Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sermon -- 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (October 20, 2013)

LUKE 18:1-8
In the name + of Jesus.

      Our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us to pray.  He urged his disciples that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)  Prayer is not optional for the Christian.  Our Lord speaks to us in his word.  We speak to him in our prayers.  In everything, in joy and in sorrow, with petitions and with thanksgiving, day or night, we are summoned to come to our Father in heaven with our prayers.
     Jesus told a parable about a widow sought justice from a judge in her town.  She had no husband to plead or to fight for her.  She was alone and afraid.  What’s more, she had been wronged.  Some adversary was out to take from her—whether it was money or property or something else.  She had no one to turn to except the only one who was in a position to help.  She went to the judge.  She got ignored.  She went back to the judge with her plea.  She went back daily.  She went back several times a day.  She knew that justice had to be done, and she knew that only this judge could supply it.  So she was relentless with him.
     The judge was not an honorable man.  He did not fear God, so he did not think that he was answerable to anyone.  All of his acts were done boldly, selfishly, and guilt-free.  He did not respect man, either.  In some cases, this is good.  No one is supposed to get a favorable ruling based on his position or his wealth.  But this judge did not care about anyone.  He may not have been swayed by the affluence of the rich, but neither did he have any compassion for the oppressed.  He did not care about the widow who pleaded before him.  He did not care that he was her only hope.  He did not care that she had been wronged.  He cared only for himself.
     And still, the widow was not deterred.  She 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.” (Luke 18:3-5)  The widow sought and received justice from the judge because she persisted in asking for it.  The judge’s motives were not pure.  He was not faithful in his duties, because he had to be pressured and pestered into doing his duty.  But he finally did act.  He finally produced justice.  And the widow did not suffer at the hands of her adversary.
    Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)  Jesus encourages you to do the same.  Always pray, and seek God’s justice, because like the widow, you do have an adversary.  He desires to take from you something far more important than your property and far more valuable than your possessions.  Your adversary seeks to get you to forfeit your faith and to abandon God’s promises. 
     Your adversary is Satan.  That is what his name means.  He makes accusations against you.  He even digs up guilt from years and decades ago and afflicts you with that shame all over again.  He wants to drive you into despair like Judas Iscariot.  He wants you to be overwhelmed by your guilt.  He wants you to think that not even God’s mercy can overcome your shame.  You cannot stand against him, because you have no excuse for your sins.  And rationalizing your sins will not take away your shame.  There is nothing left but to cry out and to pray, “Give me justice against my adversary!”
     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.” (Luke 18:6-8)  Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  If an unrighteous judge will grant justice to one who pleads continually for it, won’t your Father in heaven do so all the more and all the quicker? 
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  For, you do not pray to a judge who is unjust or uncaring.  God does not need to be badgered and manipulated until he acts.  He is not so disinterested that he will not hear you.  He is not so stingy with his mercy that he will not answer until you wear him down.  He is not an unjust judge.  He is your Father in heaven.  His motives are always pure.  He is always faithful to his duties.  He is not your last hope; he is your only hope.  And your hope in him is never misplaced.  He has created you.  He cares for you and sustains you.  Above all, he has sent his Son to redeem you so that you are his for eternity.  If he longs to have you dwell with him for all eternity, will he not also care for you now?
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  Your Father’s justice and his love are revealed through Jesus Christ.  Jesus has dealt with your adversary for you.  Jesus accepted all of the charges that had been leveled against you.  He did not rationalize them or excuse them.  Instead, he accepted the guilt and took all of the punishment.  Only that which is guilty should be condemned.  In Jesus’ crucifixion, the guilty one was punished—Jesus, on behalf of you.  Jesus, instead of you.  Therefore, God was just. 
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  God has not only been just, he is also merciful.  When you were baptized, you were cloaked in Jesus’ holiness.  Now, God cannot condemn that which is holy.  That would be unjust.  But now, you have been washed and purified in the blood of Christ.  And so, God cannot entertain any charges against you.  No matter how convincing your adversary sounds to you, God does not pay attention.  God has dismissed every charge and accusation.  Sin cannot condemn you.  Death will not harm you.  And Satan cannot oppress you.  Justice has been done.  Your Adversary lies crushed under Jesus’ feet.
     Jesus teaches you that you ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)  He knows that his elect…cry to him day and night. (Luke 18:7)  And that is because you are still weak.  That is because your life is not without its problems.  You are still taunted by your Adversary.  You still endure adversities.  And so, you still pray, “Deliver us from evil.”  Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  Always pray, and call upon God for his mercy.
     Your Father in heaven hears, and he does not delay in having mercy.  Your Father delights to have you entrust your cares, your requests, and your life to his hands.  Your Father is honored when you call upon him in the day of trouble.  It does not matter whether you feel your troubles are insignificant or life-altering.  If something is important enough to cause you concern, then take your concerns to your Father in heaven.  He who is almighty will act.  He who is all knowing will hear.  And he who loves you dearly will always do what is best and what you need.
     But if you are seeking relief from your foes, then flee to where the Lord delivers his mercy.  Jesus is your refuge.  Jesus is your source of blessing.  While Jesus may not rid your life of every kind of opponent or oppression, he does deliver the only judgment that matters—forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation.  These are what you need in a world of injustice.  Remember: The world in its present form will perish, but the kingdom of God endures forever.  Jesus has brought you into that kingdom.  Only Jesus can sustain you so that you will enter the blessed joys of heaven.  And Jesus sustains you by his promises and through his feast.  Here is where God applies his justice and judgment upon you.  Here is where you receive mercy and peace.
     Always pray, and seek God’s justice.  Hold your Father in heaven to his promises.  Cast your cares on him.  Your Father in heaven does not delay.  Your justice and your deliverance have come.  They are delivered to you by Jesus, and he already delivers them to you here.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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