I knew that judge. Judge Raymond H. Graham. Back in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Known as a “hanging judge”. Pretty much neither feared God nor had respect for people. I was director of the Presbyterian Urban Ministry Council. Each church got to assign a representative to our board. Judge Graham was assigned by his congregation.I called the pastor. He said I’d be surprised. When I interviewed him, Judge Graham told me he’d had a heart attack. While he was in the hospital, he realized that he’ d been putting the wrong people in jail. And felt he had a chance to make up for it. Together we created Oklahoma’s first alternatives to incarceration program. (He’d brought along an old friend, Baker Davis, who said I came to jeer and stayed to cheer…we had many a meeting at the Judge’s poker table over fine single malt and a slight haze of smoke.)
And now, the week…
John Oliver asks us to look up, way, way up there, way up in the sky, beyond the clouds, beyond the stars……way up there is rock bottom he tells us…And I am frightened by news from the Trump rallies…that if he loses, he will declare the results illegitimate…what would that unleash?
On the one hand, i am encouraged by some developments in the evangelical community….last week Liberty College students protested their President Jerry Falwell’s continued support for Trump…BUT….why only now? Why not when he threatened
Muslims? Mexicans? This is Not just about SEX…
Back to the parable…
Who are we in this parable? How we answer that question makes a world of difference. Basically, its about patience, persistence. But the issue is, who is telling whom to be patient? Jill Duffield, of Presbyterian Outlook, reminds us that on so many issues, we are simply not in a position to tell others to be patient.
As Martin Luther King, Jr's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" noted: "For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This 'wait" has almost always meant 'never.'"
She goes on to say: That’s my concern with preaching these texts this week. That we will preach "don't lose heart" without an antiphonal cry of "How long O, Lord?" I fear that I would be tempted to proclaim "pray always," without also walking with the widow to the judge's bench.
In a1963 forum, a history professor asked about James Baldwin about his critique of liberals. Baldwin replied that, with some exceptions, "Liberals have the proper attitude with no real convictions." He had observed, he said, that, "when the chips are down," they "don't come through." I wonder if that couldn't be a critique of the church, too. I suspect the backlash against "thoughts and prayers" is grounded in this very reality. We need more than thoughts and prayers…we need righteous action.
We need patience to continue work on what we won’t see accomplished in our lifetime….to be persistent….to keep going back over and over again…the one good thing Donald Trump said about Hillary in the last debate was….She doesn’t give up…she’s not a quitter..
That’s issue one.
Issue number two is…what do you know by heart? Remember that in school? Learning the pledge to the allegiance? The Lord’s prayer? Jeremiah is asking us what we know by heart…his challenge is for us to know God’s law so well it shapes who we are and that who we are is visible embodiment of it…ou lives being then lesson text.
As we talk about what we know, there are the expected replies…Lord’s prayer, Psalm 23, the rosary…Hail Mary, full of grace…then Rachel recites a beautiful poem about October..
Jill Duffield challenges us with these questions:
1. When we say we will pray for someone or about something, do we? What difference does it make if we do or don't follow through on our promise to pray?
2. When have you lost heart? Were you able to find your heart again? If so, how?
3. How do we balance faithful patience with faithful action? When have you been persistent in seeking justice?
May God grant us persistence…….may God help us to encourage each other when we lose heart…persistence….until justice comes…
First Reading Jeremiah 31:27-34
27The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. 28And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD. 29In those days they shall no longer say: "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." 30But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.
31The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
97Oh, how I love your law!
It is my meditation all day long.
98Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is always with me.
99I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your decrees are my meditation.
100I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102I do not turn away from your ordinances,
for you have taught me.
103How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Second Reading 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
Gospel Luke 18:1-8
1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" 6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"