Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Persistence in Prayer - October 20, 2013 - Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24) - Text: Luke 18:1-8
Two weeks ago we were encouraged by Jesus to be careful as we live in this world. We are not of this world, but we are living in this world and while we are living in this world Jesus reminded us that temptation and sin abound. Jesus encouraged us to not be the one’s who are tempting others. He encouraged us to, in love, express concern for our neighbor who is sinning so that they might repent. He encourages us to forgive and to not think more highly of ourselves and our own faith walk, reminding us that it is God who has given all, life, faith, forgiveness and eternal life and we who have been given to. Last week, through the parable of the ten lepers we were reminded that we are very often like the nine unthankful lepers who take God’s gifts and blessings for granted, and otherwise refuse and reject them when we have some other priority we believe we need to attend rather than be in Divine Service and when we refuse to acknowledge God’s gifts by returning our first fruits and tithes. Today we follow as Jesus further instructs His disciples and us with a parable concerning our prayer life and an encouragement to pray.
A lot of what Jesus had been preaching about had to do with the coming of the end of the world and the day of judgement. Jesus’ disciples and we for that matter, need this constant reminder that our lives in this world are temporary. We are only in this world for a short time and compared to eternity, forever, sixty, eighty, even a hundred years is simply a snap of the fingers. So, rather than put too much or so much stock in this world, we are encouraged to always keep our eyes focused on the world to come.
Ever since the Garden of Eden the world has been cursed. We do not live in a perfect world and there will never be perfection in this world. This world has been cursed and even though Jesus has paid the price for the sins of the world, this world continues to suffer the pangs of the curse and will do so until the day of judgement. And, along with the pangs of the curse we continue to suffer under the temptations of the devil and our own sinful flesh. Again, this is a reminder to keep our eyes focused on the world to come.
Because this world is cursed and because temptation and sin abound in this world, and as Paul warns young Pastor Timothy in our epistle lesson, “3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:2,3). For us Christians this world may appear as if there is no justice. Indeed, we do live in a world where sound teaching is not tolerated and where being a Christian is getting harder and harder. Indeed, we are in the end times and each day the end is getting nearer and nearer. And please understand, I am not saying this as a way to be discouraging, but simply as a way to encourage you to focus on what is important.
Getting to our text, Jesus continues to teach His disciples and us and one of His usual ways of teaching is through the telling of a parable. “2[Jesus] said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” 4For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming”’” (v. 2-5).
Now, let us take a closer look at this parable. First we are introduced to the judge about whom we are told that he neither feared God nor respected men. This judge might certainly be labeled as an unjust judge, a judge not fit for the judgement seat and yet, he is the one to whom the next person in the parable must go for judgement and justice.
Which brings us to the widow in the parable. About the widow we are told that she “kept coming to him.” She was persistent in seeking justice and she did not give up. Now here I would not say that she necessarily had faith in the judge, nor in the system, rather she had faith in God believing that He could influence the judge and these matters as He deemed fit.
But, getting back to the judge, we are told that at first, for a while he refused to give her justice. It might be that he even refused to hear her case. And yet, because of her faith, again, not in the judge, but because of her faith in God she persisted until, we are told the judge was worn out.
Finally, the judge granted justice, as he says, not because he “fear[s] God nor respect[s] man, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming,” in other words, out of exasperation.
Finally, we hear Jesus’ comment on this parable, “6And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (v, 6-8). Speaking to His disciples and to us Jesus encourages us as Christians, as believers, how much more will God give us justice, even if it is with a delay.
So, we ask, what does this mean? While we live in this world, as Christians, we may not think there is justice. Sin continues to permeate this world. We are constantly under attack by temptation from the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. And as we said a couple of weeks ago, we might well count ourselves worthy to be tempted as such, because, since the devil does not waste his time on those he already has, the fact that we are being tempted encourages us to know that he does not yet have us. Certainly the devil’s work is seen in the curse and sin of this world and we may even think that there is no justice in this world, yet we are not to be discouraged.
As we are encouraged in our own prayer life, there may be times when we may think that God is not hearing nor answering our prayers. Of course, as I usually say, tongue in cheek, we believe God has not heard nor answered our prayer because of course His answer would be “yes” and not “no” so especially if His answer may be “no” we would not admit that His answer might be “no” but instead will say and believe that He simply has not heard, nor answered our prayer. The fact is that God hears our prayers and He answers them according to what He knows is best and according to when He knows best, even if we cannot see it at the time. In other words, sometimes God’s answer is “no.”
Again, God does hear and answer our prayers, according to what He knows is best, according to His good and gracious will. Indeed, God knows what is best for us and we trust that He will answer accordingly. Perhaps this fact might encourage us as we were encouraged and as we heard the disciples pray two weeks ago to pray for an increase in faith.
The fact of the matter is that as Christians, and especially as Christians, we may not have justice in this world. As we see Satan have his way with the leaders of the world, the peoples of this world, the cults and sects of this world and even many so called Christian denominations in this world, this world is getting more and more counter to the Christian faith and so we may not expect justice, at least not while we are in this world.
But take heart. The very reason Jesus was born into this world was so that He might overcome the world. Jesus was born, fulfilling the promise in the Garden of Eden, to reconcile the broken relationship between God and man. Jesus was born the true sinless God in true human flesh, one with us, one like us except without sin. Jesus fulfilled all the ceremonial laws perfectly, that is all those sacrificial laws that pointed to Him as the once and for all, ultimate sacrifice for us. Jesus fulfilled all the civil and moral laws perfectly as well. He never sinned and thus He took all our sins upon Himself and all the sins of all people of every place and time, even and include those we have yet to commit. He took all sin upon Himself and suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty, the price and cost for sin for us, in our place. And He died, yet as we know, death and the grave had no power over Him as He rose victorious over sin, death and the devil. Indeed Jesus has overcome the world.
Again, we may not have justice in this world, but the end of the world is coming soon. And in the end, on the last day, even as Job recognized, God will mete out His righteous, just judgement. At Jesus coming, every knee will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Some will confess to their eternal judgement and others, those of us who have faith in Jesus, the Christians will confess and rejoice that as our names have been written in the book of heaven we will go to be with our Lord for eternity.
Although it may not sound like such a consolation, we know for certain that by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, in the end, we will be vindicated. The difficulty is that we have to realize that our vindication will not be while we are in this world and the fact of the matter is it might be that while we are in this world we may even have to suffer for our faith. And that is the very reason for Jesus’ parable this morning, the very reason we have His Word and His means of grace, as His usual means of giving us the gifts He has to give and encouraging us in our faith life.
We are encouraged therefor to be persistent in our own prayer lives and in our faith, all the while knowing and understanding that the answer we might get might not be the answer we want, yet knowing that because our Lord loves us, because our Lord has paid the price for our sins, because our Lord knows what is best for us, He will answer according to what is truly best for us. Perhaps we would do well, not only to pray, “Thy will be done,” but also, “Help me to accept whatever Your will is.”
Because we live in a world cursed by sin, there is no justice, especially for Christians, however, because we know that in the end God’s just justice will be meted out, we are encouraged in our prayer lives to be persistent in our prayers. God has taken care of all that we truly need while we are visiting in this world. He has given us life at our conception, new life through the waters of Holy Baptism and His Word, forgiveness through confession and absolution, forgiveness and strengthening of faith through His Holy Word and through His Holy Supper. And so we are encouraged to pray and in faith firmly to believe that our loving God will act in His time and according to what He knows is best so that we might truly confess, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.