October 16, 2016

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi L. Baron, 22nd Sunday After Pentecost, Year C, Luke 18:1-8

“In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.'”
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
Good morning.
I am thankful you are here, that we are here together.
To pray, to eat, to pause our week, our day, to contemplate God and all the riches of this faith we proclaim.
It is good to be here with you.
In so many ways, this is the part of the week I crave.

It is the part of the week that affords me a tiny glimpse of what the world would be like if we dared to believe God’s dream for us. It fills my soul with courage to face the week ahead; when we will be slammed with trials on what is truth, what is right, what is just.
Sunday mornings are that time we set aside each week, to steep a little bit more in God’s love, be fed by the Eucharist, and pray for earth to be a little bit more like heaven that last week.
We believe that the kingdom of God is based on the economy of compassion, of care for those who can’t leverage power for themselves; children, widows, orphans, and strangers… this economy is based on our ability to pray for The Other.
When relationships become more important than being right… when relationships become more important than any of our possessions… then we are tasting a bit of heaven, a bit of God’s affection for us.
Which makes this morning’s lessons quite difficult, at times, for us to believe, aren’t they?
That if we persevere we will obtain God’s blessing. If we just look to the heavens, our help will come from God. And from Luke, our calling to be persistent in prayer.
A warning from 2 Timothy: “be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”
What these lessons give us is a nugget of God’s character that is difficult, I think, for most humans to even contemplate.
The parable from today calls us to, both tend to our prayers AND actively care for the needs of others. Our Christian duty, then, our main occupation in the world as followers of Christ, is to care for the powerless and homeless in our world, both in our communities and in other parts of the world. And I know we know that. But for some reason, the lectionary sees fit that we are reminded of this, that this is lifted up again, every three years.
Our prayers are supposed to be ones of patient endurance, recognizing that things that are important; justice, peace, healing, strength, friendship…these are not quick and easy. And sometimes we remember that, don’t we? But sometimes we forget.
Justice, peace, healing… they take a long time, and the temptation continues to be, to seek those things that will “fix” them quickly.
Quick Justice, Quick Peace, Quick healing, Quick strength, Quick friendship…

But because patience is a virtue, love and justice take time to cultivate and mature.
Friendship is reflected upon, maybe it’s not realized in the beginning,
healing is complex and nuanced for each individual, a recognition and act of thanksgiving, not a one time act of magic that is some formula applied to everyone…maybe it’s a prayer for peace.
And maybe “peace” is more about the presence of love and justice, and less about the absence of violence.
Our prayers do not necessarily change the outcome of those things immediately, but they should change us… slowly… gradually…
They should change each of us, so that as the Kingdom creeps closer, we are changed from the inside.
Our prayers cannot and will not work like a vending machine… We are not to peruse the options, select the row and column… place the money in the machine, punch in the numbers and wait for our treat. As neat and easy as that would be.
No, our prayers must be a long lasting discipline that shapes us forever. That allow us to be formed into those prayers. Into the Divine… And as that prayer manipulates us… and shapes us… we are able to think theologically about our daily lives.
How am I getting in the way of Justice for my neighbor? How can I become more fully, an agent of peace? How can I have the strength to get through this tough time in my life? How can I cultivate mutually beneficial friendships that seek not my own needs but attend to the needs of others?
These things do not come quickly.
But when you see that patient prayer has formed one of us, please tell us…
It is a great thing to celebrate when it happens. Usually, we just get a quick glimpse of the Holy… of the actions of the Divine in one another.
I have seen it in many of you. In your strength in times of crisis… In your persistent dedication in your vocation and ministry at St. Philip’s… In your patience with the children of this community… In your intentional hospitality as we welcome new friends to this parish…. In your unwavering commitment to the most vulnerable in our county…
I pray that as you move through this coming week, you will be surprised by joy. That you will notice the face of God in the people you encounter, that you will be strengthened knowing that your community of faith is praying with you. That you will be able to find space in your heart to give thanks for something big and something small. But most of all, I pray that we will have the strength to pray for God to pour out his Holy Spirit upon our community and release the potential we have to be who God is calling us to become. Amen.