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21st Sunday After Pentecost PDF Print E-mail

Vicar Christopher Stout

 There are a few reasons for having an introduction.  One is to get your attention.  This might be one of the reasons a sermon might be introduced with an introduction about introductions.  Another might be to set up a thought that will be tied in to the rest of the sermon.  The most important part of an introduction, however, is to clarify the reason for what you are about to say.  Why do you think this is important?  Why are you getting ready to say what about you’re about to say?  “And Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”  Well, cool.  Thanks, Luke, we very much appreciate that.  We now know as we’re listening to this parable that its point was for the disciples to always pray and not lose heart.  

 Why would be struggling with this?  Haven’t they seen Jesus’ authority and what He can do?  Well, yes, but they’re also hearing what He has to say.  In recent weeks, right along with the disciples we’ve heard heavy words from Jesus.  There’s agony in Hades for those who do not repent.  Temptations are sure to come.  You must forgive.  We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner.  Along with this, Jesus keeps talking about his own death and how it’s necessary.  He keeps talking about it more and more as they journey towards Jerusalem.  They’ll be hunted out by Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders, they’ll have to witness the lashes given to their Lord, they’ll be left to watch their teacher die, they’ll be scared for their own lives so much so that they have to hide in an upper room with locked doors.  “Always pray, don’t lose heart, don’t despair, don’t weary or tire through all this,” says this introduction.  They’ll fail in this.  They’ll grow weary and tire as Jesus pleads for them to pray against temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane.  They’ll fall asleep from sorrow.  They’ll constantly forget the words of encouragement spoken by their master.

 Hear these words from the Son of God.  Their purpose for us as well is that we ought always to pray and to not lose heart or grow weary.  In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”  This judge seemed to be afraid of this little widow.  In Greek, this phrase “beat me down by her continual coming” literally means “give me a black eye.”  I will give her justice so that she doesn’t give me a black eye. This unrighteous judge was fearful of a left hook by the widow.

  How is this message for us?  Don’t grow weary, don’t lose heart.  Despite the many injustices you face in this world, despite the sins committed against you by others that are close to you, don’t lose heart.  Your enemies scoff at you, our Psalm says, but don’t let that bother you.  Despite the fatigue, the suffering that you endure in your job, in your family, or any other parts of your life, don’t tire.  Despite your ailing body or mind, despite your anxiety and sadness, don’t despair.  Despite the temptations you face, the sins in yourself, the guilt that God’s Law shows you, don’t forget these words of encouragement.  Despite the accusations heard by your adversary who says to you, “You sinner, look what you did.  Look how you thought about her.  Look what you said about him.  Look in your heart and see how little you trust in God.  Look how little you pray compared to this widow. God is wrathful and wishes to destroy you forever for what you have done.”  Despite all that; Scripture says don’t lose heart and always pray.  
  We fail to heed these words.  We fail because there is so much in our selves and in the world that leads us to lose heart and grow weary.  We fail to be constant in prayer and pleading like the widow in this parable.  If Jesus simply ends this parable there, leaving us an example of a widow who kept pestering an unrighteous judge, then we can do nothing but grow weary.  If our strength to always pray and not lose heart resides in our coming to God more often because He is an unrighteous judge who just needs to be bugged one more time, then this parable has the opposite effect.  It makes us tired of God, the unrighteous judge.

  Jesus goes on, Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  Did you hear what he said himself?  Did you hear what he did?  Did you hear how he listened and gave in to the helpless, but threatening widow, even though he neither feared God nor respected man.  And will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.  Your strength is in Him who comes to give justice.  Our Lord says, “Dear Christian, I am no unrighteous judge, I’m the Lord.  I’m among you, my children, as compassionate, slow to anger.  I’ve purchased you, I have redeemed you.  Hear those words from Psalm 74 in the introit.  Dear Christian, I’m the Lord who lets you wrestle with me, and though you are weak, I let you prevail so that I can bless you.  Justice will prevail for you.”

  Jesus says that God will give justice speedily.  That’s soon.  He’s not just speaking of the vengeance of judgment day being taken on those who despise him and his children.  Though, that certainly will come soon as well.  Despite how long we think it’s taking, it will come soon.  Jesus is here speaking about the center of all heavenly and earthly justice, as well.  For soon after these words were spoken, the most decisive act of God’s vindication for you, His elect, took place in His very own death.  In this divine justice, Jesus who did interact day and night with his heavenly Father, was given as a sacrifice for the injustices against God we commit.  Our sin in our neglect of prayer, our weariness, our losing heart, our weakness in our flesh, our pride before others was handed over to the judge of the living and the dead and his verdict on us is innocent.  For this righteous judge took in himself all our unrighteousness and was condemned by God to receive the penalty of our offenses.  The Law put Jesus to death as he was found guilty for the sins of the whole world.  The only one who feared God perfectly was sentenced to death because of his great respect for us men and our salvation.  Consider how He prayed and did not give up - even as He cried "My God my God, why have you forsaken me?" He also cried out - "Into Your hands I commit my spirit" - Feeling totally forsaken yet He did not lose heart - did not give up trust in God's loving care in that agony.

  As the widow in this parable was completely helpless and could only rely on help from outside herself, as our strength fails and we lose heart, we too must bend our knee and rely on what God gives us.  He gives us Jesus today who gives us strength as he points us away from ourselves and the world and points us to Himself on the cross, in Lords Supper, in baptism.  For you baptism connects you to Jesus who cries to God day and night “Abba, Father!”, on behalf of you.  In our baptism, our cries day and night break through the cries of accusation from Satan, our adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, through the cries our guilt from God’s Law, and the cry of death that surrounds us as long as we have this flesh around our necks.  For in our Baptism is the promise that our cries penetrates the heavens and reaches all the way to the ear of God who hears us, His elect, as a dear Father hears his dear children.

  As introductions are meant to clarify the reason for what you are about to say, so conclusions are meant to be summary of what has just been said.  Hear this conclusion of Jesus, Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?  We lose heart, we neglect to pray.  The Holy Spirit is indeed willing and pleads for us night and day, but our flesh is so weak, it wants to give up as we live in this world.  So Lord, add to us faith.  Teach us to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!” and in your mercy, hear our prayer.  Our outer nature is wasting away day by day, but our inner nature is being renewed day by day as the kingdom of God is in the midst of us in the God-man of Jesus; giving faith, encouraging us  to not lose heart, forgiving and renewing until the Son of Man comes at last and graciously takes us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in Heaven.  Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.


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