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Walk Like a Dog

March 05, 2023; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Proper 15 A. canaanite woman.jpg

Walk Like a Dog


Rev. Kurt Lantz 2 Lent 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7

March 05, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON



Dear people called out, in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,


Grace to you and peace (1 Thessalonians 1:1).



Our dog is a fairly strong beast. She was not brought up in a home but lived for a year on the streets in some Northern Manitoba community. We put forth quite a bit of effort in teaching her how to go for a walk. Now, in general you don’t really have to teach a dog to walk. When they are only a few days old they just get up and start doing it. But to teach them how to walk with people in a safe manner in public can be a challenge. It took a while for our dog to learn that we were not holding the end of the leash so she could drag us around to things that smelled interesting to her. It took a lot of repeated and consistent effort, restraint with harness and leash, encouragement with treats, and audible reminders to make it safe to take her for a walk.


All of this is important, and we continue to exercise and work on it because our dog has been taken out of a life on the streets in a Northern Manitoba community and placed into a family neighbourhood where the people are not trying to scare her away, where drivers expect that she will not run out into the street to chase their tires, where other dogs are not interested in fighting with her for food, indeed where she will be fed and sheltered and not left to fend for herself. But the continual urging and restraining are necessary because it can all be forgotten when a wild scent is in the air, when a car passes too close, when another dog makes an unexpected move. The wild nature is still in her and will leap out without warning.


There is some similarity to Christians. We heard in the Gospel reading, how Jesus referred to the Gentiles as dogs (Matthew 15:26). It initially sounds offensive, but as it comes from Jesus we are forced to look for, not only the truth of the statement, but also the expression of love behind it.


St. Paul included in his first letter to the Thessalonians (our Epistle Reading for today), an urging for restraint in the life of Christians so that they walk and please God as they had been instructed to do, and to do so more and more (1 Thessalonians 4:1). The apostle and pastors had not taught them how to walk in terms of standing up and putting one foot in front of the other, but in terms of walking according to the reality that they had been called out of life as Gentile unbelievers and had been relocated into a new life in Christ as Christians in His Church.


Because we continue to be at war with our sinful nature (Romans 7:23), we need to be encouraged to walk/live as Christians and not as the Gentiles/unbelievers we used to be. We need to be restrained from going back to that former way of life, especially if we catch a scent of something that appeals to our sinful nature, or if we come into close contact with something that puts our instincts back into the mode of the wild way of life from which we have been rescued.


“For this is the will of God, your sanctification [your holiness]: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter” (1 Th 4:3-6). We need continual encouragements to restrain ourselves from giving way to the wild sexual wantonness that is encouraged and unrestrained in our society. It was also unrestrained in the society of the first century world when Paul wrote this letter. There is a perpetual pull to the call of the wild which reveals how far and how great mankind fell into sin. Its devastating effect on our nature can run amok in all times and all places and all people.


It is not sexual expression in itself that is wildly sinful, for sex predates the fall into sin. It was a part of the freshly created world which God declared to be very good. In fact, the only thing that was not good was that the man was alone. So God made a fitting partner for him. God created them male and female and blessed them. “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:28). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).


After the infection of sin into human nature, sexual expression transgressed all the good and loving order of God’s creation and institution of the marriage of one man and one woman united as one flesh, expressed in loving service to each other. It is only with the admixture of sin that sexual expression goes wild outside the bounds of proper marriage and beyond the self-giving expression of love for a spouse to expressions that become demeaning domination and wild abandon.


It is the essential difference between the Child of Israel and the Gentile. Unbelievers do not know God. They do not know His loving care built into creation and the establishment of marriage and family. They do not know His desire to restrain chaos and disorder because of its damage to and destruction of societies and individual persons. They do not know this God who has given sexual expression in marriage for the joyous miracle of two becoming one and the union fruitfully producing many. They do not know a God whose love for us in the mystery of Christ and the Church is pictured in the faithful life of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:31-32).


Our walk in the world as Christians ought to be decidedly and demonstrably different than the walk of unbelievers—as different as a tame and loving pet seeking to please its master is from a wild street dog with no one to care and keep it safe.


St. Paul warns us that “the Lord is an avenger in all these things” (1 Th 4:6). A wild street dog, or a pet acting out as such, is not only living in its own depravity but is also a danger to others. It is a menace to the community. So also our sexual sins do not only drag us down to damnation individually, but they also damage and hurt our family members, and society also. God will avenge such an attack on the people He loves. He will not let it run wild. He will take vengeance on the transgressors for the direct damage they do to others and for their role in encouraging such wild behaviour in society.


What is a dog like me to do? When the wild nature breaks out runs around unrestrained, nosing in the trash and rolling in the filth, what can be done? When we find ourselves with no shelter from the vengeance of God and starving for affection and care, the only place to go is to the house of our Master. With our tail between our legs in humble repentance, we can bark and bark and call to our Master until He answers us favourably.


The Canaanite woman found it to be so, and she provides us an enduring example, an encouragement and urging from the Lord as we hear of her time and again in His Word. She calls out again and again, until the Master opens the door even the slightest bit. He says: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). And the faithful dogs know that “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (v. 27).


Yes, knowing the Master’s love, that He has been searching and calling since the day we ran off, we come home to know the door will be opened and we will find a place under His table. We have a place where the crumbs of grace never stop falling. The crumbs of the grace of our Master are more than enough to heal our wild demonic sins. The bread that He gives is His flesh sacrificed upon the cross for the sins of the world (John 6:51). By His faithfulness, our adulteries are forgiven. By His blood our filthiness is washed away. By His self-sacrifice, our selfish indulgence is healed. By His Holy Spirit at work in us through His Word the severe demonic oppression of our sex crazed society is restrained.


“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Th 4:7). He called out to wild dogs like us, not that we would be kept in cages to be released from time to time to run the streets, but so that we would walk in faithfulness and godliness. It pleases Him, not as a show of His dominance over us, but as a show of His love and care to keep us safe from every evil and to supply our every need, and to have us with Him for eternity.


This is your baptism into Christ, your calling to holiness. It is a new birth in which you learn to walk, not in order to stand on your own two feet and to go where your nose leads you, but to walk in the holiness of Jesus, His death being the death of your wild sins, and His resurrection being your new life under His table (Romans 6). The walk of godly restraint is a walk of freedom from the damage and death of sin. It is a walk of healing from the severe demon possession that has so many chained to the wild life.



“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thessalonians 5:28).

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