St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 22 2016 Sermon
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Rev. Lorraine Dierick

Rather than a sermon, I’m asking for your participation this morning.  We have an unusual parable so let’s have a bit of fun discerning what it’s all about.  Remember—all questions, comments, or ideas will be honored.  It’s all about what you hear as Jesus gives this parable.
 
You heard it read from the Lectionary—let’s hear what it sounds like from The Message translation.  (The parable is read from The Message.)
 
A parable usually has just one point, but not this one!  What do you hear as the main themes?
 
The first words from Jesus clearly state the purpose of this story—“pray always and don’t lose heart.”
 
Two characters are introduced, a judge and the widow.  One is powerful, the other is powerless.  This is a deliberate contrast to set up an issue.
 
Think of the many teachings of Jesus concerning the vulnerable.  He always takes particular interest in the poor, the powerless, those overlooked and underserved.  He honors them, he cares for them.
 
Luke’s Gospel mentions numerous widows and speaks highly of them.  The widow who gave her last coins; Anna, prophet, who spread the Good News of Jesus’ birth; there is the widow of Zarapheth who feeds Elijah from her meager supplies.
 
How about the widow in today’s parable?  This is a woman with chutzpah.  She stands alone, faced the judge, and demanded justice.
 
What are her outstanding traits?  Persistence, courage, brave, forceful, doesn’t give up.
 
How do you react to her?
 
Why does the judge finally grant justice?  Right or wrong?  To get rid of the woman or save face?
 
Imagine this scene of confrontation as it plays out in a public space.
 
The disciples are there, maybe a crowd gathered?   He is being publicly embarrassed!  And he might be holding out for a bribe.
 
So then here is another contrast in this story—there is the less than honorable judge, and our God, trustworthy and faithful.  “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry out to him night and day?  He will quickly grant justice to them.”
 
Our Gospel began as Jesus told a parable about prayer, then it moved to a story about justice, and ends up a question about faith.
Now does this all connect?  Prayer, justice, faith!
 
Perhaps the parable suggests that a sign of faithfulness is the willingness to persist in prayer.
 
Finally, here is a poem from a woman mystic, Mechthild of Magleburg, Germany:
 
That prayer has great power
which a person makes with all his might.
It makes a sour heart sweet,
a sad heart merry,
a poor heart rich,
a foolish heart wise,
a sick heart well,
a blind heart full of sight,
a cold heart ardent.
It draws down the great God into the little heart,
It drives the hungry soul up into the fullness of God.
It brings together two lovers,
God and the soul,
In a wondrous place where they speak much of love.


 
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