22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Persistence and Justice

16 October, 2016 Luke 18:1-8 Pentecost 22 By Rev Dr Christopher Page


By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. ~Confucius

 

Introduction
Most who have listened to my sermons (that is everyone of course!!) will know that I love the parables that we find in the New Testament. Many stories that we often interpret as historical are in fact parables. A parable is a kind of riddle. It doesn’t have to follow the standard rules of logic or even reason. For example, why did Jesus curse a fig tree for not bearing fruit when it was out of season? If you spend too much time analysing that story, it will become even more confusing.

I learned in Sunday school that a parable was an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. That isn’t so! It is in fact an earthly story with an earthly meaning. And might I say that some of the parables can have rather dubious morals, with meanings that can be very obtuse. I think the purpose of a parable is for the reader to find themselves in it and a first reading will not always yield what the reader is looking for.

The other aspect of a parable, like the one Alison read today, is that they are counter-intuitive; they turn things around and upside down. It is unfortunate that our Christian religion has always attempted to give an explanation for everything in the Bible. We have departments in our theological colleges called “Systematic Theology”. If I had the choice, I would rather be the professor of “Unsystematic Theology” because that is more true to life and particularly the spiritual life: it is very unsystematic and at times downright confusing. And that’s OK because maturity calls each of us to live with ambiguity, uncertainty and doubt!

So, the parable before us:

…then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people…”

So far so good. We all know that praying is generally a good thing and even persistence is at times necessary. But of course it takes some discernment to know what to pray for with integrity. It reminds me of the well-told story of the man who prayed to the parking-space God. It goes like this:

A man is cruising the shopping centre parking lot looking for a parking space so he can get to an important meeting. He drives round and round with no success, getting steadily more desperate. Eventually, at his wits’ end, he stares heavenwards and pleads, "Please, God, I know I've not been a good Christian but if you help me now I SWEAR I'll be in church on Sunday and every Sunday till I die!" As he speaks the clouds part and a bright shaft of pure light illuminates a free parking space. "Ah, don't worry!” he says, “I've found one myself!"

The Respectable Judge
But this parable is not just a discourse on prayer. It is about a particular way of being in the world. The story begins as I have said with the practice of prayer and then the introduction of a judge. Not an honourable man, nor respectful of the ways of God. But if that was the end of the story it would be a moral, not a parable. Then comes the punch line; the part that makes the listener sit up and take notice:

“In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'"

As we see, that is not being a good judge. His role is to dispense justice according to the law without fear or favour. And here in this parable his judgement is influenced by this woman’s nagging and his irritation with her continual complaint. Now if you take this at face value and live your life by it you are in real trouble. But what if you go deeper and see that the story is about some fundamentals of faith and life?

Patience and Persistence
The 20th-century American author Napoleon Hill was quoted as saying:

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. There is no substitute for persistence. The person who makes persistence his watchword discovers that…failure cannot cope with persistence.”

Isn’t this parable about persistence? Not so much about an unjust judge’s decision. Jesus calls the judge unjust because he recognises that judgements should not be made simply because a person wears the judicial system down…. But again, that is not the point of the parable. The judge and the woman are foils for a much greater truth.

Much more like what North American Journalist Norah O’Donnell says:

Persistence is incredibly important. Persistence proves to the person you're trying to reach what you are passionate about, something that you really want...

We don’t know what this woman wanted but she was obviously passionate about it. And certainly stubborn. Regularly, we read in our newspapers and see on our television sets people who doggedly pursue justice. In fact, true justice is often something that has to be relentlessly pursued even after the law has made its judgement.

Just sit and wait
I am always impressed by the actions of the aboriginal men and women at Wave Creek in the Northern Territory, the Gurindji people, who refused to accept the substandard working conditions and wages paid to them by the wealthy pastoralists. In 1966 they walked off the Vestey Cattle Station and settled on the banks of Wattie Creek, seeking not just better working conditions but justice and their own lands. It was the early days of land rights for the indigenous people of Australia. Terra Nullius (uninhabited) was how Captain Cook referred to Australia. How long did they sit there? How long did it take for law to catch up with justice?

The Irish folk singer Damien Dempsey's song "Wave Hill Walk Off" sums it up well. The words to the first verse are:

"In the year of Lord Jesus nineteen and sixty six,
A great rumbling sound came from up in the sticks,
All these gentle black warriors they dreamed of a Bill,
And enough was enough, so they walked off Wave Hill."

And the words to the last verse are:

"For nine hungry years they kept up their bold stand,

Until Gough Whitlam poured land into Vincent’s hand
For indigenous land rights it was finally time,
For to make reparations for a giant of a crime." 1

Ahh! Now that is persistence - nine years of waiting for the law to discover justice. The final words of the parable of the complaining woman and the unjust judge are:

“…Won’t God grant justice to those who cry to him day and night? And when the son of man comes, will he find faith and trust upon the earth?"

 

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1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurindji_strike

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