Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to your word.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of God’s gracious reality.
Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost
The lectionary reading this week invites us to listen as Jesus turns our attention toward prayer. Prayer happens as we turn towards God, and Jesus encourages to keep turning to God with our needs: to pray always and not to lose heart. (Luke 18:1-8)
To help us get in touch with how we feel in the face of need, and how discouraged we can become when what we pray for does not happen, Jesus tells a parable. The story happens in a city. Now cities can have a way of minimizing the individual—because of the size of the population, and because of how city politics tend to favor the rich who make money, rather than the poor who are in need of help. Added to this scenario, Jesus lets us know that the city judge had no fear of God, nor respect for people. Hence, a widow who lives in this city has many strikes against her: she has no income, she is needy, she has been treated injustly and even though she brings her case to the judge, he has no desire to hear her case, and refuses to be involved. The imbalance in power and influence between these two persons–the judge and the widow—is palpable.
I think that sometimes when we are faced with certain needs, we find ourselves feeling like the widow. We have no resources, we are needy, and it seems that life circumstances are stacked against us—or the person we are praying for. We may often wonder if God hears us as we pray, especially if no answer seems to be forthcoming.
Our sense of trust that God does welcome us, does hear us, and delights in creating a way through the need, can falter. Our faith shrivels. And we can even find ourselves laying prayer aside. Jesus knows this, and so he says, keep on praying, pray always, and don’t lose heart.
The unjust judge does finally decide to grant the widow a hearing—not because he desires justice and equity in the city, but because he does not want her to bother him any more. This widow, this woman who is poor, unheard, and mistreated, keeps showing up and saying: “Grant me justice against my opponent.” Her persistence wears the judge down, and he decides that the only way to stop her showing up in court is to grant her what she is asking for.
It is this kind of showing up that Jesus calls us to. The difference is that God does grant justice. God is the exact opposite of the judge. God hears and welcomes our cries for help in the face of the injustices we suffer this side of Eden. God is the One who welcomes us when we are poor, unheard, mistreated, needy – and Jesus guarantees us a hearing—as well as a response: “I tell you, he will quickly grant justice.”
Each time we turn towards God, we are acting in faith.
We are still on pilgrimage across the daily in this season of Pentecost, a long stretch of “ordinary time’ when there are no high festivals to siphon off our attention, and we are confronted with the world as it is: shrill voices and accusations pound the political airwaves, economic stress creates fear, unemployment haunts the job market, the future does not feel safe, wars continue, “code orange” in the airports speaks of high risk of terrorist strikes, the poor (children, youth, parents, elderly) in this country and many countries in the world, become poorer . . . . But on a deeper level, we seek security in physical, medical, and financial arenas—and like the widow, we find that the cupboard has little on its shelves, and can even be bare. Jesus calls us to turn to God in the face of these mountains of need.
As we reflect on our week, in what ways are we turning toward God?
As we get in touch with needs and injustice within the “city” where we live, and in the world around us, in what ways are we showing up at God’s door and finding that he grants us a hearing – and a response?
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
In this season of Pentecost
You come to us by your Holy Spirit.
Help me to welcome you,
To be with you as you indwell my life and being.
Help me to hear you,
To see as you see,
To turn to you in trust and faith,
And to learn to love you above all. Amen
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
TWENTY-FIRST WEEK AFTER PENTECOST
- 10/11 Monday: Luke 18:1-8
- 10/12 Tuesday: Luke 18:1-8
- 10/13 Wednesday: Psalm 121
- 10/14 Thursday: 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5
- 10/15 Friday: Genesis 32:22-31
- 10/16 Saturday: Luke 18:1-8
- 10/17 Sunday: Luke 18:1-8