By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 18:1-8
1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my accuser.’ 4 For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
This morning I was reading to my daughters the story of Joseph from a children’s Bible and I was struck by the detail that Joseph was forgotten by the pardoned butler left in prison two more whole years. We hear a lot of such things in the Bible: 40 years here, and a few more over there pass, and to us it’s nothing, because the text of what happens next is right there.
But two years is actually a long time. Two years Joseph was in that prison after he might have reasonably expected something to change for him. He was literally forgotten. Surely there were times in those years he was very angry at God.
So Jesus gives us this parable about the widow who just won’t give up and the judge who acts just to get rid of her, and Luke outright tells us that the message is that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus says God will give justice speedily to his people when they call to him — but God has slippery definitions of both “speedily” and “justice.” It’s not what we mean when we ask for speed, or what we picture to ourselves as a just outcome. God usually has some other, grander, more eternal purposes at work — just ask Joseph. If God were to act speedily — in the way we imagine it — there would be no need for a parable dedicated to telling us to persevere in prayer. We’re back where we were at the beginning of the week: “Be still (even when you’re in prison, literally or figuratively, and you don’t have a choice about it) and know that I am God.” While you’re there, be honest with God about your frustrations and anger and every other feeling. He already knows about them anyway, and you can hold onto him better if you’re not holding anything back.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Niger Delta West – The Church of Nigeria
The Diocese of Virginia