walking on water, and reminded us that ‘In the space of a few hours the disciples experience God’s overwhelming generosity, forgiveness through Jesus, his power against the forces of nature and His ability to be present at the worst of times with a calming influence.’

Following this, Jesus had been challenged by the Pharisees and then disappointed by his disciples. It should be no surprise therefore that we read in v21 ‘Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon’. Whenever we read ‘Jesus withdrew’ it normally means he needed some quiet time. After Jesus heard of his cousin John the Baptist being beheaded, we read in Matthew 14 v13 ‘he withdrew privately to a solitary place’. Again we read in Luke 5 v16 ‘But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ We all need time to be alone with Our Father, and Jesus was no different.

In this passage we meet a woman, but on the face of it we learn little about her, other than she was from the region of Tyre and Sidon, which is now part of modern day Syria, and that she had a daughter, who at the time was ill. We don’t learn her name, what she did for work, we don’t even know if she was married. Yet Jesus declared that she was a great example to follow.

In fact we learn much more about her character and faith. We see that her faith was perceptive, in v22 she called Jesus “Lord, Son of David,” an ancient title used of the promised Messiah. In v25 that she knelt before him, a sign of homage, and cried out again “Lord, help me!”. In v27 she likened herself to a dog, in comparison to Jesus the Master, a sign of true humility, before Jesus the Son Of God. She had perceived who Jesus really was.

Secondly that her faith was practical, she was not just a person of theory, she was a woman of action. In v22 she ‘came to him’, v23 the disciples are disturbed by her “she keeps crying out after us”, v25 ‘The woman came and knelt before him’. Her faith was such that just to believe nicely from a distance was not for her. She was driven to action.

Finally, that her faith was persistent. We read in verse 22 she cried out to Jesus in her grief “Lord, Son of David, have mercy,” but Jesus ignored her. Then in v25 she pleads with Jesus “Lord, help me!”, but Jesus verbally pushed her away. And finally, upon his response she does not argue with Jesus, but acknowledges her position at the bottom of the pile, and simply requests his action. At that point Jesus congratulates her on her persistent faith, and grants her request. In fact Jesus said of her, that she was a woman not of faith, but we read in v28 Jesus declared “Woman, you have great faith!”

We may have faith and believe that Jesus existed, but so do most other religions. We may even believe that he is the Son of God, yet we read in James 2 v19 ‘You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder.’ The faith of the woman was obviously far more than this. Her faith led her to action. When she was in need and realised that only Jesus could meet that need, she went after Jesus and approached him in the only way she knew how. And she was not easily put off. Her faith was Perceptive, Practical and Persistent. How does ours compare?

In Matthew 8 v 5-13 we read of a Roman Centurion, who astonished Jesus with his faith, to such an extent that Jesus declared in v10 “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

Jesus exclaimed to the Canaanite woman “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” But to both the Roman Centurion and the Canaanite woman, he praised them for their great faith. They were both outside the inner circle, they were both non-Jews. We are given no intimation of how either of them came to faith in Jesus. Had they heard Jesus speak before? Had they seen Jesus heal before? We do not know. Yet they both exhibit great faith in this man, who was being hounded by the Jewish authorities. Jesus never limited his view to Jews only, wherever he saw faith in Him, whether Jew or Gentile, he acknowledged it and praised them for it. Lockdown, the time it has given us to assess what is important in life, and the anxieties and worry it has caused many, may well cause people to ask questions about God, and as a consequence they may well, we hope and pray, come to Newmount. When the churches are open again, will we be open or closed to them? Will we consider them not from our circle and question their faith, or their desire to question ours? May our faith in Our Living God cause us to be welcoming, and may Our Father stretch our faith to growing point.

Our final hymn is ‘Shine! Jesus shine!’

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We are united with churches throughout the country as we share together in the ‘The UK Blessing’.

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