St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Pentecost 19, October 16


Luke 18:1-8a

Here we have it –

the judge and the widow. 

Let’s start with the judge. 

In the time of Jesus, there were no juries. 

Judges alone were the sole source

of handing down the verdict

of right from wrong,

of guilty or not guilty.

Judges certainly had guidelines.  

The law of Israel instructed the people –

seems to me that that would have included judges –

to show mercy to widows, orphans and foreigners.

After all,

God had been merciful to the Hebrew people

while they were in bondage,

so they should extend this graciousness

to the powerless among them, right? 

So the judge would certainly be charged

with the responsibility of championing the rights

of the poor and the weak.

By these standards,

the judge in Luke’s parable today

comes across as unfit for his job. 

We might get the idea that he’s on the take,

that he’s in the hip pocket

of all the big shots in town. 

Chances are pretty good that he’s crookeder

than a dog’s hind leg, as they say.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the widow. 

Is she admirable? 

We don’t know much about her,

but we can make certain assumptions. 

Like most widows, she’s probably poor. 

She no longer has her late husband’s support,

and we can figure that his estate

has passed on to his sons or his brothers –

women didn’t inherit. 

She has no way to earn a living,

so society has forced her to become a charity case. 

She doesn’t have any friends in high places –

if she did,

they’d be speaking up for her

and she wouldn’t be forced to try

twisting the judge’s arm. 

That arm twisting is the only thing

she has to fall back on. 

Her successful strategy is her brassy way

of making her demand. 

Think of Winston Churchill and his famous line

during WWII –

“Never, never, never, never give up.” 

Maybe he got that idea from the widow.

She gets right in the judge’s face. 

She badgers him, plagues him, hounds him –

practically stalks him! 

Until finally he says, “I give up. 

Though I have no fear of God

and no respect for anyone”

(how’s that for being a great judge?)

“yet because this widow keeps bothering me,

I will grant her justice,

so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”

What are we to admire here? 

Whom do we identify with? 

A crummy judge? 

A thoroughly annoying woman? 

What point is Jesus making in this parable?

Well, in short,

the point is perseverance. 

This parable is the one we refer to

as the persistent, or the persevering widow –

a woman we can emulate. 

Though we don’t have to be annoying

like fingernails on a chalkboard.

(remember that sound?)

The point of the parable

is that we should keep on praying

and never lose heart. 

The Lord says,

“Listen to what the unjust judge says. 

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.”

What would our WWJD (remember those?) bracelets say? 

They would say pray daily. 

On my kitchen window sill I have a plaque 

that says

“A day hemmed in prayer never unravels.”

It can be tempting to give up praying

when our prayers don’t seem to be answered. 

Sometimes it’s because what we’re praying for

isn’t in our – nor in God’s – best interest. 

Sometimes it’s because what we’re praying for

is in God’s hands

and in God’s time,

not ours.

So Luke encourages us. 

He gives us Jesus’ reassurance and promise

that God will respond to us. 

God is just. 

God listens.  

We, too, must listen.

And we must listen persistently. 

Sometimes we get so busy praying

(nothing wrong with praying, to be sure)

so busy praying that we forget

that prayer is a two-way street. 

So our assignment from Luke’s parable

of the persistent, annoying widow

and the crooked judge

is to pray persistently.

And to listen attentively.

And – to not give up.