PRAYER & PERSISTENCE OF THE
Matthew 14:22-33 Isaiah 56:1-8 Psalm 85:8-13 Romans 11:1-2a; 29-32
August 18, 2002
I. Women With Great
A. St. Jeanne de Chantal
What a woman. Not the Canaanite women in the Gospel, begging Jesus to heal her daughter. But another woman, Jeanne de Chantal. Jeanne lived during the time Shakespeare, but not in London. She lived across the English Channel in Dijon, in southern France, about 150 south east of Paris. At the age of 20 she married a baron. And like the Canaanite women, she also had occasion to pray to Jesus for her children. And like the Canaanite women, it seemed that Jesus was ignoring her. For Jeanne, 3 of her 7 children died in infancy. And after only 8 years of marriage, her husband died in a hunting accident. Where was Jesus? Was Jesus ignoring her prayers?
Although Jeanne found comfort in the church, she didn’t hear God’s answer to her prayers for four years. Then it was through a sermon by the Bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales. But still, it took another 6 years years before Jeanne and Bishop Francis were finally able to start The Order of the Visitation of Mary. This was a congregation dedicated to prayer and works of charity. Years later, St. Vincent De Paul observed that Jeanne was “full of faith,” kind of like the praise Jesus had for the Canaanite women who also had to wait for Jesus’ response. Remember Jesus told her, “Woman, great is your faith.”
B. Florence Nightingale
Another women, born in England 200 years later also had great faith in God and dedicated her life to works of charity. Florence was born in 1820 and learned several languages including Greek, Latin, French, German and Italian. Frances would have been very comfortable in what Isaiah called, in our first lesson, “a house of prayer for all nations.” At the age of 17 Florence heard the voice of God calling her for a special mission. But then it seemed as if Jesus was ignoring her. She wanted to study nursing at a local hospital, but this dream never happened. It took 9 years before a door was opened for her. At age 26 a friend sent her the year book for the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserwerth, Germany. But it still took another 4 years before she could enter the school. During this time she was studying Parliamentary Reports about public health and hospitals.
Finally, at the age of 30, Florence entered the school for Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserwerth, Germany. This school taught women of good character to nurse the sick. After she graduated, Florence was appointed the superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen, in London in 1853.
For Florence, it wasn’t until the Crimean War of 1856 that her talents really came to light. During this war, Florence went to Turkey to serve in a military hospital. There she found that soldiers were not well cared for. The hospital was grossly overcrowded. There was a shortage of furniture, clothing and bedding. The quarters were infested with rats and flees and the water allowance was one pint of water per person per day. This was supposed to be enough for drinking, cleaning wounds and cooking. For the next forty years, Florence Nightingale devoted her time and talents to the care of sick and wounded soldiers and the establishment of the Nightingale School for Nurses. Again, a woman of great faith, able to continue for years on end with no apparent results.
II. THE CANAANITE WOMAN
A. Isaiah - House of Prayer for ALL Nations
Back to today’s Gospel. Why did it take so long for Jesus to heal the Canaanite Woman’s daughter? Why didn’t Jesus just heal her right away? Why did Jesus make the statement, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Matthew 15:24? Was Jesus against foreigners? Did Jesus ever read Isaiah 56 which we read as our first lesson. Just look at Isaiah 56:3 & 6
“Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people.’”
And to the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to me and love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant;
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and make them joyful in my house of prayer
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar,
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
It seems clear from Isaiah that God wants to gather all people from all over the world to be His people. And thank goodness for that, right. I mean, none of us can claim to be Jews. We are not descendants of Abraham. So thank God, that God gathers all people, and not just Jews.
And then look at Psalm 67. The Psalmist talks about all people and all nations and all the ends of the earth. Again, God is the Lord of all people, not just the ancient Israelis. Surely Jesus also knew this Psalm. So what was Jesus doing in the Gospel?
B. The Disciples
First, does it say that Jesus wanted to send this Canaanite women away? Wasn’t it the disciples who again want to send people away. Two weeks ago, in Matthew 14:15, it was the disciples, the good church people that wanted to send the crowds away. After all, why should they have to feed 5,000? Why should they have to feed some of the Beloit College students who come here for fellowship? Why should they have to feed some homeless families?
And then in today’s Gospel, its again the disciples that want to send the Canaanite women, the foreign woman away. She’s a bother, a nuisance. Why should they have to put up with her. Why should we have to put up with neighborhood children who want to go in and out of our building to use the bathroom?
A. St. Jeanne de Chantal
Now, what do these three foreign women have in common? The answer might be, great faith and persistence.
Remember that first foreign women, St. Jeanne de Chantal of France? She was a rich widow who lost three children in infancy and then lost her husband. When she heard God calling her and decided to go into full time church work, her 15 year old son objected. He tried to prevent St. Jeanne from doing God’s calling. At one time, her son even laid down across the door to prevent his mother from leaving. She still loved her son, but she also knew God’s calling. She stayed focused on Jesus and founded a congregation, “The Order of the Visitation of Mary,” dedicated to prayer and acts of charity.
B. Florence Nightingale
Then there was the second foreign woman, Florence Nightingale from England. She also had great faith and persistence. After her successful work in the Crimean war she was bombarded with requests for help and advice. It got so bad for Florence Nightingale that for several years she faked an illness so that she wouldn’t be distracted and so she could do the work God had called her to do.
C. The Canaanite Woman
Finally there is the Canaanite Woman. Another woman on a mission of charity. In her case, she was concerned about her daughter. Like Florence Nightingale and Jeanne de Chantel, the Canaanite Woman had great faith, persistence and focus.
Did you notice what she did. She had been praying, calling out to Jesus with no apparent result. Did you ever feel like that. Have you prayed to God, repeatedly for something and it seems like God is ignoring you, or God is just not answering your prayer. Notice the persistence and focus of the Canaanite Woman. Then when she finally gets to speak face to face with Jesus, she is not in his face. It says that she “knelt before him.” She was humble before Jesus. And she knew that even the leftovers from Jesus, would be enough for her and her daughter.
May you be like the women in today’s lesson. May you have great faith like St. Jeanne de Chantal and like Florence Nightingale and like the Canaanite Woman. May you stay focused on helping others like these three women. And may you stay persistent in your prayers and humble before Jesus our Savior.
Now may the peace of God which passes all our human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.