Isaiah 56:1, 2-8
This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed… 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The sovereign Lord declares—he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”
Blue lives, black lives, white lives, purple lives, green lives, brown lives, yellow lives it doesn’t matter to the LORD because the LORD doesn’t concern himself with color to determine which lives matter to him. Color is something the world has chosen to do to distinguish which lives matter. The LORD simply lumps all colors, races and cultures except one into one category: foreigners. What is abundantly clear is foreigners do matter to him. If foreigners didn’t matter to God then you and I wouldn’t be here. We are foreigners and we matter to our God.
Foreigners do not have the best reputation because often they do not know what is going on and do not look like, talk like or act like the rest of the population. A foreigner sticks out. Before we get all bent out of shape being called a foreigner this is just another way of saying someone who is not a Jew. If you are not a Jew, you are a foreigner. We heard about just such a foreigner in the Gospel reading for today. We hear of a Canaanite women, a mother, who was desperately trying to find a cure for her daughter who was suffering from demon possession. Look how she is treated. The disciples want her sent away. They don’t want to be bothered with this foreigner. She is after all a foreigner. Even Jesus gives the impression he is not interested in this foreigner. At first, her cries for help go unanswered. He tells this woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the disciples felt they believed they had some justification for wanting to send her away after Jesus’ actions. Jesus had other ideas. He was going to show his disciples that foreigners do matter. “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Foreigners matter to the LORD, therefore you matter.
You mattering to the LORD has nothing to do with the color of your skin, race or economic status. You matter because God says his house is a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord’s house is the Church. The Church is made up of people. Not just certain types and colors of people but people from all nations. You are living proof that foreigners matter to God.
At one time America was called the melting pot because of our ethnic and racial diversity. I know of no other nation on the face of the earth that is as racial and ethically diverse as America. Millions upon millions of foreigners have immigrated to this country. While I have no idea on how many foreigners will be in this house of prayer for all nations, the LORD’s house of prayer is going to be just as racially diverse, even more so. The Lord declares, And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Where in these words do you see color matters in order to enter the house of prayer? Where in these words do you find you need to be in a certain economic class to enter the house of prayer? None of this matters to our God for his house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Much of what is taking place in our country seems to be motivated not so much by race but by the classes; between the so-called haves and haves not. With the Lord there are no haves and haves not. Verses earlier he tells the foreigner this, Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” What matters to the LORD is being bound to him; being in a right relationship with him. He describes it this way, “And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar;.”
As I read those words, I want us to think about ourselves. Afterall we are foreigners. Are we superglued to the LORD, inseparable? When we leave these doors the LORD is with us wherever we go in order that my life is one big service to my LORD; I love the name of the LORD knowing that he is faithful and keeps all of his promises never doubting; and I am so bound to the LORD that worship of him is my priority; and I have kept the LORD’s Sabbath always glad to hear and learn the word of the LORD never despising the preaching and teaching of God’s Word or desecrating God’s word by twisting and turning it to make it say what I want. We are so bound to him that we hold fast to his covenant, his promise of grace and life and forgiveness through his Son’s life and death that we would never think our actions or words merit anything before our God. Looking at ourselves could it be that bond with our LORD is being stretched to the max and is starting to break? How can the LORD ever bring us to his holy Mountain and give us joy in his house of prayer?
Let our response be the same the same as the Canaanite woman in the Gospel lesson for today, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” The LORD has given to us much more than crumbs. He has given to us his Son who was always bound to his LORD because our Savior and the Father are one. Being perfectly bound to the LORD Jesus is the one who served the LORD for us. Jesus is the one who loved the name of the LORD for us. Jesus is the one who worshiped the LORD for us. Jesus is the one who kept the Sabbath never despising but always glad to hear and read and learn and study the LORD’s word for us. Jesus is the superglue that binds us to the LORD. Through Jesus you are brought to the LORD’s holy mountain. You have joy in the LORD’s house of prayer because here you are a foreigner in the LORD’s house considered sons and daughters. Your offerings that you bring not just on the LORD’s altar but with your whole life in all you think and say and do are accepted by the LORD because he sees the offerings of his Son as your offerings. Every one of us here may be foreigners but the LORD has given to us much more than crumbs because Foreigners matter to the LORD.
Now as a foreigner inseparably bound to the LORD this is what the LORD says, “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Foreigners hang in there. Soon enough you will be brought to the holy mountain. Until then protect justice. Carry out righteousness knowing that you matter to your God. Amen.