First Lesson: Jeremiah 31: 27-34
Responsive Reading: Psalm 119: 97-104
Second Lesson: 2 Timothy 3:14 -4:5
Gospel Lesson: Luke 18: 1-8
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Now my Grandma has figured out that one of the great secrets of life is to be persistent. Ever since I was young; Grandma doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Grandma merely proceeds to ask again in five minutes. As my parents will point out, she’ll call out at 1 in the morning and if you say “no, it’s the middle of the night.” No problem, she’ll call you back at 1:05. You don’t want her to call you back at 1:10!
Let me give you another example of Grandma’s persistence. Grandma has a daughter who lives in California. My Aunt Carol tends not to answer the phone. When Grandma keeps calling every five minutes, Carol gets stubborn then and vows not to answer the phone. Grandma will keep calling and calling. One time, Grandma couldn’t get an answer. So she started calling the LAPD. Now picture Los Angeles home of the Watts Riot and Rodney King. My Grandma was so persistent with the LAPD that she got them to break into Carol’s apartment after not answering the phone for like 24 hours. Carol is still quite annoyed by this incident. Now I want you to picture Grandma this morning and now picture our Gospel lesson.
The Gospel for today tells the story of a widow. This widow was down on her luck. Robert Farrar Capon describes her as a “24-karat loser”. Widows could not inherit from their husband; they could merely be supported by the terms of his will. Many widows were totally and completely broke.
Now this widow was in a legal dilemma. Here’s what you need to know about “widows” in a court of law, they were like this year’s Minnesota Twins in that they never won. Women in Jesus’ day weren’t considered “credible witnesses” in any court case.
The Widow was not defeated, though she seemingly had the weight of the whole world against her.
Les Brown grew up in one of the poorest parts of Miami. Les was adopted by a Mamie Brown, a kitchen worker. When Les went to school, he was placed in Special Education classes because he was believed to have a learning disability. Les Brown’s first job out of high school was a sanitation worker. Les Brown had bigger dreams than this, though. Les Brown dreamed of becoming a radio D.J. He would practice every night using a hairbrush as his microphone. His mom and brother kept telling him such a dream was foolish. Les Brown finally works up the courage to go to a radio station and talk to a station manager. The manager turned Les down, thinking he would never see Les again. Les Brown had a higher purpose. Les didn’t want to be a disc jockey merely; he wanted to buy a new house for his single mother. So here’s what Les Brown did. He kept showing up at the station manager’s office every week. Les Brown kept getting shot down. The station manager after visit after visit finally relents. Brown gets hired as an errand boy. One day, though, Les Brown’s life would change forever. One of the station’s deejays wasn’t able to complete his program. Brown finally got his chance. Les Brown was an instant success as a deejay. It quickly became his full-time career. Brown talks about how the greatest nights in his life were nights spent sleeping on concrete floors because of how those nights molded him. Brown soon becomes a best-selling author. Today, Brown is considered to be one of the best motivational speakers in the country. Les Brown could have easily given up a bunch of times, but not unlike the widow within Today’s gospel, he had a higher purpose.
So our widow for today goes to a judge to plead on behalf of her case. The judge like Les Brown’s station manager initially dismisses her as a nuisance. If it were up to the judge, he would never see this woman again. The widow was like my Grandma.
Let me tell you another story in Seminary, one time I got a speeding ticket in Roseville. The speeding ticket was going to cost $150 or something. When you’re making $10 bucks an hour in the seminary mailroom, it’s worth your time to fight this ticket. So I was ordered to go to Ramsey County Courthouse to meet with an officer and settle the matter. The officer asked me if I was guilty. Now this is a simple question. I tried to make it a complex question. I said, “Depends on what your definition of speeding is.” I started citing legal statute numbers and complained that the law was vague. The officer finally gets annoyed and tells me just not to get another speeding in the next year and it stays off my record.
So picture the widow from our lesson, picture Grandma, picture Les Brown, now picture me before the traffic judge. What happened in every one of these cases is persistence no matter, how foolish eventually paid off.
The widow for our lesson for today wasn't going to take “no” for an answer. No at 1 AM would mean a call at 1:05 AM. The judge finally gives into the widow’s pleading.
So what’s the point of a story like this? Let’s look a bit deeper at the widow’s circumstances. The widow’s story would mirror main people’s stories in the Early Church in that she was facing a pivotal circumstance in her life. Jesus anticipated many of his followers after he left this earth behind would grow impatient with the circumstances of their life not changing at the speed they desired. So why does Jesus tell people to be like this widow? The parable has to do with the power of prayer.
We pray as a reminder of who runs the universe. We pray as a means of calling down God’s kingdom even when everything around us runs contrary to it. Prayer is ultimately about letting God be God. Prayer is about faith. For like this widow, we will all have circumstances in life that will cause us to either run to or away from faith.
“Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you”-Psalm 50:15.
Andy Stanley tells the following story: When Ted Turner was young, he wanted to be a missionary. One day though Turner receives the devastating news that his sister Mary Jane had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Turner’s family gathered day after day to pray. Turner kept hearing if he had enough faith that Mary Jane would survive. As Ted Turner saw Mary Jane die, his faith died too. Turner saw Mary Jane’s death as evidence that if there is a God out there that he doesn’t care.
Not everyone interprets their crises of faith like Ted Turner though. Let’s us consider the life of a well-known example of faith in the Apostle Paul this morning. Paul had been shipwrecked, whipped, beaten, stoned, and imprisoned. Paul’s life was under threat and duress every single morning that he woke up.
The difference between these two men was their perspective. Ted Turner only saw God in his present circumstances. Ted Turner seems not to be wrong when he interpreted God as not being present in his mess. The Apostle Paul saw something else, though. Paul saw God working through even the times of greatest human weakness.
Paul’s beliefs can be seen in his words to the church of Phillipi when he says.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
The one thing that Paul had in common with the persistent widow is he did not let his circumstances to defeat him. He realized that God’s purposes were often much bigger than anything he could see on any given day.
So if this is the role of the widow, what role does the unjust judge play in this story. Often, these stories have a moral such as the judge learns the error of his way. Only no such point exists within our story. The lesson says that the judge feared neither God nor public opinion. The judge was just tired of the widow’s phone calls.
What can we take from the story of a judge who merely changed his mind to appease an obnoxious widow? The judge is no hero. The judge starts the story as a jerk and ends the story as a jerk. You might think there is no moral whatsoever to tell this tale. The unjust judge though serves as an example of contrast. Think of how generous this jerk of a judge was to the widow? Now compare him to your loving heavenly father. Imagine how generous your father will be towards you? The widow is used as an example to illustrate how God will come through for all kinds of people in the end. God will come through for people that others merely casually dismiss.
Greg House had every habit you wouldn’t want in a doctor. House didn’t like people. House was cynical. House only carried about himself. House was ill-tempered. House was stubborn. House was way too rational for some. We could “kindly” describe House’s methods as unorthodox. House would mock people’s weaknesses. House’s life motto is “Everybody lies.” House is a jerk. House because of his brilliant mind continually saves the day much to the chagrin of others. House though ultimately served God’s purposes in saving lives. Now picture House. Picture the unjust judge.
Flannery O’Connor tells the story of Ruby Terpin. Ruby on the outside seems to be the perfect southern housewife: pious, prim, proper, good-looking, and held in high esteem throughout her community. Mary Grace would be Ruby’s opposite in nearly every way. We hear of Mary being fat, ugly, a face scarred by acne. Everyone would describe Mary’s personality as surly. Fate would one day bring both of these women to a doctor’s waiting room. On this day, Ruby starts giving thanks to God for her position in life. Mary Grace didn’t care much for women in Ruby’s position speaking these words. Mary flung a book at Ruby as hard as she could, striking Ruby’s left eye. Ruby got so mad at Mary that “She told the warthog to go to hell.” Ruby gets mad at God for bringing such an awful young woman into her life. God eventually convicts Ruby though of Mary’s purpose in her life. Ruby needed to be shock up with a message of grace. Ruby needed to have her over inflated opinion broke down. Ruby as a person of faith needed to see God at work in the future rather than the present. Ruby needed an unjust judge in her life like Mary Grace to make this point. Mary Grace’s role in Ruby’s life mirrors the unjust judge’s role in the persistent widow’s life. They were unlikely agents of grace that God used to change them.
Here’s what the stories of Grandma and the Telephone, Les Brown, Myself and the Parking Ticket, Ted Turner, The Apostle Paul, Greg House, Ruby Terpin and Mary Grace tell us. There are going to be times in life when the outcome is going to seem determined. We’re going to encounter situations from which seemingly no good can come. If we are persistent in our faith day after day, even on those days when we want to abandon it, pretty soon grace will come into our life. This grace might come in unexpected ways through unexpected people, yet rest assured our God is there. Pretty soon, these tiny bits of grace will change even the most hopeless of situations around us. No different than that of a widow who boldly dares face an unjust judge. Amen
 Luke 18:1-8
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. Eerdman’s Publishing. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002. P. 331
 User991. “A woman’s testimony was considered inadmissible in a court of law. Whose law?” Stack Exchange(Christianity).12.May. 2014. Web. Oct.3.2016.
 “Les Brown Facts.” Your Dictionary: Encyclopedia of World Biography. The Gale Group. 2010. Web. Oct.3.2016.
 “Les Brown Facts.” Your Dictionary: Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2010.
 “Why Pray?” Simple Answers from a Lutheran Perspective. Roundtable Publications. “W” Series Pamphlet#2.
 Stanley, Andy. Deep &Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. Zondervan Publishing. Grand Rapids.MI. 2012, 2016. Print. P.138.
 Maxwell, John. The Maxwell Daily Reader taken from Failing Forward. Thomas Nelson Publishing. Nashville. 2007. Print. Page 91.
 Philippians 3:13-14.
 Luke 18:4.
 “Gregory House.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 09.Oct.2016. Web. Oct.13.2016.
 Watchword37. “Flannery O’Connor: Questions and Answers from Beyond the Wood.” Agencies of Grace hosted by Blogger.com. 31.July.2006. Web. Oct.13.2016. This is taken from O’Connor’s short-story “Revelation”.