Year C - Proper 24 - October 20, 2013
We live in a world of instant gratification… from the human desire to have immediate pats on the back for a job well done, to the microwaves oven sitting on our kitchen counters. In the world of our rushing around to find the source of that instant “feel good” – an unhealthy sense of urgency has taken over our culture. It is displayed in our culture by the fast paced trading on the stock market – causing our stocks to rise and fall in a matter of seconds.
It is even seen in commercials on TV… We are told that we need everything from instant weight-loss to those work from home businesses that will make us instant money… I even went to staples the other day… They are actually selling the “easy” button that is so popular on their TV commercials… You have probably seen the one, where when you press the big red button, and what you want from their store instantly comes to you. And those state farm commercials where you sing the jingle and get instant service… The images in our society of this “instant” need will make your head swim…
The internet is a direct result of this need for instant gratification… It is an instant source of knowledge – to can know what the weather is here or in Katmandu, what the current news issues are here or in Katmandu, and it even gives us the real time sports scores… I remember in the course that I took this past June it was common for us to look up facts on the internet concerning what the instructor was talking about, and then cut and paste them into our notes…
This need for instant gratification and spontaneous reward has even worked its way into our prayer life… When we pray to God, we want instant results… It is somehow that we want the Almighty, Omnipotent, creator of heaven and earth to be reduced to our easy button. We think that if God doesn’t give us instant answers, then we believe that we are somehow not good enough, or deserving of God’s infinite graces.
We fall into that rut again of thinking our faith is quantitative and not large enough or our prayers are not sincere enough… We think that God isn’t listening… It is then that we often either give up, or feel defeated… Jesus tells us a parable this morning about a widow, and a judge… The widow has a need for justice in a time and place when widows did not rate anything in society. They were on the bottom rung of the ladder and had no rights and they were often exploited and oppressed. Unlike today, widows were not even allowed to inherit their husband’s estate, and if they didn’t have any sons to take care of them, they were often forced to return to their father’s family.
Interestingly enough… The Hebrew word for widow (almanah) means “one who is silent” or the “one unable to speak” So this widow, who was not even allowed to speak in society on her own behalf, is pleading with a judge for justice… She knew the judge… he didn’t respect anyone or anything, not even God, do you think he had the time or even the desire to spend a second discerning the appropriate justice for this widow?
The widow is persistent in her pleading and doesn’t give up… It almost seems like she gets a bit feisty in her pleadings because there is some language in the scripture that indicates the Judge may have thought she would become physical…
So the judge takes action and grants her justice… almost as if to brush her off or somehow get rid of her. But Jesus takes this image and puts God’s love for the faithful in contrast… If this Judge, who doesn’t respect anyone, not even God, grants justice to the persistent widow… How much MORE will God do for us… us who cry out to God?… How much will God bless those who are persistent and faithful with their prayers?
Over the past few weeks, we have really started to fill our tool box for discipleship… fill it full of useful equipment that we will need in our ministry to others as we seek to proclaim the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the whole world. We have learned to be moving forward, and mission focused… Jesus has made sure that we know how to receive others with radical hospitality, and how to serve them without prejudice… We have loaded up our tool box with prayer, love, and faith… We even learned a couple of weeks ago, that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds, then we could do tremendous things like move mountains.
Today, Jesus adds to the metaphor of the mustard seed of faith, and teaches us about persistence. Yes, we must have faith, but our faith requires persistence… Persistence to keep close to God, even when it seems to us that God is far off… Persistence to keep praying even though it seems to us that God may not listening… The scripture indicates that we should to show our faith in God through the persistent actions in our life.
This parable often gives folks the false impression that we can somehow conform God to our needs for instant gratification. That we can somehow “wear down” God and get God to do what we want God to do by our persistent prayers… But – that’s not the point at all… Our persistent prayers to God are NOT a means of controlling God… God is not some genie in the sky that grants us wishes. God will not be controlled like that…
Our prayers to God are the mechanism that guides our hearts and minds… that causes changes in our life as we grow to be formed, informed, and transformed by God’s love for us and God’s will for our lives. Our prayers to God are the way we all grow and are formed in our faith.
This is how our minds focus on and how our soul connects with the One who created us. It is the way we know who we are and who’s we are… As our Prayer Book says prayer is our response to our God with or without words. In faith, we keep praying, and in faith, God keeps listening. We show our faith by the fact that we are even praying at all. Trusting that our God hears us and will respond to us…
When we pray, there are rarely any instant answers or even any instant gratification. There is no easy button that will automatically give us what we desire… But we keep on praying with persistence hoping and trusting that God will deliver to us what we need.
We know God is always faithful. But we also know that God will always acts in God’s own time, and if we are paying close attention, we may even recognize it.