October 20, 2019

Don’t Give Up!
Pentecost 19, Proper 24, Year C

Becky Robbins-Penniman

We are used to thinking of judges in the context of American democracy; they are to be apolitical, impartial and, most especially, fair to all. They tend to be part of the social and governmental elite in our society, aloof and unapproachable. It’s understandable why most Americans assume that, in this story, the judge represents God, and that the widow represents pleading, begging, humanity trying desperately to get God’s attention.

In the biblical context, and in my probably not very humble opinion, this assumption is not just incorrect, it’s catastrophically wrong. The judge in that parable is nothing like God. Jesus says that this judge did not fear God and did not respect other people. Now I don’t care what YOUR attitude toward God is, do you really think that JESUS would ever have described God that way?

The behavior of that judge doesn’t reflect the God described by Jeremiah or Paul, either. Instead, consider: Who is it in life that doesn’t take God seriously? Us, of course. Humanity. And who doesn’t respect people? Who doesn’t care about others? Again, humanity – of course. The unjust judge in this parable represents sinful humanity. As our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry teaches, the best synonym for “sinful” is “selfish.” As we saw, the judge cared only about himself.

If the judge is the embodiment of human selfishness, who does the widow represent? Well, what does she want? Justice – to make things right. Time and again, the Bible says God is all about justice.

What is justice from God’s perspective? So often, in America, we use “justice” as a synonym for “revenge.” But that’s not what Scripture means by the word. In the Bible, the word “justice” means “Everything in the world is working exactly the way God created it to work in the first place without the devastation caused by sin, by human selfishness.”

This story, along with the passage in Romans about the Holy Spirit praying in us, and Jeremiah’s promise of the enduring patience of God is about how God prays in and to us, and doesn’t lose heart, never gives up, but keeps at it, through all the eons, cultures, and nationalistic drama, from the dawn of time, to this time, and on to the end of time.

Jesus told the disciples about their need to be like the widow, that is, like GOD, and pray continually and not be discouraged. In Greek, the word Jesus used for “discouraged” is ἐκκακέω [ekkakeō], which means, I come out of badness, or more clearly said: “I’m losing heart.” “I’m exhausted.” “I’m utterly weary.” “I want to give up.”

Read the full sermon text HERE.