The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24C (10/16/16)

Lessons:Genesis 32:22-31 Psalm 121 (2) 2nd 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. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’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.’ “ And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 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.

Do Not Lose Heart

It is a well-known-fact that whenever angels speak in the Bible, they almost always begin with the same words: “Do not be afraid.” They begin this way, of course, because most Biblical characters are absolutely terrified as soon as they see an angel. Most of us, never having had such an experience, can only imagine the majesty and mystery and awe-filled glory that accompany these appearances. There must have been able reason for fear, or these words of assurance wouldn’t be so necessary.

Well, here St. Luke introduces a parable of Jesus with a similar charge: “Pray always, and do not lose heart.” Why does St. Luke find it important to begin in this way? Could it also be that these are necessary words? That the followers of Jesus were liable to fall into despair when it seemed their prayers were not being answered?

It is hard not to lose heart, isn’t it? Reflect for a moment on your own prayer life. How many requests for healing, for peace, for understanding, for courage, for change… have seemed to go unanswered? We do pray always, many of us, and when the specific action or result we have requested doesn’t come to pass, it is easy enough to lose heart.

For those moments when we have stood in that no-man’s-land between the hopes of our faith and the disappointments of our world, these words are for us. Pray always. Do not lose heart. Why? Because whenever we pray, we do so entrusting our concerns to the creator of the universe who loves us enough to die for us. There are no better hands to receive our prayers than this One. There is no one more reliable who we can trust. There is no one who knows better what we need.

The parable we study this weekend is a parable of contrasts. It is about an unjust judge — a strange character for Jesus to use as an image for God. This judge cares nothing for God, for humans or for justice. But a woman who had been wronged continues to petition him. With unending passion, she demands justice. Day and night she cries out to him, and finally wears him down. “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”

If one who cares nothing for us would finally be persuaded to move, just imagine! Imagine how one who loves us enough to die for us will respond. We may not know God’s mind. We may not be able to anticipate what God might do, or when God might do it. We may not be able to see whether our particular request serves God’s greater purpose for us or for this world. But here is the undeniable truth: when our prayers are in God’s hands, we have ample reason not to lose heart.

So pray. In fact, pray always. Lift all of life (the good and bad, the successes and failures, the joys and concerns…) up to God, and then trust. Trust that these words from Luke 18 are true. Trust that our God is reliable. Trust that in the end, all will be well for those who know God. What better reason might we need to not lose heart?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What caused the disciples to lose heart?
  2. How are these words from Jesus an assurance for them?
  3. How does the record of their life, and of their faithfulness, show us their trust in God?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When am I most likely to lose heart?
  2. What might I do to remember God’s love that is always with me?
  3. How might I lift all of life up in prayer, and trust God’s promise to answer?