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Sunday Service 6th October

Call to worship

What does the Lord require of you?

To do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with our God.

What does God command of us?

To love God with all our heart,

and all our soul,

and all our mind,

and all our strength,

and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Let us worship the God who believes in us,

and trusts in us, and abides with us.

Let us worship the God who will ask much of us,

but will be beside us every step of the way.


I remember one day when, after school, mum and my brother and sister and I were in Stirling. We were walking along Murray Place towards King Street. At every shop window, my brother announced “I want…” and name some item in the window. I want, I want, I want. His demands were relentless and highly annoying. As a big sister, it was my role to shut him up – to no avail. His demands became louder and more insistent.

Eventually, on the corner of King Street, outside Gavin’s clothes shop my mum stopped, bent down to his eye level and gave him the row of his life – “If I hear “I want” one more time, you’ll…”.

And then she went nuclear. “Just wait til you get home, and dad hears about your behaviour.” Silence.

We walked about 10 steps up King Street, when a voice said, “Mum, can I get….”

It reminds me of today’s passage where we read the parable of the persistent widow from the gospel of Luke.

The poor widow just wants justice.

To be a widow in the ancient Near East was to be among the most vulnerable of society. As a widow, this woman would have had no advocate, no social standing upon which to plead her case. She had not only lost her husband, but evidently there was no family left to support or to sustain her. She was helpless. She had no voice, no influence, no future.

She was one of far too many who were living on the edge of society, overlooked, ignored, forgotten. She turns to the one person who might have helped her but instead found more rejection.

The judge is a bad man. He doesn’t fear God or respect people. He admits it.

He actually says, “I don’t fear God or respect people.” He gives her what she wants in the end but only because she keeps bothering him and he wants to be done with her.

This is not an easy parable. It makes me uncomfortable. Is God the judge? I can imagine God as a fair judge—a kind judge.

In Exodus we are told “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” Exodus 34:6 or from the Psalms “Good and upright is the Lord, Psalm 25:8 and so on.

But the judge in this story is not good. He tells us himself he has no fear of God and no respect for anyone and that he will give the widow justice to stop her from annoying her rather than because it is the right thing to do.

He recognises the justice in her case, but only gives her it to stop her annoying him, not because it is the just thing.

This does not sound at all like God. But it does sound a bit like people I know. In fact, I can recognise myself a bit – doing something to stop an annoyance rather than because it is the right thing to do. Perhaps this resonates – uncomfortably – with you too?

Perhaps the unjust judge is inside each of us, waiting for a persistent widow to wear us down, to force us to do the right thing?

It is something for us to think about.

So what is this parable about?

Luke tells us in verse 1. He tells us how important it is to pray and to not give up.

Well, yes. We know that. We’ve been told that since Adam was a boy – in a manner of speaking. And we agree. But….

But there is a little niggle there, isn’t there? What about all the times when our earnest, heartfelt prayers have not been answered?

Sometimes it’s easy to see, especially in hindsight, why God doesn’t give us all the things we pray for. God is not going to give you anything that is bad for you, even if you ask for it, even if you ask for it 100 times a day for 100 days.

But what about the prayers for things that are reasonable? What about hungry people who are just praying for something to eat? What about people who are being abused and they want it to stop? What about praying for peace? And so on.

The unrighteous judge eventually does what is right, but only because this nagging woman has made him feel trapped. He does not respond out of a changed heart.

Very often social change is like this, too.

How often do politicians make U-turns on policy announcements because they have been forced to by circumstance or being trapped by their own hubris? I’m sure you can point to plenty of instances!

The Gospel assures us that God is not like the unrighteous judge. God does not respond to our needs only when we have pestered so much that it would be easier to just give in.

The Gospel says that God will vindicate us – or bring us justice – “quickly” (Luke 18:8). So, how does God bring justice? How does God respond to our prayers?

God didn’t bring in the Welfare State, or give votes for women, or abolish the slave trade or do any of the great social justice enterprises throughout our history.

That’s our job. It’s our job to persist. It’s our job to protest poverty, hunger and all the other great evils which blight our country and so many others around the world.

It’s our job to advocate for ourselves when we feel helpless; to advocate for others when they are the most vulnerable.

The Gospel promises us that God will respond to our prayers much faster than the unjust systems of society.

If even an unrighteous judge can be merciful in the face of a persistent woman, then how much more merciful is God who loves us and created us and knows every inch of our being?

It can be hard to believe that God is at work when change comes so slowly and with such great difficulty.

But we believe God is with us in those struggles. We believe in a God who came to be with us and suffered alongside humanity.

We believe in a God who is always at work, changing hearts and minds, transforming lives, making the weak strong and the vulnerable powerful.

God is in the cries of the helpless.

The hope that we have in God is not the same as the hope we have in society.

Society will change; injustice will eventually end,

but our hope in God is that God is with us through it all;

that God hears us;

that God’s love for us will give us the strength to persist;

and that God’s justice will transform our lives and the hearts and minds of everyone in the whole world.

Our hope is that God’s love will prevail. Amen.


Let’s pray

Loving God, you know your children of every race and nationality.

You understand our needs even better than we ourselves.

We give you thanks and praise always, O God, for your love surpasses all

and your will is ever good.

You read our inmost thoughts and desires and keep your hand upon us,

reshaping us into the people you want us to be.

Your mercies are for our sisters and brothers around the globe,

And so we pray for your world,

for the places where poverty and corruption over ride justice and peace;

for the places where environmental issues are ignored;

for the places where dignity and respect are lost.

We pray for Ukraine, in this time of conflict,

we pray that calm and justice will fill those in power

bringing an end to the violence and turmoil there.

We pray for all who mourn the loss of loved ones:

May your grace surround and uphold all who mourn this day.

Especially we pray for those known to us who are on our hearts today. (silence)

We give thanks:

for those who work tirelessly for peace and justice.

We pray for those whose actions of compassion and kindness go unreported.

May we all strive to love and care for one another.

God of life, hear us and give us the strength to

Persist in prayer so we can walk more faithfully in your ways;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Let us never give up praying for justice, or the oppressed in this world will one day ask us ‘Why?’ Let us never give up praying for fairness, or the hungry of this world will one day ask us ‘Why?’ Let us never give up praying for healing, or the sick in this world will one day ask us ‘Why?’ Let us never give up praying, for to give up is to deny our faith in a God who answers prayer.


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