TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN CALLED, WHO ARE LOVED BY GOD THE FATHER AND KEPT BY JESUS CHRIST: MERCY, PEACE AND LOVE BE YOURS IN ABUNDANCE. (Jude 1-2)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY WEB-WORSHIP!
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – JEREMIAH 31: 27 – 33.
“THIS IS THE COVENANT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THAT TIME,” DECLARES THE LORD. “I WILL PUT MY LAW IN THEIR MINDS AND WRITE IT ON THEIR HEARTS. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE. (V. 33)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – LUKE 18: 1 – 8.
AND THE LORD SAID, “LISTEN TO WHAT THE UNJUST JUDGE SAYS. AND WILL NOT GOD BRING ABOUT JUSTICE FOR HIS CHOSEN ONES, WHO CRY OUT TO HIM DAY AND NIGHT? WILL HE KEEP PUTTING THEM OFF? I TELL YOU; HE WILL SEE THAT THEY GET JUSTICE, AND QUICKLY. HOWEVER, WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMES, WILL HE FIND FAITH ON THE EARTH?” (V. 6-8)
Here is a parable for all those who at one time or another have felt the burning urge to give up. There are two main characters here. First, there was a wicked judge. He feared not God and did not respect others. His was not an elected position, so he was not accountable to anyone. He was a powerful man – but a pathetic person. Second, there was the widow. As most widows would have been in her days, she was powerless. Jesus, here and on other occasions, honoured widows and judged severely those who took advantage of them. She had been badly wronged and brought her case before the judge for vindication. She may well have felt the intimidation of the court, but she didn’t let it stop her. She was a remarkable woman. The judge put her off. He had no time for such a person. She was sent away, but she came back. She was sent away again – but came back again, and again, and again. In the end, the judge said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” What does this mean? Notice that Jesus said this was a wicked judge. He expressed grace for the widow only because of her persistence. He is not like our Heavenly Father who is love and grace and knows how to give good gifts to His children. The parable ends with a question of Jesus: – “… when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” It is an open-ended question. Maybe yes, maybe no. It all depends on whether or not believers can hold on.
There is a sense of urgency here. We cannot know the specific matter the widow brought to the judge, but certainly it was something that consumed her thinking. It deeply mattered to her. The urgency of her request is relevant. In the context of the parable there is a matter here for the Church to be concerned about today. We assume that all is well in the Church and in our Christian-life, but it is clear that there is a problem with our witnessing. The fall of membership and the disinterest toward Christian values are concerning signals. Perhaps we would do well to pay attention to the great religious revivals that occurred after both World Wars – characterized by broken hearts over the conditions in the world, intensive prayer-campaigns, and a readiness for the remaking that God wants us to be and do. Why do we need over and over again to be broken and challenged by testing times – like this Global Pandemic – to have our faith woken up in such a painful way. Persistence is a part of this story. The widow, in her distress, could have given up. Others would have in her situation. But she refused and chose to stay the course.
I keep on telling you, that the Bible explains itself. One of the most helpful passages to this message is in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In chapter 11:1 we read this: … faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Then, the Writer goes on to discuss the great personalities of Abel, Noah, Moses, and Abraham and so many more, that the world was not worthy of them, – all leaders who refused to give up when hard times came. Against these people of faith, he contrasted those in Israel’s history who became disobedient during the Exodus and turned away from God. These, he said, “perished in the wilderness.” They came to nothing. In Jeremiah 31 we read: – “Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and plant,” declares the Lord (verse 28).
Most of all, this widow in need is a model of what faith is all about. The parable’s purpose is given in verse 1: … to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Jesus already had in His mind events that would come shortly to His disciples that would test greatly their faithfulness. They would be participants and witnesses in hurtful events – betrayal, denial, an unjust conviction, hatred, beating, humiliation, crucifixion, and death. That’s what was coming. What would become of them? Surely, they feared persecution, of being arrested and killed. Even last year – 2019 – more than three thousand people were killed worldwide, only because they were confessing Christians. So, persecution is still around. But Jesus didn’t want to leave us with such a sad picture. There is another way, the way of courage and faith. Remember what a missionary once said: – courage is only fear that has said its prayers (Hudson Taylor).
So, we are to continue our faith. Prayer, devotion, Bible study – these are food for the soul in these difficult times. Here we find our faithfulness, strength and courage. Jesus was asking at the end of the parable: – When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? Indeed, He will, if … we don’t give up. And there is too much at stake to do anything else, if we continue to repeat in Jesus’ Prayer: – Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…
LET US PRAY:
Mighty God, thank You that in the storms of life, when we sometimes feel helpless and alone, unsure what the future may hold, You are always there to guide, protect and save. Teach us to put our trust in You, assured that You will see us through this life to our journey’s end. When troubles turn life sour, or threaten the goals we’ve worked for, save us from resentment or self-pity, from growing bitter too. Help us to trust in Your transforming touch, able to work in all things for good. Eternal God, thank You that, in a world of change, You are our rock; that in a world of uncertainty, You are solid ground beneath our feet, that in a world of danger, You are our refuge and support. Thank You that You are always there when we need salvation and healing in time of need. Even when it’s hard, everything seeming to conspire against us, teach us to keep faith, knowing that, however much we falter and however hard we fall, You will lift us up and set us back on our way. Come to our aid and lift our head above the waves of this Pandemic. In You alone lies our hope. Reach out and deliver us from this storm. Father God, though faith cannot insulate us from every trouble or protect us from being hurt, thank You for being there to comfort, ready to mend our broken hearts and wipe away the tears. Thank You that in sickness or in death, joy or sorrow, Your arms continue to enfold us, eternity itself held in Your embrace. Teach us to trust in You and to find our peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – Our Father, who art in heaven …
LORD OF ALL HOPEFULNESS, Lord of all joy, whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy, be there at our waking, and give us, we pray, Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe, be there at our labours, and give us, we pray, Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace, Your hands swift to welcome, Your arms to embrace, be there at our homing, and give us, we pray, Your love in our hearts, lord, at the eve of the day.
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm, whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm, be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray, Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
LET THE NAME OF THE LORD BE PRAISED BOTH NOW AND EVERMORE. FROM THE RISING OF THE SUN TO THE PLACE WHERE IT SETS THE NAME OF THE LORD IS TO BE PRAISED!
(Psalm 113: 2-3)