Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin this morning by telling a story from when I was in High School. I had gone to meet my friend Josh and we were going to go get something to eat. We decided to go to a place called the Traprock Inn, right across the Wisconsin Border in the village of Dresser not far from where Josh lives. As I’m pulling into Dresser, distracted by talking to Josh, and with very few other cars in sight, right behind me I see bright flashing lights. I pull over to the side of the road when the officer comes up to tell me that I had been speeding, than hands me a speeding ticket.
I got mad! I got mad because I thought this whole thing was totally unfair. I had ridden with friends who would drive windy Chisago County roads at over 100 miles per hour putting people’s lives in danger. Yet, here I was being given a speeding ticket for not knowing where the speed limit changed in a town of 600 people.
My response to all this was not rational. I decided that I was going to go the Polk County Courthouse to fight the ticket. My parents for some silly reason decided to let me skip school to do this. I dragged my Dad and my Grandma to these proceedings.
I was 18 years old, stubborn, foolish, the ticket was given the weekend of a Viking/Packer Game, and figured I had a case. So, my name is called up by the Judge. The Judge asks “Whether I plead innocent or guilty?” I pleaded innocent, never mind I had no case. Never mind, I would be forced to argue against a radar gun and a cop.
I figured persistence would lead to this ticket be dropped.
The Judge amused by this spectacle, asks “If I was really innocent”? “If I was sure that I wasn’t going a few miles an hour over the speed limit?” The Judge than ordered me to meet with the cop where he agreed to drop a few miles per hour off my speed for insurance purposes.
My afternoon at the Polk County Courthouse draws a parallel with our Gospel lesson from Luke the 18th Chapter. In Today’s Lesson you have a Plaintiff standing before a judge without any sort of case, hoping that the judge will relent from the normal way of doing business. Our Lesson consists of Jesus telling a Parable regarding a Widow standing before a Judge.
To understand our Lesson for Today, we need to understand the role of Widows within Ancient Palestine within Jesus’ day. The Author BB Scott describes the Widow as such:
“According to the Customs of the day, a marriage contract stated a husband’s obligation to his wife, and on his death she had the right to be supported out of his estate as specified in that contract. The widow had no legal right to inherit. Normally a husband’s estate would take care of a Widow’s needs. But the normal conditions were by no means universal. Many widows and their children were left destitute. So, common was the state of affairs that “widow” came to mean not simply a woman whose husband was dead, but also one who had no means of financial support and thus needed special protection.”
Consider that the Widow in today’s lesson was so vulnerable, that she had no family to support her even as she went forth before the judge. Consider the character of the Widow versus the character of the Judge. The Judge is supposed to be righteous and impartial.
I know a woman who serves as a Minnesota District Court Judge. She is obsessed with her reputation within the community. She refuses to go to Bars, not because she doesn’t like a cocktail, rather she fears interacting with someone she has previously sentenced. She doesn’t wish to go to church, because she doesn’t want too much attention drawn to her presence. Yet the Judge this Widow went before was different than the average judge.
“In this certain city of which Jesus speaks there resides a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people”-Luke 18:2
This Judge had no reason to hear the case. This Woman owed creditors. .This Widow was so low on the social ladder that any normal judge would have considered resolving her difficulties a waste of time. “In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent’.”-Luke 18:3
The Widow had no legal or coherent case to make. It was the equivalent of when I stood before the Judge in Balsam Lake. The only hope was that the Judge might decide to relent on upholding the law. This Widow was persistent in bringing before the Judge, her request, no matter, how absurd it might have seemed. The Judge eventually relented because the Widow kept on bothering him.
What this parable is meant to speak to is the nature of God. It seeks to compare God to an Unjust Judge. Yet point out how God’s mercy will even far surpass this of the Unfair Judge.
Robert Farar Capon summed up Today’s parable best when he said:
“What does this parable say about God? It says that God is willing to be perceived as a bad God and for no better reason then he wants to get the problems of a world full of losing winners off his back. It says he is willing, while they are still mired in their futile pursuits of the spiritual buck, the moral buck, the intellectual buck, the physical buck, or the plain old ordinary buck, to just shut up about whatever is wrong with them and get the hassle over with. It says in fact what Paul says in Romans 5:8 “While we still sinners, Christ died for us…God simply wants the wet blankets of his back, and to let the party begin.”
Our parable today causes to consider the nature of our own judgment day. Ask ourselves whether we want to receive a fair judgment of our lives or receive an unfair judgment of our lives?
A Just Judge would give the defendant what they deserve in Death and Hell, whereas the Unjust Judge would not. A Just Judge would make sure that the Widow repaid every last penny, where as an Unjust Judge might repudiate the debt. A Just Judge would obsess about the widow’s motives or her sake of repentance, whereas an Unjust Judge wouldn’t care about the self-perceived current state of one’s soul.
Our parable for today is similar to many of Jesus other parables. The Shepherd who seeks the Sheep who wanders off from the fold, the Woman who celebrates finding the coin that she had lost, the Father who welcomes home the Prodigal Son that had blown his wealth.
The focus of this parable is on the nature of God in reaching his chosen ones. How this God will not delay in rescuing and saving them no matter how desperate a situation his loved ones find themselves in throughout the course of their life.
What every one of Jesus parables is to meant to do is challenge the given audience into a wider understanding of how God’s reign transforms the earth. How God’s power is able to reach in the words of Mark Vitalis Hoffman, those who are last, those who are lost, those who are least, those who are little, and those who are ultimately lifeless.
Parables such as our lesson about the Unjust Judge are always defined by a surprising even potentially scandalous outcome regarding the nature of God’s grace. To illustrate this all let me close with a Modern Day parable in The Parable of the Bus Driver.
A while back there was a college student who in pursuit of needing to make a few bucks took a job as a bus driver on the South Side of Chicago. The Young Man soon grew to enjoy this job greatly as he enjoyed the people he dealt with on a daily basis. Although one day this all began to change, as a group of punks or hoodlums got on the bus and refused to pay the fare. This same sequence went on for a few more days. When eventually this Bus Driver sees a Police Officer on the Corner and reports the young punks who refused to pay the fare. The Officer then got on the Bus and made the young hoods pay their fare. The young men didn’t take this act so well and soon began to plot their revenge.
So, then a few days later, the young men stayed on the Bus till the end of the line. They then attacked the Bus Driver. They not only robbed this Bus Driver, they beat him within an inch of his life. This Bus Driver was in such rough shape, he had to spend several weeks in the Hospital recovering from injuries. And deep down inside, the Bus Driver got angrier and angrier at the young men that attacked him. The Bus Driver wondered “what would possess people to act such a way”.
The Bus Driver eventually got out of the Hospital just about the time the Young Punks were about to go to trial for their crimes. The case was pretty clear cut and sentencing was just around the corner. Yet the Bus Driver still deep down was angry and though he’d never be able to forgive these men who beat him.
But then the Bus Driver got to thinking about these Young Punks from the perspective of his Christian Faith. He thought of how he was far from perfect. He began thinking about how much forgiveness had changed him. So, the Bus Driver decided that he was going to something to illustrate the power of the Gospel to forgive sins on the next day at sentencing. The Bus Driver was going to illustrate something about God’s sense of justice and fairness. The Bus Driver was going to illustrate the meaning of Today’s lesson.
So, the very next day, right before the sentence was handed down, the Judge asks the Bus Driver if he had anything he wished to say to his attackers before their sentenced was announced. At which point the Bus Driver stood up and said “Yes your honor there is, I wish for you to add up all the time these young men are going to serve and assign me to serve it in their place.”
Jaws dropped throughout the courtroom. It was so quiet that people could hear the sound of their own breath. The Judge was flabbergasted and barely articulates a response as he muttered “This has never happened before… there is no precedent.”
To which the Bus Driver said “Yes it has” “It happened on the Cross, For You and For Me.”
So, therefore let us give thanks and praise for the sentence of the Unjust Judge. Amen
 Scott, Bernard Brandon. Hear Then the Parable…p.180. Retrieved on October 7th, 2013 from http://www.gettysburgseminary.org/mhoffman/parables/other/UnjustJudgeSWMN.pdf- Mark Vitalis Hoffman
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Justice, Grace, p.332. Retrieved on October 7th, 2013 from http://www.gettysburgseminary.org/mhoffman/parables/other/UnjustJudgeSWMN.pdf-Mark Vitalis Hoffman
 Vitalis Hoffman, Mark. “Parable of the Unjust Judge”. Southwest Minnesota Synod Assembly. 10-11 June 2006. Lecture taken from http://www.gettysburgseminary.org/mhoffman/parables/other/UnjustJudgeSWMN.pdf
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.