Sermon – October 16, 2016 – Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 18:1-8 Year C

In our gospel reading for today, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about prayer, justice, and the nature of God. Seeking after justice is a fundamental response to Christian life. It’s at the core of who we are. With the faith we are given through Christ we are sent out into the world to feed the hungry, to be agents of peace, to love the unloved—to pursue justice. But I must admit that sometimes for me this task seems too much to bear. There is so much complexity in our world’s systems, so much injustice, that I struggle to understand how I, one individual, could be a part of any amount of sustainable change. There is so much to address and it is easy to feel powerless to that which leads to injustice in the world—the systems, the oppressors, the kingdoms, the doctrines that work in a complex web of brokenness. The parable that we hear today serves as both a powerful challenge to us and a reminder of our hope in Christ. In the gospel parable today, we hear of a widow who is seeking justice for her self. The text doesn’t tell us what has happened to her other than that she has been oppressed—something that she was probably used too. Being a widow, there was probably a time in which she, too, felt helpless to the powers that oppressed her. Widows were one of the most vulnerable populations. There were several contributing factors to their powerlessness: First, one’s gender directly related to the amount of power an individual could obtain. Being a patriarchal society, men had an immediate, direct, advantage over women regardless of any other factors. The only thing that could truly help a woman’s status as a functioning citizen was her connection to a man. So, since this woman in our story is a widow, she no longer has a husband to promote her social status in the world, nor does she have a family system to advocate for her. She is alone and vulnerable. Additionally, since this woman is without a man or a family, she is also without money and, in turn, without any means to support herself. And money is power. This woman, this widow, is the epitome of powerlessness in her world. Yet somehow, she has to audacity to seek justice for herself and the courage not to stop seeking until she receives the justice she deserves from her world. When we read in the text we Tind that this woman has approached a judge who has the power to grant her justice against her opponent. It’s pretty safe to assume that the person in which she seeking justice against has more power than the widow, so it is amazing that she is even asking while knowing that she doesn’t have much of a case. The power gap between her and the judge is even more startling. And not only does the judge have leagues more social clout than she, but he also appears to be kind of a huge jerk—having no respect for anyone, perhaps not even God. And yet, although this woman is denied her case time and time again, she continues to return to the judge, adamantly seeking the justice she believes she deserves. And eventually she wins. She does it! Now this story is a parable, meaning that it tells us something about the nature of God and our relationship to God. As Jesus is teaching this parable to his disciples, he wraps up the story by saying, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.” This powerless widow is miraculously able to receive justice from an unjust, powerful person. If this woman is able to obtain justice then just imagine what we are able to do with a God who’s justice is bigger than any unjust, earthly power. As Jesus ends this parable, he transfers the power from this judge to that of God. God’s justice trumps the unjust judge who does not fear God and places the power in the hands of the powerless and great things happen. When I think about this story of the widow I am reminded of Malala Yousofzai. Malala is a teenage activist from Pakistan. She is a powerful young woman in a world where governmental structures dictate the powerlessness of women. When Malala began to realize that her and her peer’s right to an education was being taken away she spoke out in a world where she shouldn’t have a voice. And she continued to speak out until the Taliban in her country began to perceive her as a threat—a powerless, 16 year old girl. Malala’s life was threatened and she was shot, but even a threat on her life could not stop her. As Malala healed she began to travel the world speaking out for everyone’s right to an education. Seeking justice against the powers of her world, she is winning! She is doing it! Unfortunately, I don’t think this parable is a story about getting whatever you want if you want it bad enough. It’s a story about persistence paired with action. The parable reminds of our call to Tight for justice in our world while simultaneously reminding us that God’s own justice is not conTined by our human systems. The bible is full of examples of people, followers of God, who are able to enact change because they have the audacity to think that the justice they seek is the justice of God. The friends of the paralytic who are willing to dig through a roof in order for their friend to be noticed; the bleeding, unclean woman who dares to touches Jesus’ clothes in the crowd in order to seek healing; and the blind beggar later in this chapter who sees Jesus for who he is and calls to him, longing and knowing that he deserves the healing that will bring him back into community. These are active stories of faith where people, who have absolutely no business in seeking justice, are met by a just God through Jesus. Seeking justice in the world is hard, tiring work. Especially when we consistently see a world that longs for so much healing. The crisis’ are endless and it’s so easy to become disheartened, to feel powerless. But if this parable teaches us anything, let it give us the courage to continue to seek justice anyway. Our biggest mistake, when seeing the hurt of our world, would be to assume that there is nothing we can do about it. Even when we feel powerless, our actions matter. Even if our voice shakes when we speak up, our voices matter. We are called to be stubborn, we are called to be persistent. And on top of all of this, we are allowed to cry out and lament to God for the hurt of our world. Remember, at the very beginning of this parable we are told to pray always and not lose heart. So, may we pray always and not lose heart because we pray to a just God who hears our voices and inspires our actions. May we see the widow in the parable as our biblical spirit animal and may we channel her courage. May we continue asking questions, searching for peace, feeding the hungry, standing up against oppression anywhere—knowing that through God—the same God who took the injustice of Jesus’ death and turned it into grace and redemption for the world—through this God, any amount of justice is possible.