Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 21, 2001
The Gospel: Luke 18:1-8a
Sermon: "Parable of the Unjust Judge"
The Rev. Dr. William H. Morley
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them."
Parable of the Unjust Judge
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - October 21, 2001
St. Luke 18: 1-8a
"It's necessary to pray always and not to lose heart!"
It's a joy to be with you again this morning. While my brother in Christ is taking a well-deserved R & R, I feel very blessed today to be with you, and be given the opportunity to share with this community of Christians
The words of "hope" as proclaimed in the Gospel
To hear the blending of our voices in music of praise -- and --intercessions for peace in our world, guidance in our ministries and healing to and for those who suffer in body, mind, spirit, and emotions, and
And to break bread together in Thanksgiving for the gift of Christ's Body and Blood
This truly is the Day that the Lord hath made-let us rejoice and be glad in it!
So let me begin this message with a modem day parable of our Gospel story:
The Parable of the Persistent Elderly Woman (as opposed to Crazy Old Lady)
Verily, verily I tell you (so much for a modem translation) that once upon a time there was a good lady who lived next-door to an atheist. Everyday, when the lady prayed, the atheist gentleman could hear her. He thought to himself:
"She sure is crazy, praying all the time like that. Doesn't she know there is No GOD! "
Many times while she was praying, he would go out of his house and harass her, saying,
"Lady, why do you pray all the time? there is No GOD!
And what did she do... she kept on praying.
One day, she ran out of groceries. As usual, she was praying to the Lord explaining her situation and thanking Him for what He was going to do. As usual, the atheist heard her praying and thought to himself,
"Hey... I'll fix her!"
So the atheist neighbor went to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of groceries, took them to her house, dropped them off on the front porch, rang the doorbell and then hid in the "bushes" to see what she would do. When she opened the door.... she saw the groceries ... and joy began to fill her heart and she PRAISED the LORD with all her heart.... jumping ... singing .... and shouting everywhere!!!!!
Not exactly the response the atheist was looking for ... so he jumped out from under the "bushes" and told her....
"You crazy old lady. GOD did not buy you those groceries, I bought those groceries!"
Well, she broke out and started running down the street, shouting and praising the Lord. When the atheist finally caught up with her, he asked her what the problem was ... and she said....
"I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I didn't know He was going to make the DEVIL pay for them!"
The POWER of persevering prayer!!!!
One of the great bishops of the Anglican Communion was my spiritual director for three years in seminary, the namesake for my son, Michael, and the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Arthur Michael Ramsey. Bishop Michael, as I fondly referred to him, was a man of great faith: grounded in God's Word and scholarly in its theology, but most of all ... he was a man with a deep and abiding prayer life. If one were to model a life of "persevering prayer" like the elderly lady in today's Gospel, it would have been Bishop Michael. I can't tell you how many times I saw him in the Chapel or out in the yard, sitting with his eyes closed or looking skyward to the heavens in prayer. He reflected for me the REAL point of today's Gospel lesson, and it's this:
"The parable is NOT about being persistent in prayer. Rather it is about: THE CERTAINTY OF BEING HEARD!"
This past June, I had the privilege and great joy to travel with my daughter Lauren. She is a senior this year at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Last summer, she was taking a summer school program of the University's at the University of London. Early on, when I knew that she was accepted into the program, I made a commitment to myself to fly to London and take a journey through the United Kingdom with her. For me, it was the fulfillment of taking the spiritual walk through the great Anglican Cathedrals of England, something I was scheduled to do in 1980 with Bishop Michael and Lady Joan, his wife. We made an agreement when I left seminary, that I would travel to England to join up with the Ramsey's to see his three Cathedrals as Bishop: Durham, York and Canterbury.
For a variety of reasons, we were not able to make that trip in 1980. Although I did correspond on occasion with Bishop Michael, and still to this day have his handwritten letters, he made a comment that I will never forget: "be persistent in prayer and one day God will grant you the resources and time to see those magnificent houses of prayer and worship". I did 21 years later, and while standing at the marker of Bishop Michael and Lady Joan's burial vault in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral courtyard, something came back to mind about ministry, God's Word and prayer.
As you and I have read, since that horrific day in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania over thirty days ago, there has been a vast increase in people attending Church on Sunday mornings. We have heard many reasons for this:
People once again realizing and coming face-to-face with the gift and fragileness of human life;
Those who feel a need to pray about their anger and seeking God's help for inner peace and praying for those who have died, families and the angels of mercy who continue to sift through the rubble to bring closure to family and friends
Those who want to recapture the strength of God's Spirit and find the right balance in their lives around earthly and spiritual things;
Those who feel called to pray for world peace, for the leaders of the nations, and for God's intervention in the lives of those who are so ever determined to harm others and destroy civilizations;
The list goes on and on....
So, let me share with you Bishop Michael's thoughts on being a minister of Christ in our "crazy world": A person needs to be grounded in Trinity of things: God's Word, In Prayer, and in the Realities of the World. Imagine in your mind or jot down this on the back of your bulletin today ... this is a gift for our times: triangle sides
God's Word: One of my most favorite Collects in the Prayer Book is for Proper 28 - we'll hear it next month:
"Blessed Lord, who cause all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and INWARDLY DIGEST them, that we may EMBRACE and ever HOLD FAST the BLESSED HOPE of everlasting life which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who LIVES and REIGNS with YOU and the Holy Spirit, one God, NOW and FOREVER. AMEN."
The Word of God is THERE for US - the Power of God's Love is there for us - so open that sacred text and let your heart, mind and fingers do the walking! Read, mark, learn and digest the stories of our faith
Person of prayer: Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.
Understand/Grasp the Realities of the World: Nothing is more important than to know what is going on in the world. Have you ever read a foreign newspaper and read their accounts of what's going on in our own country--the United States. We are a great nation ... we have brought liberty, democracy and freedom to many lands ... we have given nations the opportunity to develop their people and their economies....but we are far from perfect. Every time we baptize a child of God on this sacred ground, our baptismal covenant asks us two very important questions:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being?
Have you read the accounts about how have some of our brothers and sisters in Christ treated and loved our Islamic neighbors in this country whose citizenship and freedoms we share together?
Have I/we done everything we can to be the "Just Judge"... seeking God's love and guidance in making the "right" choices around our thoughts and actions in treating our neighbors and respecting the dignity of every human being?
We are a people who occupy a planet with billions of others who come from many races, faiths and cultures.
Our ministry as Christian people is to represent Christ and His Church, to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and according to the gifts that God has given to each of us-we are to carry on the work of Christ's RECONCILIATION in the world
My brothers and sisters in Christ, let's not be or act like the atheist or the unrighteous judge who "hides in their bushes " in order to stand up and judge the actions of others.
I had a dream: President Bush, Osama Bin Laden, Yassir Arafat, Prime Minister Sharon in the same room. Looking at each other - feeling the hatred - evil hearts - won't leave until God speaks to them about how to reconcile their differences ... what a different world it would be as they stand before the Righteous Judge of us all!