THE 19TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Genesis 32:22-30 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Luke 18:1-8 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “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.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 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. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
“Hear what the unrighteous judge says,” that’s what Jesus asks us to do this morning. Listen to what this guy, who neither fears God nor respects man, has to say about this woman, who keeps coming to him day after day with the same complaint. “I will give her justice,” he says “ so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”
Persistence. It pays off. We all know that. We learn it as little kids at home and on the school yard. “Please? Pretty please? Can I? Can I? Can I? Well, can I? Will you? Will you? Will you? Won’t you? Won’t you? Won’t you? Why not? Why not? Why not?” Come on. Come on. Come on. Please? Pretty please? I’ll be good? I’ll be nice to my brother? I’ll clean my room? I’ll be your best friend?
Whether you need a doctor’s appointment or someone to pay a bill, there’s nothing like polite persistence to get what you want or need. Good morning, I’m just calling to see if that check is in the mail yet? Good morning, me again, just calling to see if you got that check in the mail. Good morning, yes, it’s me again, calling yet again to see if you got that check in the mail? Good morning, you know who it is, yep calling again, you ever heard of an e-transfer?
Persistence. It can and does pay off in this world, but you know that’s not really Jesus’ point. He’s not encouraging us to irritate God, until we get what we want or need. The point isn’t that we should pray, pray, pray, until God finally gives in to shut us up. No, no, beloved, that is not how prayer works or what it’s all about, because you see God isn’t an unrighteous judge. He’s the complete opposite of the guy in Jesus’ parable. Christ is simply using him to highlight a truth about God with a negative example.
God, you see, is holy and righteous and just at the very core of His being. God is not just just, He is justice itself. All true justice flows from Him, because He is the source of it all. God isn’t just in the way that the sky is blue, but rather, in the way that blue is blue. God cannot be anything but just, because to be unjust would be to deny Himself. God simply wouldn’t be God if He were not just. This of course is where some (perhaps including you and me in times of weakness) want to go when they disagree with His justice, but whether they want to believe it or not, God remains God and He is just.
No, no, Jesus’ point is not that you need to pray, pray, pray, until you irritate God into doing what you want, because God doesn’t need to be irritated into doing what is right. And if it’s not right or even if it’s just not right for you, no amount of irritating will get Him to do it. No, prayer, is not a wrestling match with God, where whoever outlasts the other wins. If it is, we might as well throw in the towel now, because God, as the One who is from everlasting to everlasting, can easily outlast you and me.
Jacob isn’t blessed because He outlasts the Lord. The Lord blesses Him, because He has chosen to bless Him and a huge part of that blessing comes in causing him to strive and wait for it. Waiting and striving in prayer is quite simply a blessing without compare, because you see it continually turns our eyes to the Lord and keeps them focused there. This is why He tells the parable to encourage us to always pray and not lose heart. Waiting for the Lord exercises and strengthens faith in us, because we learn to let go of ourselves and rest in Him.
The Point of Christ’s parable then is to direct our hearts and minds this morning toward the One, who has not only called and invited us to pray, but even commanded us to do so. That’s what number two out of the ten is after all - a commandment from our good God to call on His name in every situation, for our every need, and the needs of all. This command alone should make us bold to pray, because it reassures us that, no matter how often it may be, God wants us to call on Him. No, we never need to hold back, as we might with others, because we have not only a call but a command to bother God.
No, we need not fear, that we’re bugging Him or a being a burden to Him, as we might think when we ask others for a favour. When we bug and bother Him we are simply treating Him as He wants to be treated - as our good God. And yes, that is the heart and centre of the Lord’s parable for us this morning - the goodness of our God. The Lord is not only not an unrighteous judge, He is the most holy righteous Judge that there is, but even more than that, through our Baptism into Christ, He is our dear heavenly Father and we are His dear children.
Yes, God is your dear Father, as well as being your good God. He not only will, but wants to, and delights in, looking after you and helping you. It is why He created you after all, which is something we could probably all think a little more about. You really are not just some random evolutionary blip in the universe. God Himself knitted you together in your mother’s womb. He fearfully and wonderfully made you, because He wanted to love you and take care of you.
Yes, the very fact that you are sitting right there with a beating heart in this moment is a witness to the goodness of your God. And is if that were not enough, He sent His only begotten Son down from heaven to suffer and die for you to take care of all our sins and look after you eternally. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus reveals the fullness of God’s loving heart for each and every human being and, yes, that includes the likes of me and you.
He leaves you in no doubt about that, as He reminds you today of the moment when His loving heart turned toward you at the font, and opened up His hand to pour into your hands the fullness of what Christ earned for you on Calvary. That truth is put beyond all doubt at the altar this morning, as Christ shares with you once more the full benefit of His sacrifice for you, with the body and blood that He offered up on the cross to save you.
Lose heart? No, we cannot lose heart with the truth of what kind of God we have and what He has done for us before our eyes. But that’s the trouble isn’t it, beloved? It’s so easy for sinners like you and me to lose sight of that truth, which is what moves Jesus to ask, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” The answer to that of course is “No!” if it depends on the likes of you and me, but a resounding “Yes!” if it all rests in the hands of our good God.
The Good News for you and me today, beloved, is that it does! The nail wound in each hand of the One who serves us here this morning is a sure sign and proof positive of that! Amen.