October 16th, 2016: "Sayings of Jesus - Part 3"

Text: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104;          29th Sunday in Ordinary Time                Sandy Nuernberg

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8                            22nd Sunday after Pentecost                           Pastor

Title: “Sayings of Jesus—III” Prayer/ Justice            World Food Day—Mission Breakfast

1st Presbyterian Church                                          Sunday, October 16th, 2016                     Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me, Lord, we are blessed by your revealing in scripture your many teachings. Bring your Spirit upon us as we hear, witness, and try to understand; help us to be guided and drawn closer to you, to know in your life on earth we might find new life in Christ as well.  AMEN. 

 

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their

need to pray always and not to lose heart.”

                                                                                                                                Luke 18:1

            In our times, maybe as in Jesus’ time, what does it mean to ‘lose heart?’ If we were honest with ourselves we’d probably answer in terms of losing our hope, being in despair, or to give-up on something or someone whom we really had faith/hope. We might admit sometimes losing heart is losing all sense of who we are, where we are going or what we wish for our future.

 

            These parables we’ve heard these weeks of Jesus’ sayings can be mind-boggling for sure---they turn us inside out as we try to decipher where God is leading us and where we find ourselves. I was so tempted to read the gospel FIRST, then the epistle, to bolster us! We must remember, they are only parables, a story; they help us in our faith and action.

 

 Can we believe it? As in past gospel parables we’ve shared this summer and fall in Jesus’ ministry, we are left with a question,

 

“And yet when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

                                                                                                                                Luke 18:8

 

            These eight verses in Luke are certainly an experience of ‘thinking theologically’ for me; I do not pretend to know about your logical thinking!  These texts can be dis-turbing , yet re-assuring. Let’s see where we are taken here. What can we say about the need to pray---this is, I think, one of the lessons Jesus is teaching us here—for me, I pray daily, sometimes many times in a day, not necessarily for any one thing, but being pressed, I think I might. Like now in our times of distress; dissatisfaction in the news of turmoil in our cities with violence, worker wages and equity, the war on heroin and opioids, world terrorist crises, ISIS, child poverty, weather patterns of climate change, and on and on. Yes, I have to admit I pray for peace daily, sometimes hourly. But for some reason, I do believe God hears my cries, my concern, my constant persistence in asking for peace and love and hope. It’s what you and I do as Christians; pray for what we desire, not expecting God to answer in our timing, but as God deems it necessary to respond.

 

            Yes, and there are times when I know, you know, our prayers are not answered. Yes, sometimes we lose heart when our prayers are not answered. Isn’t that the real irony here---the widow doesn’t stop---she’s a real ‘pain’ shall we say, because she won’t give up---she is persistent! She’s gotta trust that eventually the unjust judge will give her the justice she really wants. She’s a fighter, if we will hear her out. All you and I know is that persistent prayer is tedious, it’s really hard. She, and we, think(s) that justice may be heard and maybe it won’t be acknowledged.

 

            From the PC(USA) I receive on-line, the Inspirational Quote of the Day, for yesterday, 10/15/16 was from the late Thomas D. Willhite (1940-1983):

“People get what they want in life when they reach the

point at which they can see themselves having what they seek.” (Repeat!)

 

            I think the purpose of our parable, today’s Psalm, and our epistle reading, in our theological thinking on these texts, is that our faith in action needs to be often, specific, patient, hopeful, and mostly, continual and persistent as we receive all that comes to us. In ‘finding understanding and hating false ways,’ says the Psalmist, God’s Word to us is sweet to our taste, ‘sweeter than honey to our mouth’ (Psalm 119:103). Like the seemingly helpless, relentless and defenseless, persistent widow, yes, we can pray often. As Timothy hears, ‘continue in what you have learned and firmly believed…..be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience…’ (v. 3:14, 4:3). As Christians in worship, we know from whom we learned these things. Who are we in the parable, the unjust judge, the persistent widow?

           

            As much as we think this parable is about prayer, along with other issues (trust, judgment, Christ’ coming, life of a believer), it is about justice as well. It is not about getting from God what we want when we want it. We need to understand that God knows what we need and what we think, and, really, what God thinks about us and our needs are not the same at all! Speaking of justice and action (persistence) in these times we live, I went to a recognition, a personal celebration of Rick Raemisch, a Thursday ago sponsored by Madison’s Prison Ministry Program. Rick was recognized for his work/efforts in allowing offenders out of prison—specifically in ending the use of solitary confinement in prisons (please refer to Capitol Times article, ‘Rick Raemisch brings his anti-solitary confinement  crusade to Madison,’ September 28th, 2016).

 

In recent times, solitary confinement has come under much scrutiny as an inhumane punishment and an ineffective rehabilitation therapy/tool. A growing movement has been focusing on eradicating it in the U.S. (The United Nations states that confinement for more than 15 days is torture). Previously WI Department of Correction’s Chief, Rick, a former Dane County sheriff and federal prosecutor, is now in Colorado heading up the prisons there, and he has implemented a program where presently ‘less than 1% of the total prison population is in solitary.’ This is down by 7% since 2011. Interestingly as well, these changes came from a person (Rick, himself!) who placed himself in solitary for 20 hours in 2014! He is now spreading his words to others to know that this program can be done anywhere; he has made Colorado a model of reform.

 

“…I will put my law within them,

and I will write it on their hearts, and

I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

                                                                                    Jeremiah 31:33

 

The days are surely coming (from Jeremiah 31:27, 31) when God will restore things; until then we are advised to continue in what we’ve learned and firmly believed (2 Timothy 3:14). Our gospel message to us is that we can, as believers, trust that God will provide justice, faith, and hope for us; God will hear those whose voices are silenced or have no voice, and seemingly no power. God will hear us in our persistent prayer, not always giving us our own way, but always hearing us in God’s steadfast love and mercy and patience. As we hear the persistent widow, we know of our prayerful faithfulness in God’s providing for us.

 

 

                                                Thanks be to God.                           AMEN.

 

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