10/16/2016 Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost The text is Luke 18:1-8.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It pays to be persistent. Today’s gospel is all about that axiom that we learned as children. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – I remember being told that whenever I needed a little boost to keep striving to reach a goal. In today’s gospel, Jesus applied those principles to prayer.
Pray, pray and pray again…don’t give up, even if you don’t get the answer you are looking for or get what you want in the way you want it in your time table. God knows best. God answers our prayers, and sometimes, the answer may be confusing. We may get a ‘yes.” We may have to live with a “No.” But, we may end up with a “work for it,” or a “wait.” But whatever the answer, it comes from a loving a God who is on our side.
I know I’m not telling you anything new. You know this. We have experienced it. Persistence pays off. Good things happen to those who ask for it. And the best things happen to those who bring their requests for justice in this world to the God of our salvation. Jesus’ parable confirms it.
After confirming what we know about God and prayer, Jesus asks three question:
1) Will not God bring about justice? The answer, of course, is yes.
2) Will God keep putting us off? The answer to this question is just as obvious. It is a big – no.
3) Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth? Ah, the answer to this question is a question – maybe, or maybe not.
Faith can be a fickle thing. We trust God when we get the “yes” as an answer to our every prayer. But to have faith in Jesus means to believe that Jesus loves you and will provide you with what you need, even when life turns sour. Faith is challenged when you have to deal with a devastating illness. Faith is challenged when some we love dies. Faith is challenged when we find ourselves looking at a bowl full of pits instead of a bowl of cherries. Faith is challenged when life is difficult and we don’t get the rewards warranted by our efforts.
In addition to those bad things happening to good people, there are many other challenges to faith that each of us has or will encounter in a life time – everything from scientific discoveries, like the Big Bang Theory, to the world around us which is becoming more and more atheistic. It is amazing how many people give in to the pressures of the majority and trade in God and place their faith in money, power, or prestige, or in the ability of humankind to become godlike.
To keep faith in Christ Jesus alive we need to stay connected – connected to God through prayer and worship, and connected to others who form the body of Christ. That’s why promises are made on the day of baptism and the same promises are reaffirmed on the day of confirmation. Those promises are not for God’s benefit but for ours, so that Christ will find faith on earth when he returns.
Maybe faith is so difficult to hold onto and to cultivate because “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) We believe in a God whose existence cannot be scientifically proven…and yet we see his handiwork in all of creation. Take the miracle of birth, as an example. How two cells merge and develop into a human being with many different parts is a wonder. That blueprint for development comes from God.
But, will Jesus find faith on earth when he comes again? If by the will of God, the answer is a resounding, “yes.” For God has given us everything we need to have faith. But, if by the will of man, the answer is a definite, “maybe.” For, if there will be faith on earth, people will need to be persistent in prayer, praise, worship, fellowship, and work. If there will be faith on earth, more and more people will need to bring their children to the font to receive the gift of God’s presence. If there will be faith on earth, parents and sponsors, and the whole body of Christ will need to keep their promises to the younger generation. If there will be faith on earth, we will need to turn to God in times of trouble and fully believe that no matter what the answer, God loves us and will provide for us the very best. Now that’s a lot of ifs!
What will you do, my friends? Will you be persistent? Will you share the faith that is within you? Will you be diligent in prayer, praise and thanksgiving? Will you take everything to God in prayer? Will you teach your children and your children’s children about the importance that faith has had in your life? Will you show them by example what it is to live a faithful life? These are all important questions that each one of us has to answer. And collectively, how we answer those questions will let Jesus know the answer to his.
Keep the faith, my friends. And may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.