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Sermon for Matthew 15:1-20, 21-28   -   Great Is Your Faith
Proper 15
           

What would you think if I told you that on your tombstone would be inscribed a four-word epitaph? Well, you might respond, it would depend on who would write this epitaph--an enemy or a loved one. It might also depend, you might say, on how well this person knew and understood you. If a newspaper critic wrote of a concert pianist the four words: "He was a failure," you could always say: That was his opinion. But if one of the world's great musicians wrote, "He was a genius," then you are apt to take the remark more seriously.

There was a character in the Gospel who Jesus once described with four immortal words: Great is your faith. She was a Canaanite woman who came from the country to the north of Palestine, a country hostile to the Jews. She was presumably married, she had at least one child; but that's all we know about her. We don't know whether she was a good woman or a bad woman. We don't know her name. All we know of her is that in this single encounter with Jesus he spoke to her this four-word epitaph: Great is your faith.

Only four words but they are enough to make her immortal. We can trust these words as being true because the expert on faith spoke them. Jesus searched for faith, as a gem collector would fine jewels. He did not always find it in his disciples. On no occasion that we know did he ever say of Peter, James, and John: Great is your faith. More often the words he spoke to them -- You of little faith. On only one other occasion did Jesus praise a person for their faith. Interestingly, that was a Roman soldier stationed in Capernaum.

We regard this Canaanite woman with more than just an academic interest. She awakens in us a feeling of admiration, perhaps even envy, because she stands where most of us would like to stand. What faithful Christian would not like it said of him or her: Great is your faith. Think of what it would mean if an aspiring young artist had Picasso place his hand on his shoulder and say: You have a great talent. How wonderful it would be then to a believer in God, if Jesus would place his hand on our shoulder and say: You have a remarkable talent for faith. But how does one qualify for this praise? What does one have to do? To answer these questions let us take a closer look at her story.

1. She Was Willing to Cross Barriers.
2. She Refused to Be Put Off
3. and, She Had No Claim on Christ.

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