Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost / October 21, 2007 / Text: Luke 18: 1 – 8 Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley / Resurrection Lutheran Church / Fredericksburg
A Hankerin’ for God
Every now and then I get an awful hankerin’ for something…that isn’t available until about this time of the year. The reason I’m bringing it up now is because I saw it in the store just yesterday…and it was all I could do NOT to buy it. The truth be told, Pastor Jim wouldn’t let me. He said it was too early to have fruit cake in the house…because that would mean the Christmas season had arrived. Needless to say, against my better judgment…and taste buds…we do not have any fruit cake in our home…yet.
Have you ever noticed that when people are really hungry for something, food tastes especially good…making them all the more eager for it? Well…according to today’s Gospel lesson…prayer works pretty much the same way. Prayer…is the hunger of the heart for God. In fact, prayer is the hunger that brings us to God…so that we may be filled with God’s blessings. Perhaps that is why Luke began today’s lesson with a preface…about the need to pray always…and not to lose heart.
If anyone knew about prayer, it most certainly would have to be Luke and those in his congregation. For over twenty years they had been waiting for Jesus to return and put an end to all of the injustices in their lives. They prayed without ceasing…day after day after day…and apparently…with no success. Many were beginning to falter…and to lose heart. It was then that Luke remembered a little parable that he had heard Jesus say, having to do with granting justice to those who cry out to God day and night.
The judge in today’s parable is not exactly a stellar example of someone who should be in the judicial system. In fact, if we had him with us today…there is no doubt that we would soon learn a thing or two about “motive” when it comes to “doing the right thing”.
“What do you mean motive? Shoot…there was only one way to handle a women like that. She was a widow…who had no right to any of her deceased husband’s estate…not one ounce of soil. All she could ever hope for is the privilege of being blessed by one of her son’s who “might” allow her to live on the land. I say, the choice was his to do with as he chose. But no…she demanded her share! She wanted justice to be served! And to get it…she would not let me alone!
God means nothing to me…and people mean even less. Why should I care what happens to her? After all, she keeps punching me below the eye! Oh…Luke didn’t include that little detail, did he? Well, it’s the truth. She was relentless to the core. Motive? You want to know why I finally gave in to her request? I did it out of conceit. Frankly, she wore me out…it simply didn’t look good, black eye and all…I did it to save face. God or no God…I’m just glad she’s gone.”
And like most things in life, there is always room for another opinion. The woman in today’s story surely has something to add. Let’s see if we can motivate her to speak.
“The nerve of that man…calling himself a judge over the rights of the people. The only thing he’s a judge over is his own belly. If he isn’t busy feeding his own face…then he’s off feeding his own interests…not that of the people. That’s why I hit him with everything that I had. I figured…what was there to lose? I had held back for so long…waiting patiently for the “right time”…for the “right thing to be done”. No more.
Someone told me to be cautious…seeing how a widow can easily be taken advantage of these days. Shoot…whatever caution there was got thrown to the wind! There was only one way to deal with someone like him…go straight to the source…and don’t let up. I told him, ‘I am coming here every day and night…forever…until you deal with me’. “
According to the parable, the unjust judge did deal with the widow. Yet, we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that that is the point of today’s message. I, for one, keep coming back to the last line in today’s text…to that sad little question, posed by Jesus, at the end of the parable: “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” It makes me think that Jesus did not know too many persistent widows in his day…nor did he know too many people with the “faith” to stay at something…forever.
If we are indeed talking about prayer…then it appears that Jesus does have something to add. First of all, let us be clear about who the unjust judge is not. He is not God…nor is he meant to portray God in any way. Secondly, what the persistent widow learned over time…perhaps over years…was that the most important time to pray is when your prayers seem meaningless.
When there is nothing left to lose…then why not throw a few punches at the wind…in hopes that someone will be listening. Today Jesus assures us that, unlike the unjust judge, God is listening…and in the end, he will grant justice to those who cry to him…day and night.
As for the woman in today’s story, the real point comes in knowing that day in and day out she was going to get up, wash her face, and go ask for what she wanted. Regardless of whether or not her prayers were ever answered in the way that she wanted them to be answered, she was going to have to trust the process itself. Because it was the process…the very act of praying…that gave her life.
The day to day process of engaging God in prayer kept her engaged with what mattered most. And in the end…she…did not lose heart. And that, dear friends in Christ…is what, according to Jesus, prayer is really all about. It’s how we satisfy our hankerin’ for God…and how God draws near to us…day by day by day.