St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-16-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-16-2016

Justice Now!

Jeremiah 31:27-34 Luke 18:1-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I’ve talked before about the belief that the parables of Jesus had only one meaning and that the real truth was found when the interpreter uncovered that one meaning. This way of thinking has, throughout history, evolved in ways that have caused many arguments over what Christ was trying to tell us in His little stories, arguments that sometimes turned into fights, fights that sometimes turned into divisions within the Church and divisions that, too frequently, even turned into death and war.

There are reasonable arguments that can be presented for multiple meanings in many passages. Yet the effect still lingers as the so called “true meaning” of parables has been passed down from generation to generation. And, as our understanding of “one meaning” versus “multiple meanings” has also changed over time, arguments still continue. Perhaps a better way of looking at it, one that might more readily settle such arguments, is to look at the parables as having one meaning with multiple facets.

This is true regarding today’s Gospel lesson about prayer. We can see that it’s obviously about prayer, the author says so right in the beginning as he writes “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart”.

Following that introduction we hear the story of a widow seeking justice through the help of an unjust judge; she is persistent, the judge really doesn’t care to waste his time with her trivial matter, he fears neither man nor God, but he does fear being worn out by her persistence and finally grants her request. Then Jesus says “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them”?

At a glance, we might think that Jesus is telling us that we must wear God down in order to have our prayers addressed, that by continually praying for our needs and desires, God will, in time, give up on refusing to answer our prayers and grant our request just to get us off His back.

But I don’t think that that’s what Jesus is telling us at all. To believe that we need to constantly harass God in order to receive His grace is, then, making God comparable to the unjust judge who had no respect for people. That doesn’t sound like the God I know and love and I feel certain that that is not what Jesus is telling us about God and God’s response to our prayers, especially as that would require us to be comparable to the widow.

You see, a widow, in Jesus’ time, was, to say it plainly, worthless. In the patriarchal society, without a man to support her, unable to earn an income on her own and having already been used by her deceased husband, thus giving her little chance of attracting a new husband, she had a value about equal to foreigners and lepers. She was, then, someone easily ignored by society and an unjust judge.  I just cannot accept that God sees any of us as being worthless.


Now, this widow probably knew that the judge was unjust; judges were local people who heard local cases. They were: sometimes a priest, often an elder of the community; but always someone familiar to the local people. So why then, if she knew of this judge’s reputation, would she even bother to bring her case before him?

Perhaps the answer is, even though there was little hope that he would help her in being granted justice, he was the only hope she had and she had one last remaining thread of faith in a societal system that appointed him to defend the widows, orphans, and foreigners that otherwise could easily have been ignored and trampled into the dust of the earth. She had no other choice and she needed desperately to hold on to that last thread of hope.

But, then, is there little hope that God will help us? I don’t think so! As Jesus say’s, “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones…”

We are not worthless widows, we are God’s chosen ones! So then, maybe the unjust judge isn’t representing God in this story but being held in contrast to God. Do ya’ think!?

We’re asked to see the contrast between the unjust judge and the nature of a just, loving God. And we’re to be seeing the contrast between the worthlessness of a widow in that society and the great worth of all people as God’s chosen ones. God is not unjust and we are not worthless, hence, God will be quick to grant us justice.

But wait… there must be more, another facet if you will! For if we stop there we are accepting injustice within the society as an acceptable fact of life and we are accepting the low status of a widow as a part of that society. But Jesus spent a lot of time and a lot of words speaking against an unjust society and calling for the lifting up of widows, orphans and foreigners, so that can’t be so. Ah, but we were just talking about contrast.

Looking a little further into the story, then, through that lens of contrast, we can also see that Jesus is calling on us to see the contrast between the society he lived in, where the unfortunate people like widows, orphans, the sickly, and foreigners were considered worthless, and a burden on of the rest of society; with the world He envisioned where all people were deemed worthy of love and justice. This message is punctuated by the last phrase of today’s reading as Jesus says “…And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Yes, this story is about prayer as the author announced in the beginning. It’s about having faith in prayer and how, sometimes, that is the last thread of hope we have in troubled times, yet one we can count on. But it’s also about the harsh realities of life and it’s about our duty to support those who cannot help themselves. It is also about expecting justice from a just God and about upholding justice in our society. It’s about having faith in what God calls us to do and it is about doing what God calls us do so that when the Son of Man comes He will find faith on the earth.

Jesus asks that question, “…will he find faith on earth?” to make us ask the same question of ourselves: When he comes will he find me with faith, with active faith; enough faith to “…cry to him day and night” seeking justice for all people and doing my part, in bringing God’s justice into this world now?

Ask that question of yourselves and pray day and night that the answer is always and in all ways a resounding YES!



Jeremiah 31:27-34
31:27 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals.
31:28 And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD.
31:29 In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
31:30 But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.
31:31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
31:32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.


2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,
3:15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
3:17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:
4:2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
4:3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires,
4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.
4:5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.


Luke 18:1-8
18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
18:2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.
18:3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’
18:4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,
18:5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'”
18:6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.
18:7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?
18:8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”