In pm's words
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October 17, 2016, 8:00 AM

the one about respect...


Sermon from October 16, 2016

Text: Luke 18: 1-8

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, is it just me or does Jesus – throughout Luke’s Gospel – always seem to find the most odd and unsettling ways to talk about God? The shepherd who abandons the majority to find the one. The woman who searches for the ‘worthless’ coin. The dishonest manager of money. Now, the unjust judge.

What in the world is Jesus getting at?

Jesus continually implores to his disciples and to us that God does not, never has, and never will fit neatly into the ‘boxes’ of our design. No matter how often we try to corner God and place the Holy into our tidy little spaces, Jesus comes along and just disrupts it all. It never makes us feel particularly good when that happens. For we are stretched beyond what we thought was possible, but in the end, I think it further expands how we think about God, how different God is from what we think God should be like, and how much effort and strength God goes through to show love for all creation.

So, Jesus talks about this judge. And this judge is, I think, uncommon among judges. You more than likely would not find, particularly during this time, a lot of judges who did not fear or were not in awe of God in some way. Especially since being a judge was somewhat of a holy vocation. They were the ones who interpreted scriptures, heard the cases of those coming forward, and then enacted justice through their decrees.

Now, judges then – and still today – are seen as those who are filled with honor and have at least a modicum of respect for those who come before them. When we encounter those, who appear that they don’t have respect for those they hear from, it usually doesn’t end up well for them. People rise up, they stir, and more. So, to be told and then later hear from this own judge’s lips that he has no respect for anyone is rather odd and unsettling.

We are also introduced to a widow. Now, remember, that during this time a widow was someone who did not have much say or voice in the world – let alone her own life. As a widow, she has lost her ‘power’ because she’s no longer married. There also wasn’t a great chance for her to be married again because of the customs of the day. We can also presume that she doesn’t have any sons as well. Why? Because she is the one who is coming forward to the judge crying out and demanding justice.

This widow’s cries for justice in her life become so loud and bothersome to the judge that he eventually relents and hears her case. He agrees to stand up for her and provide justice – however it is to come. But, I want us to be certain of something here. It isn’t so much that the judge relents because the widow is a pain, or an annoyance, or just irritating him.

No, the English here subdues what is actually going on. This widow is relentless. In fact, in my study and in my conversations this week when the judge says, “so that she may not wear me out” is probably more closely translated to mean ‘so that she won’t give me a black eye.’

The judge appears to have a lot to lose both physically (if we’re literal in that whole ‘giving him a black eye’) but, also within the eyes and minds of those around him. Her consistent please for justice are probably causing him more angst than he expected. I can imagine that her relentless cries aren’t just simple taps on the shoulder that would be persistent – and annoying – but, mostly meek and mild. No, I imagine that this is a woman who accosts him in the street, who bangs on his door, and who physical beats upon him to hear her cries.

At the end of this parable and story, Jesus seems to compare God to the unjust judge. Which makes us squirm a little bit. Is Jesus really saying – when coupled with the first verse of this snippet of the gospel that if we just badger God enough through our relentless prayers that God will finally, with a large and exasperated sigh, listen to us?

No, I don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying.

But, that also doesn’t mean that God does not listen to nor answers prayers. I believe God does. Possibly not in the ways we expect, but God does listen and does answers our prayers.

As I read this text, I couldn’t help but think about what justice meant since we are introduced to a judge who doesn’t seem to have much in the justice department.

We could talk at length as to what justice means simply because we all have differing opinions on what that might look like. We all might agree that we should care for the poor, but we all might have a different way of living into that just action. We may all agree that caring for the environment in our lives and community, but the action of justice taken towards that might differ substantially from one person to the other.

I think what we are introduced to in this short gospel text is the potential bedrock and foundation of what justice is founded upon. Jesus helps us to see where justice actually begins.

I think and feel that Jesus is trying to tell us that justice begins with showing our fear and awe of God by respecting those around us.

Think about that for a minute. This – as one of my favorite preachers has said –minimalist definition of just behavior is very helpful to how we live into the justice and righteousness that God calls from us.

This judge at first refuses to listen to one of the most helpless and vulnerable individuals in his society. She wails upon him relentlessly and he refuses to heed to her cries. That is the action that makes him unjust. It isn’t his previous decrees, pronouncements, or verdicts. It isn’t his eloquent use of language or his astute interpretation of the law.

It is the simple act of refusing to listen to the widow, and we can presume others like her, that has made him unjust.

When we think of the world today, I believe that is something we should take seriously as we listen to Jesus’ words this morning.

What does it look like to give and have respect for those around you? How can we further lift up those whose voices seem to carry little weight because of who they are, their station in life, what they have done, or where they’ve come from?

Again, how we live into that just action in whatever avenue of life it takes place might be different. We may disagree with how that is lived into. But, where we begin that conversation, where we begin that action, begins with how we treat and view others.

By giving respect. Expecting respect. Honoring those before and around us. Being treated with respect garners some expectations. An expectation of being listened to – fully and completely. Of being seen in the most positive of lights. Being seen and understood as someone who has worth – no matter what.

That is the beginning of justice. Something that God calls for us to live out and into. Showing our fear and awe of God by respecting those around us. Respecting our spouses. Respecting our friends. Respecting those whose views differ from our own. Respecting those who others look down upon.

We live into this life of faith of fear and awe of God by respecting those who are around us.

What then of the widow? As we expect to be seen with respect, we also expect others to show respect for those around them as well. The widow is a reminder to us that as we pray without ceasing to our God, we also relentlessly speak out about the injustice in our lives, in the lives of others around, in the lives of those most vulnerable in society.

God is not the unjust judge. God is the one who listens, God is the one who respects – from the beginning – those whom God has created. God does stand with the oppressed and the ignored. God does soften and warm the hearts of those who whose cold gaze drifts above those beneath them. God works through all of us to bring that justice to life. God might be working that justice on us.

God just might be using you – me – all of us – to bring that respect of life to the world.

Amen.

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