21 Pentecost, Yr C

21 Pentecost Yr C, 17/10/2010

Lk 18:1-8

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“On not losing heart”

A few years ago, a member [who shall remain unnamed] of the congregation where I served wrote me the following letter.

   Pastor Garth:

   I am still trying to find out some information on aged help and there are programs in place, but you have to have the co-operation of the individual.

   There is Home Care at [phone #] and they are located at the VC with a JD in charge. I gather that the government will pay up to $100.00 per month to get someone to help with the yard and cleaning the house, but must have the co-operation of the individual involved. You can only qualify by not having too much income.

   If their spouse is a veteran, then you can apply to get help from them, but from what I gather you keep your bills and submit them to VLA and they will pay for help, but I do not know to what extent.

   I had lunch with my friend on Friday and I could not talk her into anything including my going and giving her help. I have told her that I am going to start phoning her and pounding on her door in order to get her to do something. I will just have to keep at her and see what comes of it. We will find out who is the most stubborn anyway, but I am afraid that she is better at it than I am.

   As you can see from this letter, my parishioner went to considerable effort to care for her friend. The friend was unwilling to co-operate, and my parishioner was afraid that she would be less persistent than her friend; that she would, in the end, lose heart.

   What about you? How persistent are you? Have you ever lost heart? Today Jesus tells a parable about a persistent widow who keeps visiting an unjust judge and asking that he do the right thing and grant her justice. Jesus introduces the parable by saying: “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” I think that not losing heart is something we all struggle with from time to time. We forget that God is faithful; that God answers prayer. On some occasions, we may pray and pray, yet there seems to be no answer. We wonder why. Did we lack faith? Did we not pray long enough? Do we need more persistence and patience? What is happening here? Why does our neighbour pray for that dream job and God answers his or her prayer in short order while, you have prayed the same prayer and God keeps you waiting for what seems like forever? Or why do we pray so long and often for the suffering people in places like Darfur, yet God still has not put an end to their suffering? Such questions are troublesome for us and we don’t always have the answers to them. However, I do believe that one answer to such questions is that God knows exactly when the time is right in which to act and sometimes if God were to answer our prayer the time would not be right and we would live to regret what we prayed for. As the author of Ecclesiastes 3:1 says: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” God’s time is not always our time; God’s way is not always our way. That is why Jesus teaches us today “to pray always and not to lose heart.”

   You see Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. We are not being ignored by God if we pray till we’re blue in the face and our prayer is not answered right away. No. Rather, the parable is really about God. God does answer prayer and the encouragement to pray always and not lose heart is for our own benefit. Such prayers help us to remember that God will not let us lose heart because God is God. God’s heart of love and compassion, mercy and justice is always at work—even when we fail to see or understand God’s workings. By praying always, we continue to place our faith and trust in God; that God shall hear us and indeed answer our prayers in his own time and in his own way. If an unjust judge who does not fear God or give a hoot about people will grant justice to a persistent widow; then how much more will God who is loving, gracious, merciful and just grant justice to those who ask him. You see God is not like the unjust judge in the parable. No. Rather, God hears our prayers and helps us remain in relationship with him and helps us to remember that he loves and cares for us because he is truly a God of justice, grace, mercy and love.

   Listen to the following story, told by the Rev. Dr. Wm. Willimon, which, I believe, underscores the point that our prayers help us remain in relationship with God and that relationship prevents us from losing heart.

   [The Rev. Dr. Willimon says:] A person I know works for the telephone company, in the area of customer complaints. She has a tough job because she must represent the demands of the company, and at the same time, she must try to be open and caring about customers.

   She told me about a person who called her, complaining about some grave problem with her telephone service. My friend said, while this was a bad problem, it did not come under telephone company guidelines. In other words, it was the customer’s problem to solve, and not hers.

   The customer, a widow, living alone by herself on a fixed income, persisted.

   My friend said, “During the conversation, she at last said something that really got through to me. She said, “I’ve always loved and respected the telephone company. Since I was a young child, coming home alone, my mother always told me, ‘If you have any problem, just call the operator at the telephone company and she will help. I trust the phone company to do what is right.’”

   My friend said that a light went on in her brain and she realized that this was not merely a dispute over money and service, but was a discussion about the character of the telephone company. Was this a company who cared, a company that valued its long-term relationship with a customer, a company who could be trusted? Even though the guidelines could not fit in this case, my friend reached out and saw the woman’s problem.

   Something similar I think is discussed in the parable about prayer. Perhaps Jesus is saying, “If even an employee of the big, impersonal phone company will ultimately be true to the good character of the company, how much more so will your Father in heaven be true to you when you persist at your relationship with God.”

   And that is why we do not lose heart.1

   We do not lose heart because ultimately God is faithful; keeping us in relationship with him. His faithfulness never ends. Without God’s faithfulness his Chosen People Israel would never have survived and flourished. Without God’s faithfulness Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection would never have reconciled humankind with God. Without God’s faithfulness, the Holy Spirit would not have founded the Church and remained present with Christ’s followers through the centuries right up to our day. In the end, God’s justice shall prevail—not necessarily according to our plan or timeline. Rather, in accordance with his plan and timeline. I know this is not always easy to accept because of the “instant world” in which we live. We are often socially conditioned to expect immediate results and gratifications—yet, that is not always the best for us, nor is it always God’s way of addressing our concerns. Patience is required, hence the instruction not to lose heart. We can be prayerfully persistent and expectant like the widow in the parable because God is a God of love and grace, mercy and justice, and keeps us in relationship with him. Thanks be to God!

1 Cited from: Wm. Willimon, Pulpit Resource, Vol. 26 No. 4 Year C & A October, November, December 1998 (Inver Grove Heights, MN: Logos Productions Inc.), p. 13.

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About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

2 Responses to 21 Pentecost, Yr C

  1. Jim Judy, Lutheran Pastor says:

    Pastor Garth,

    I cannot get it out of my head that we are the judge and God is the widow.

  2. Dim Lamp says:

    That’s not the message I’m preaching here, however, I can see where some people may misinterpret the parable to mean what you say above. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.

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