Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost–Sermon
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is nothing and no one that God cannot and will not use to speaking the truth about His nature and to reveal His Word for our lives. We hear the voice of the Lord in holy Scripture appearing in and through the most random of places and people. We hear it in the burning bush, that unconsumed shrubbery calling Moses to take the role of leading Israel out of exile. We hear it in Balaam’s donkey, a biblical character that Luther himself identified with. We hear it in the cloud and through the prophets of Old. We hear it in the voice of our Lord Jesus himself and we also hear it through those less than likely characters. Such as that donkey, or other less than likely characters we’ve come to hear from Luke–an unjust steward, a Samaritan, and the heathen, pagan judge who happens to be a jerk on top of it.
There is a saying about the old broken clock, that you are likely all familiar with. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. That which is not working, useless, lifeless with its dead battery or unwound spring, manages only by the grace of God that keeps the earth spinning get’s the time right. And that is exactly what our Lord pictures for us this morning. This unrighteous judge, who cares little or nothing for actual justice. Who sees himself beholden to no law, divine nor human. Who would rather be on the back 9 of the local country club than listen to the needs and pleas of this pesky annoying old widow. She is a nuisance, an insignificant little fly that buzzes and buzzes around his head in her uninspiring repetitive demand: Give me justice….give me justice...give me justice. Knowing there is only two such responses to being trapped in a room with such an annoying little fly—pull out the fly swatter or open the door and let it out—the unrighteous jerk of a justice relents, he opens the door to her cries, gives her that which she seeks and lets her return home in peace. The broken judge, gets it right.
For Jesus in the parable this morning, if this wicked person will relent to the pleas of one beneath him, how much more will the Holy Almighty and Merciful Lord listen to the pleas of his children! The God who created and sustains all things and who through the scriptures declares His love for Israel, His love for us, how much more will he listen, hear, and answer our prayers. Our Lord through the example of this judge who begrudgingly listens to the widow bespeaks of the greater and holy Judge who lovingly listens to us. And in that He spurs us on toward a life a continual life of prayer to God. The Catechism puts this so simply and eloquently in Part 3, “What is meant by “our Father who art in heaven?” With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father. With all boldness and confidence we are to approach our Lord with every and any request that we may have. We may speak to Him in prayer in thankfulness, love and devotion and we may with the same boldness cry out to Him in lament, anguish, and anger.
I am often left dumbfounded with those who believe that we can never be angry with God. They must have missed that part about Israel grumbling in the wilderness or Moses contending with God about those same stiff-necked people. They must have missed the entire book of Lamentations or the psalms of that same refrain of lament. They must have missed the exile and the prayers to return. They’ve missed the witness of the psalmists and prophets crying out for His deliverance and justice to come. “How long, O Lord! Rend the heavens and come down!” They must have missed the shoulders which carried wooded cross, endured beating, spitting, and mocking carrying the weight of the sins of the world upon himself. Those broad shoulders which endured so much certainly has room upon them to take up our own laments, cries, anger, and grief as well. Indeed if we learn anything from the parable this morning it is precisely that, for what is it that the widow is crying out for? Justice against her adversary–a lament in the fashion of the psalms. Our Lord is pushing us into that relationship, that daily and continual relationship that is founded in and around prayer. True prayer which includes the whole of our lives; our joys, our thanksgivings, our requests, and even our laments. It is this type of relationship that our Lord wants us to acknowledge and build around the life of prayer for this is type of God whom we have: One who listens and One who speaks.
It is in this relationship of listening and speaking that we as parents begin to build our own relationship to our children. Indeed every relationship we have is built around such communication and like our relationship with God it is strengthened or weakened by communication. And God is the first speaker. It was a Word from God which created all that we see. It was a Word spoken that created you and I. It was His Word that claimed you as His son and daughter in the waters of Baptism. It is His Word that sustains you through bread and wine as they bring to us the body and blood of the Son. It is His Word that is proclaimed and sung in the Church that is for us and for our salvation. Indeed at every turn we see God speaking to us, communicating with us, opening himself to a relationship with us. For God knows that the more we talk to a person the closer we are likely to be with that person, the less we talk with him or her the further away that person becomes. Same it is with God. The more devout we are in prayer, in crying out to God, the closer He may seem to us. The less we keep to prayer the more distant and foreign He may seem to us. Though He is always but a word away. For the gracious Father always stands with open arms waiting again and again to gather his children and listen to them, because He loves them. Because He loves us.
Having the God who listens to our prayers and yes even desires our prayers as he teaches us how to pray, perhaps another analogy might be even better than the widow this morning. As some of you likely know Jordan turned three yesterday and living with a child that age gives rise to some good sermon fodder as you can imagine. Such as a child’s unceasing pleas for their mother’s, and its usually always mom’s, attention. Mom, mom, mom, mom..mom...mom...MOM! Is that persistence of faith not how our prayer life should look, Abba….Abba...Abba…Abba. Almighty Father, Merciful Father, Heavenly Father. Here at Reformation we are blessed with prayers and opportunities for prayer. The prayer team meets Monday mornings about 10Am to pray. Lately I’ve been offering Matins on Wednesday morning at 9. We had a healing service on Friday night where we offered more prayers, and don’t worry if you weren’t there we prayed for you too! We gather this Sunday again to offer our prayers. The parish is filled with moments and opportunities to pray and our lives should be as well. Unceasingly as the apostle Paul writes, or at least as the Catechism directs, morning and evening make the sign of the holy cross, say the Creed and pray the Lord’s prayer, and offer other prayers. Because this is the sign of faith that our Lord Jesus has given to us, through the offering of His own prayers and Himself to the Father. For it is always in His name that we can truly pray.