1st Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 31:27-34 & Psalm 119
“Know that God is good. Know that God is good. Know that God is good, God is good, God is good.” (More Voices #104)
On my way to lunch yesterday, I was struck by the beauty of the colours of autumn, the brilliant yellows and oranges and reds. The very air was singing with the joy of being, the joy of being alive and part of this amazing Creation. God is indeed Good!
The prophet Jeremiah talks about God as Creator of all that which is good, as well as all that which is evil. He also points out that we shall all die for our own sins – in other words we are all responsible for our own actions in this life. Choosing between what is good, and what is evil is part of being alive, of being human. And God’s part of the bargain, the new covenant that Jeremiah speaks of , is to put into each and every person’s heart the knowledge of the law of God. We will all know God and we will all know that God is good. Which is a round about way of saying that we all know the difference between what is good and what is not, and we are individually responsible for the choices we make.
But that isn’t always easy, is it folks? Sometimes we need a hand, a strength beyond our weakness, support from someone who loves us. (Play: “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” – Patsy Cline and Willy Nelson)
Let’s sing together:
Hymn #79MV “Spirit, Open My Heart”
2nd Scripture Reading: Luke 18:1-8
Jesus is sometimes described as an “iconoclast” – a breaker of images, or established ways of doing things. In common English: a shit-disturber to some, a social activist to others.
In this parable “the Widow and the Unjust Judge” we hear him talk about how to be a change-agent. Interestingly, he uses a story about a widow to make his point. Now widows in Jesus’ time had no rights to speak of. They didn’t inherit their husband’s property – that went to almost anyone else but them. They were themselves but chattals, extensions of their husbands, and worth nothing once he was dead. Women were not respected as worthy of legal protection, or as intelligent, articulate defenders of their own best interests.
Luke describes this parable as being about the need to pray always, but it is worth noting that Jesus says nothing in this story about praying.
What Jesus does describe here, is a clear case of injustice, even admitted by the judge himself, against a woman who is alone, and without a defender.
She doesn’t play games, she doesn’t throw herself on the judge’s mercy (she knows well that he doesn’t have any) and she doesn’t give up. She knows she has a clear case, and she is able and willing to keep making her case – just the facts – to this bored and disinterested judge who just hopes she will go away. She does go away, but then she keeps coming back. She keeps making her case, making him uncomfortable with the fact of his mistreatment of her because she is a weak, undefended woman, until he gives up in the face of her determination and persistence.
This judge is not a metaphor for God. This is a corrupt and immoral judge charged with defending an unjust system that keeps women subordinate to powerful men.
Jesus attacks this situation head on, with lessons for all of us to learn about how to fight for justice in our own times and situations. This parable is an instruction manual for how to make change in a society, and it deals with women’s rights in the midst of a patriarchal society that had no interest in such things at that time!
We are all in this together. God has put the knowledge of what is good and pleasing to God in our hearts. We know injustice when we see it, and Jesus is helping us to know what to do about it in this parable. We are all responsible for aligning ourselves with justice which is life-affirming, as opposed to that which is about body and soul destroying injustice. We do indeed share a common purpose, and it has been planted deep in our hearts.
Hymn #15MV “Deep in our hearts”