Our gospel text this week, Luke 18:1-8, is another parable, which tells a story about an unjust judge and a persistent pray-er. In the end, the woman who is praying is heard by the judge, because she just didn't give up; didn't take "no" for an answer. Her persistence paid off! The possible moral of the story: God will definitely listen to you, because God is just, whereas the judge was unjust and, although it took a lot of energy and annoyance, listened to the woman.
Like with any passage from the Bible, we read and investigate it's meaning through our own situations and world-views. It is always helpful, in my view, to investigate the context in which the text is surrounded closely. I think we want to be able to relate to this woman, but can we, really?
Hear what professor Bill Loader has to say; he offers us a chance to dive into the context of this passage, and our temptation to limit it's message to us. He uncovers a grace-filled message of hope:
".. it is missing the mark if we treat the passage as a general teaching about intercessory prayer. It is primarily about the yearning for change. It was very appropriate that the story told of a poor widow. She represents a behaviour, but she also represents the poverty and vulnerability which is the point of the parable’s message. The story has been shaped in the cruelty of exploitation and the arbitrary abuse of power. It belongs in the world which Jesus is addressing. Jesus is reading the signs in the wounds of the people. The contours of their devastation shape the structures of his thought, because this is where he belongs and these are the people whose cries he hears.
Take some heart, even from the behaviour of a corrupt judge who has no respect for anyone!...We know such corrupt figures exist. Does God? Does a God exist who cares? The paralysis of hope can occur at many levels. For many it plummeted with the towers of the World Trade Centre. Faith then retreats into survival mode or fences itself within petty concerns, loses its political and social edge in a sweet jellied peace of mind, or surrenders to the demagogues and demigods of hate.
People do not need to avoid pain. It is our role to be there with them in it and not to collude with the alternatives. It means being in touch with the struggles, with the poverty, with all that makes people cry out in our world. It also means living with the affirmation of a God who cares, even though, unlike the promise of 18:8, the solution does not come speedily. In that sense we are to be building supportive communities where people can sustain the crying day and night and not lose heart, where we do not tune out, but live in hope and with a sense of trust that does not make us feel we have to carry the whole world on our shoulders. For facing the pain of the world is, indeed, a crushing experience which most of us cannot bear and which, without support and acceptance of our own limitations, we will inevitably either deny or ourselves become part of the hopelessness. Finding a glint of God in the grey of corruption is a way of affirming we do not have to be God; we are not alone; faith and hope are possible."
For many, our hope continues to plummet today. I see it everyday, especially during this election cycle here in the U.S. Many people cry out in despair. What we face now is the opportunity to join hands in this challenging time together. The cause of the loss of hope is not limited to the election, but is fed by corruption, illnesses, tragedy, and personal occasions of pain and suffering that can be caused by any number of things. Our opportunity is to listen, to care, and remain patient with other each other as we seek healing together. We must trust God, sometimes it's all we have. We have to trust that God is using us, and each other, for this sake.
We yearn for change, and it begins by joining hands in a community of healing, companionship, and grace. This is hope in action.
We meet You, O Christ, in many a guise:
Your image we see in simple and wise.
You live in a palace, exist in a shack.
We see You, the gardener, a tree on Your back.
In millions alive, away and abroad;
Involved in our life You live down the road.
Imprisoned in systems, You long to be free.
We see You, Lord Jesus, still bearing Your tree.
We hear You, O Christ, in agony cry.
For freedom You march, in riots You die.
Your face in the papers we read and we see.
The tree must be planted by human decree.
You choose to be made at one with the earth;
The dark of the grave prepares for Your birth.
Your death is Your rising, creative Your word:
The tree springs to life and our hope is restored.
*"We Meet You, O Christ," United Methodist Hymnal, 257.