The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24C 10/20/2013)
Lessons:Genesis 32:22-31 Psalm 121 (2) 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5 St. Luke 18:1-8
Semicontinuous Series: Jeremiah 31:27-34 Psalm 119:97-104 (103)
Prayer of the Day: O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people, you are always ready to hear our cries. Teach us to rely day and night on your care. Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all this suffering world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
18.1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ “ 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
St. Luke 18:1-8. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Clara was old, and very, very sick. It hadn’t been so many years since she was able to be up and around, caring for her four-bedroom, two-floor home. Through her entire life, she had never been hospitalized – and had only required the doctor’s attention a time or two. Hers had been a strong and healthy life – and she spent many hours caring for sick friends and neighbors over the years. But now the shoe was on the other foot. It was as if turning eighty had pushed a button somewhere, and her health began to falter. First it was a broken hip, then her heart began acting up, and before long she was bed ridden, and seemingly unable to experience any healing in her body.
It was difficult, after so many years, to give over control of simple day-to-day tasks to someone else. It was difficult to be told by the doctors that she never would be 100% healthy again. But she prayed, and oh did she pray! Confined to her bed, with nowhere to go, she spend hours in prayer. She prayed for her family. She prayed for her church. She even prayed for herself: asking, begging, cajoling God to grant her health. And although the prognosis never changed, she was hopeful. She believed that God had work for her to do. She believed that there were lives she could yet touch. And she knew in her heart of hearts that one day she would be strong again, because her God is a God who answered prayers.
Clara knew the word of God:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they should always pray and never become discouraged... Now, will God not judge in favor of his own people who cry to him day and night for help? Will he be slow to help them? I tell you, he will judge in their favor and do it quickly.
A shallow reading of St. Luke’s words might lead us to believe that our every wish will be granted if we pray confidently, but that isn’t the point. God isn’t some sort of cosmic vending machine, who will give us whatever we desire as long as we plug in the appropriate fee. We don’t rub a lantern, make a wish, and then sit back and enjoy a pain-free, effortless life. No, here in the Gospel, we hear Jesus teach us to pray and never become discouraged. Even when our wishes aren’t granted. Even when the answer is other than we might have expected. Even when it ends in disappointment or loss.
You see, our God isn’t just a God who celebrates with us in victory lane. Our God is a God who stands by us through the most difficult and trying times of our lives. Our God isn’t merely interested in results, but is interested in loving us, and caring for us, and developing a relationship with us. A relationship with us that is built on hope, and love, and trust. A relationship that is grounded and strengthened in prayer. Persistent, trusting prayer. That, finally, is the message of this morning’s Gospel.
We have been given the gift of prayer; a gift that allows us to communicate with our God. A gift that allows our faith to be strengthened. A gift that allows us to have hope, even when the world sees no reason for it. Friends: we have a God who loves us enough to be with us always. A God in whom we can believe. A God whose love and power inspires trust. A God who will not leave us discouraged, but who will work justice in the lives of those who cry out in prayer.
Let us give thanks for this good news. And let us spend some time in prayer this week, knowing that there is hope – our God is with us – and we need not despair. Amen.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- How did the persistence of the widow in today’s Gospel make a difference in the unjust judge’s decision?
- How is God different from the unjust judge?
- How is prayer (mentioned in verses 1-7) connected to faith (mentioned in verse 8)?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What hopes or concerns can I entrust to God?
- How might God respond in a manner that is different than I expected?
- Who can I ask to join me in my prayers, to help me stay persistent and hopeful?