Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sermon for October 17, 2010

The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost
October 16-17, 2010
Text: Luke 18:1-8

Dear Friends in Christ,
If Jesus were around today, one has to wonder whether elected officials wouldn’t be the butt of many of His commentaries. How many elected officials have we had over the years who wanted people’s votes but then did nothing for those who elected them? Or who actually worked against the interests of their voters. In the past, many politicians could hide what they were really doing. Only those who took the time and expense to get their hands on actual bills and read them, knew what was happening. But in our day, the internet is exposing some of this nonsense. We can find out the voting record of our officials just by a few clicks of a mouse. I suspect that this part of what is happening this election cycle. Enough people have become informed about what happening to force changes. The longer term question is whether this round of reformers will actually reform or be corrupted by the system as previous reformers have been. Will they continue to listen to the people of this nation or will become insulated politicians who line their pockets and ignore the people who elected them? I suspect Jesus would have had something to say about that.

Jesus uses an example from the political realm of His own day. There was a corrupt judge. Nothing unusual there. Many judges were corrupt. All too often in world history has justice been about who you are, who you know, and how much money you have. This judge has a widow who keep pestering him. Widows in that time had no power or influence. She probably didn’t have a lot of money. Judges usually ignored widows. But this widow persists. She just keeps bugging him, until he finally has had enough and grants her petition. He doesn’t do it because it is right. He does it so that she’ll go away and stop bugging him. Let us change the parable. Let us say that the judge was a righteous man. What would happen? The widow would come to him and he would hear her case. If it has merit he would immediately rule in her favor. The matter would be finished. Why would he do it? Because it is simply the right thing to do. She would not have to pester the judge night and day.

This parable is unique in that it doesn’t exactly follow the normal rules. One of the ways we interpret the parables, is to place ourselves into the story. Clearly, we are the widow. But the unrighteous judges has no parallel in the kingdom of God. Why? Because the judge is Christ. He is a righteous judge. We don’t have to storm the gates of heaven. We don’t need to pray on our knees for twenty hours straight. We don’t need prayer vigils. We lay the matter before Christ and we know that He will do for us, immediately, all that is good and right. He will not delay acting on our behalf. If it appears that God has delayed, it is only because God, even in this is acting for our good.

This parable is often misunderstood. Some will say it teaches us to be persistent in prayer. Rather, it teaches us to pray. The point is that even the unrighteous, on earth, can be worn down. You can even get your plea answered by the unrighteous. Certainly, God who is righteous will answer without the pressure applied to the unrighteous. Thus we can be confident when we pray. We know our righteous Lord will not forget us. He hears and answers.

One of the popular things these days to post prayer requests on Facebook. And everyone responds that they are praying for you or your loved one. This not a bad thing in itself. But some seem to feel as though more prayers change the mind of God. Now a high school and college friend reported that his mother is in ICU. This is a lady who went to the same church as Bonnie did, when she was growing up. Now, probably hundreds of people are praying for her. Multiple churches are praying for her. What if she dies? Does that mean God didn’t hear all hundreds of prayers? No. He heard every prayer that was offered by a Christian in her behalf. What it means is that God knows that this is what is good and right for her and her friends and family. We can be absolutely certain that God will do what is good right in each case.

Well, if God will do what is good and right in each case, why do we pray at all? Why don’t we just leave it to God? Well, first because we are commanded to pray. Now, when we pray, we are teaching ourselves that these things are in God’s hands. We are reminded that life, death, our daily bread, the heath of our church, and all things, are in God’s hands. There is a saying - prayer changes things. Actually, what prayer changes is us. It teaches us how totally reliant we are upon God. We have nothing apart from God. We are nothing apart from God.

How is it that sinful man can pray to a holy and righteous God? This is where prayer connects to justification. Christ died on the cross as payment for our sins. He rose to life for our Salvation. In Baptism we are adopted as sons of God. In Baptism, what Christ did on Calvary become ours. By taking our sin from us, Christ makes us holy and righteous before God’s judgement. Thus we can approach God’s throne of grace and mercy. We can come to Him with our concerns and lay them before Him. Christ and our heavenly Father answer our prayers, in grace. We know that. Thus we can be bold to pray, knowing that the One who died for us will answer with all that is good and gracious.

The final verse of our text is a chilling warning. Christ asks if He will find anyone who believes in Him when He returns at the end of time? Indeed Scripture speaks of the Church that survives to the end of time as a mere remnant. I suspect is that this will come about because of false doctrine. The church will appear full. Just like we see the televangelists and the mega churches of today. They have people galore. They take the collection with ten gallon trash cans - and they are filled each week. But is this the Christian Church? Sadly, in most cases no. They are preaching self righteousness and new age mantras. There are all sorts of names, word faith movement, purpose driven, emergent church, and so forth. All of these are outright attacks on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So what I think Christ is telling us here, is that sure they’ll be a lot of people who call themselves Christians, and think that they are Christians, who are not. The Church will appear to have triumphed, but will have utterly failed. It will have failed because it no longer preaches Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.

God gives us a great gift. We, as His adopted sons, can come before him and lay all our concerns before Him. We do this knowing that He already, before we ask, will do all that is good, right and gracious. He does this because He is both righteous and loving. Prayer, like all good things, is about God. It is about His grace and His love. We can trust this, because the grace and love of God are most reliable things in all reality. Amen!

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