19 Pentecost Proper 24 Yr C Oct 20 2019
Audio 19 Pentecost Proper 24 Yr C Oct 20 2019
Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8
What an odd sort of story from Luke. Keeping in mind that when Jesus tells a parable, he is trying to shake us up, make us see and hear things differently, what might this parable have to say to us today? I wonder if it has to do with taking a long view. I wonder if it has to do with staying in, participating in, our relationship with God.
Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios that may shed some light on this very odd little story. First of all, we know that at this point in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. This story is one of a series of stories of Jesus imparting as much wisdom to the disciples as possible before arriving in Jerusalem. We are overhearing Jesus instructing the disciples, and Luke means for us to hear it. Luke says this is a story about praying always and not to lose heart.
And yet we have this very puzzling judge, and an equally puzzling woman. The Judge should have been associated with honor, but instead was associated with shame, he neither feared God nor had respect for people. Eventually he granted her need out of convenience for him, nothing more noble than that, he just didn’t want to be bothered anymore. And she, the widow, had no protection or honor. She should have been respected, but she was powerless, so this was life and death for her. Her coming to this court and this judge was constant and repetitive.
There’s all sorts of ways this could go, you’ve probably heard many of them. But in spite of what the world would say to us, in spite of those whom we come in contact with that would have us believe God is inconsequential, or God is irrelevant, today I want to offer this. God is calling us to stay in this relationship, God is calling us to participate in this relationship, God is calling us to partner with Jesus in loving one another. And the reality is that none of that happens in the time we want it to happen.
So staying in is about the long view. I saw a meme on Facebook this week, a picture of an apple with these words, “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.”
Staying in. Staying in when the going gets tough. Staying in when all evidence suggests it’s a lost cause. Staying in when God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers as you wish. Staying in when death looks you in the eyes. Staying in when everything and everyone in our culture says you are foolish. Staying in is what God calls us to and staying in any relationship is hard. But you can do hard things.
The going gets tough, doesn’t it? We have learned to expect results instantly. Our internet speed must be instantaneous. Our email must be answered immediately. Our texts read and responded to right away. Everything we experience today regarding the gathering of information is about having it in the palm of our hand right now. We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom, while starving for relationship. We have lost sight of the value of waiting, of patience, of obedience in the same direction.
God calls us to stay in, even when the evidence suggests it’s a lost cause. But that evidence really is interpreted through a lens that may not have God in focus. The story of Jesus’ life and death look like a lost cause. People looked to Jesus as leader, as king, and maybe even as magician. And yet, Jesus was put to death on a cross and laid in a tomb and left for dead. Stay in, hold on, wait for it…. Mary and the other women return to the tomb to anoint the body and God does a new thing. Remember that seed? The day you plant it, it looks nothing like the fruit you will eventually pick and eat. When the seed goes into the ground, it sure doesn’t look like the apple that one day hangs on the tree. Burying the seed in the ground looks a lot like death, and yet what emerges is new life. Letting go of our old selves, our addictions, our need to control, our need for power, is a lot like being buried with Jesus, to rise again as new creations. Stay in for the long haul, the arc bends toward joy.
Stay in when God doesn’t answer your prayers the way you want God to answer your prayers. How hard is that? You and I both know God is God, and we are not. How many times have you heard, no, not now, maybe even no, not ever. What we think is best for us is often not what is best for us. And yet, God loves us so very much God lets us choose, God even lets us fail. These are not the times to turn our back on God because God didn’t do it our way. Stay in, participate in this relationship God gives us. Stay in and don’t let the world beat you down.
Stay in even when following Jesus may look foolish. Some would say, look out only for yourself, make money at the expense of others, guard your walls so that no one who challenges your carefully constructed contours may show you something new and different. Because looking out for the least and the lost, feeding those who are hungry, caring for those on the margins, won’t get you anywhere, won’t make you money, and surely won’t buy you happiness. Stay in when following Jesus may look foolish, the arc bends toward hope.
Stay in, because death is not the worst thing that happens to us. The worst thing is not living while we are alive. God gives us this great gift of love, and mercy, and compassion. God gives us this great gift of new life today. Let go of the stuff that gets in the way of relationship, let go of the stuff that pulls us apart, let go of the addictions, let go of the anger, let go, so that you can stay in and your heart may love.
Stay in for the long haul, the arc bends toward joy, hope, and love. And as you stay in this relationship that God offers you through Jesus Christ, and through all those you come in contact with, you are empowered and equipped to love with your whole heart, and what happens then? Love wins. Amen.