Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: In the Meantime


Before our reading, the Pharisees have been asking Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming.  Jesus tells them that it is now but suggests to his disciples that the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth awaits his return, which will be sudden, but which may be a long time in the coming.

The parable of the widow and the unjust judge, as a teaching on prayer immediately follows:  Jesus is talking about the work of his followers ‘in the meantime’ and suggests that it is to his followers that the story is told.

In the meantime, just like now, there will be injustice.

In the meantime, even, and perhaps especially, the chosen of God will suffer.

And in the meantime, just like now, they are to pray. . . A lot.

In the meantime, they are to keep the faith. . . Always.

In the meantime, they are to not lose heart, that is, not to despair. Ever.

We are an ‘in the meantime’ people, living in the space and time between Jesus’ going and coming.

And the meantime matters.

Jesus is concerned for his followers in his absence: he worries that when he’s gone in the body, they will lose heart, for to lose Jesus is to lose our very hearts, our center, the place from which all things flow.

He compares his disciples to the powerless and downtrodden by comparing them to a widow – a woman without a husband in Jesus’ society is a defenseless non-person.  Without Jesus standing beside them, they would be like her: defenseless, non-persons.  Or so they might believe.

That can be so hard for us today to understand sometimes.  Or maybe not.  It’s about being invisible.  And having to shout to be heard.  To have to slam on doors over and over and over again before anyone will even notice.  It is to demand justice for one’s self and for others as no more than what is due.

That’s what our prayers are to look like: like the demand to be heard.  Really?  Well, isn’t that the point of persistence when we pray? Or doesn't God hear us the first time? What's the difference between persistence and vain repetition/many words, which the gospel of Matthew warns against (Matt.6.7)? What is the connection between persistence in prayer and the quality or strength of our faith?

God’s chosen ones stand in the place of the widow - defenseless, powerless – really?  Jesus intends the ones to whom he speaks to identify with the widow woman – reminding them they are chosen by God and they are not powerless, for in their crying is their strength, their power, for God hears their cries.

It’s not about whining and nagging God into submission.  It is about maintaining a prayerful spirit, a confidence in believing, despite all temptations to succumb to despair.

And it’s about a particular kind of prayer – the prayer for justice.  This is the prayer of those treated oppressively and unjustly.

It’s about naming the wrongs and not backing down.

It’s about reminding God in order to remind ourselves of the covenant in which we live with our God.

It’s not about stubbornness.

It’s not about stamping our feet to get our way.

It’s not about losing faith because things didn’t go the way we expect they should.

It is believing, as Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently described, that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice – always.

It’s about believing that another name for God is justice.

It’s about joining God in the striving, always, towards the just.

It’s about persevering as we live out our lives in this in the meantime time.

It’s about prayer.

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