Our scriptures are about persistence, Persistence, and PRESISTENCE…
for a cause.
Jesus teaches in parable about the importance of persistence in prayer.
But, I admittedly struggle with the notion “PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens”.
I am well aware that I do not always utter prayers that are in accordance with God’s will, such as the frequent Sunday prayer “please let there be a caution” or worse yet “please let [a] and [b] crash” (NASCAR reference).
I am well aware that my prayers may not always led down the best path for me.
Therefore, in the words of Garth Brooks “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers”. Honestly, hindsight is 20-20 and sometimes I do thank God for saying “no”.
But, Jesus does teach about being persistent in pray for the sake of justice and the kingdom to come, not for unjust and selfish gains.
Jesus teaches of a widow, who were the most vulnerable “least of these” in the ancient near east, especially if she was without a male relative to provide for her needs. Thus, widows were often victims of injustice.
Yet, Jesus teaches about a feisty, that is courageous and spirited, widow who seeks justice in a matter by continually, presistently nagging an unjust judge until he becomes weary and grants her said justice.
The unjust judge, who had authority and power, did not respect others and it seems denied dignity and justice to the most vulnerable under his influence. The unjust judge, speaking to himself, admits a lack of respect for God and thus, we may assume, a lack of respect for God’s teachings and the kingdom to come. However, this powerful, unjust judge is worn down to act with justice by a powerless widow’s persistence.
Although the image of judge is often associated with God, it is not so in this text.
God has the ultimate power and authority, but always acts with justice, grace, mercy, and steadfast love.
BUT, if a wicked, disrespectful, and indifferent judge can be persuaded to act with justice by a persistent, yet vulnerable, widow… how much more will God be persuaded through our persistent prayers, heart, hands, and feet in the pursuit of justice and bringing forth the kingdom that is to come?
If we choose, such as the judge, to be wicked, disrespectful, and indifferent either acting unjustly or remaining silent and action-less in the face of injustice then we are enabling the unjust authorities, the corrupt, and the oppressors against the vulnerable “least of these” and God.
Our Genesis text also speaks of persistence, for Jacob wrestles with a “man” throughout the night. His opponent fought dirty causing his hip to be displaced and a limp that would remain the rest of his earthly days. When the dawn begins to break, the opponent demands to be released, but Jacob refuses until he receives a blessing. In this blessing, Jacob with renamed to Israel, which means “one who struggled with God”.
I was asked on Saint Michael and All Angels (Sept. 29) which angel did Jacob wrestle. I noted that the scripture is interesting because it does not define the opponent as an angel and yet his name is changed to Israel, which again means “one who wrestled with God”. This may imply that the opponent was God.
Although we may not physically wrestle God through the night and limp with a displaced hip, we should all wrestle God intellectually, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We should all presistently wrestle God with all of our being.
Let me explain…
The other day a person hesitated in sharing that they struggle with God and their faith, or trust, in God because I am a pastor. Their struggle seems to be rooted in the fertile ground of questioning the amount of suffering in our lives and world, as well as a lack of peace despite the centuries of prayers. We can understand this struggle as rooted in injustice and the consequences of our messy, broken, and sinful selves and world.
I compassionately and honestly shared that I also struggle with God and my faith, or trust, in God.
We all have our own journey to travel, it will include moments of confidence in God and those of great struggle, perhaps including doubt. But, as the 20th century Lutheran Theologian Paul Tillich wrote “doubt is not the opposite of faith, but is part of it”.
It is in our wrestling with God that we are blessed, renamed, and defined.
It is in our wrestling with God that we are formed, challenged, re-formed, and further molded into the disciples that God has, is and will continue to call us to be.
It is in the wrestling, not confidence, that we are persistent for it requires resistance.
It is in the wrestling, not confidence, that we actively engage the scriptures, our understanding of God, and our personal journey, which causes us to continually grow rather than be signet.
Therefore, may we be persistent, like the widow, in prayer that we can embody our baptismal promises to:
- Proclaim Christ in word and deed;
- Seek justice;
- Act with compassion and mercy; and
- Love and serve all people, esp. the most vulnerable
with our hearts, hands, and feet.
May we be persistent, like Jacob, in our wrestling with God.
May we hold God to the promised justice, grace, mercy, and steadfast love.
May we hold God to the promised kingdom to come where justice and peace reigns, while suffering is no more.
May we be so persistent for the sake of the church, all people, and the entire creation. Amen.