The Canaanite Woman and the Call Process

Many of us will have heard and/or preached on St. Matthew’s account of the Canaanite Woman this past Sunday (St. Matthew 15:21-28). I’ve preached and taught on this Holy Gospel account many times over the years, emphasizing the perseverance of prayer in the faith that clings to the Word and promise of God even in the face of silence and apparent contradictions and rejections. The woman’s reliance on the mercies of the Lord Jesus – and her unflappable confidence that He would provide what was needed for her daughter – are exemplary and encouraging to all of us.

As I listened to this Holy Gospel (and the preaching of it) on Sunday, it struck me in a particular way that had not specifically occurred to me before. Much of my time and attention are occupied with congregations who are hoping and praying for pastors, and with pastors who are hoping and praying for Calls. Since the Office of the Ministry has been established by our Lord for the good of His Church, we know that such prayers are in accordance with His Word and promises, just as it was in keeping with His good and gracious Will that the Canaanite Woman’s daughter be freed from her demonic affliction. And since there are congregations seeking pastors on the one hand, and pastors who are in need of Calls on the other hand, it seems like it ought to be “an easy fix.”

The reality is, though, that the Call process can sometimes take a long time – not always, but sometimes. There are congregations that issue multiple Calls, only to have them declined, one after another. That experience is frustrating and discouraging, and it can bring to the surface worries and concerns, such as, “What’s wrong with us?” There may be factors that need to be addressed and dealt with, and that is something our Circuit Visitors, Vice Presidents, and I can assist with. But more often than not, there’s nothing “wrong” with the congregation, aside from the common afflictions of sin, death, and the devil, which every congregation bears in this body and life. There was nothing “wrong” with the Canaanite Woman and her request, either, other than the very real need that she faced in the case of her poor beleaguered daughter.

The Lord already knew what He would do for that woman and her daughter, just as He already knows the pastors He will send to each and every congregation of His Church on earth – just the right men at just the right time for the accomplishment of His purposes. Meanwhile, the time He takes to answer the prayers of His people is not without purpose; He’s not taunting or teasing but teaching His people, strengthening them in repentance and faith, and fixing their hope in Him. He’s teaching the pastors who are called, as well, even (and especially) when they choose to decline the Calls they are given to consider. It is a time of self-evaluation, reflection, and prayer.

It is much the same for those called and ordained servants of the Word who are watching and waiting in prayer for a Divine Call, whether they are presently without a place of service, in a situation that is no longer tenable or viable, or needing to address and deal with new challenges of health and family. For those men, too, the silence can be deafening, as when our Lord at first answered the Canaanite Woman nothing. And it can seem that further pleas for help, and even the intercessions of others, are met with refusal, rejection, and insult. How easy it would be to despair and give up! In consideration of those cares and concerns, the example of that woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon is set before us, that we should continue to pray, to call upon the Name of the Lord, to cry out for His mercy, and not to lose heart. We persevere in prayer, not on the basis of what we see or feel on the surface, but by faith in the Word and promises of God. “For He says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).