Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

The Hound of Heaven

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus often taught in parables... and among his listeners some folks understood their meaning and some folks didn't. And that is still true today because we all tend to hear what we want to hear.

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion about how to interpret these obscure stories that Jesus told... we have heard them over and over... and we quite generally think that we know what they mean. Perhaps that's why I find them difficult to preach about... at the very least... we already know what they mean... so why bother... at worst... we are in danger of making the story say what we want it to say.

This particular story is perhaps not that familiar... not that often the topic of a sermon... and maybe that's why it has been placed in the lectionary. I don't think I would have chosen it as my text on my own! It seems to me to be a very strange story... one that's appears to be easily interpreted... and yet turnsout to be truly an enigma when we consider it seriously. I found it to be an unusual challenge!

Is this a story about prayer? It would seem so... even Luke has made that deduction right up front in verse one:

18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

That's pretty unusual for a parable... and right away... we could say that this parable is about persistence... keep asking... don't give up... hound God until he gives you what you ask for. And... sometimes... that's the way we pray, isn't it? We have a very strong tendency to think we know what is best for us... and we can be quite insistent about it in our prayers. I have said it before... and I'll say it once again, "be careful what you pray for... you may get it... and it may not be what you expected!".

At a little deeper level... we have Jesus telling us in verse eight:

6 ..."Listen to what the unjust judge says.
7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?

Jesus introduces two new ideas here that we must consider in our attempt to interpret this parable. The first is that this is a comparison between God and the "unjust judge." The second is that the request is for justice... not for just anything.

Actually I think Luke was trying to make a particular point by inserting this and several other relevant stories at this particular point in his gospel. Sometimes it's helpful... in your Bible study... to check the introduction to the book you are reading. There you will usually find something about the the readers... the ones for whom the book was intended... the audience... and about the purpose... what it was intended to accomplish. The introduction in my study Bible suggests that Luke was writing to strengthen the faith of all believers and to answer the attacks of unbelievers.

Another important thing to consider in your Bible study is the context of the passage... what came before... what comes after. Again... in my Bible... the section just before this parable is entitled "The Coming of the Kingdom of God." In Luke's telling of the story... Jesus has just finished talking about his second coming... and he wants his readers to know that persistent prayer is what will sustain them as they wait for his return.

Given that introduction... lets take a closer look at just who these figures might represent for us. My first inclination is to think that the woman who has been treated unjustly represents us... you and me... as Christians. We are the ones who are anticipating the kingdom... don't we pray every Sunday "Thy kingdom come... Thy will be done..." And I'll bet that's about the only time we pray for God's kingdom to come! I know it's not a frequent phrase in my prayers! I wonder why?

Could it be that the coming of God's kingdom would bring justice to this world... and that justice might have a sting to it... unpleasant ramifications for us... and for our life style? Perhaps... at some level... deep in our hearts... we know that we ourselves are among the offenders... rather than the champions or dispensers of God's justice. It's one of those things we know we might get if we prayed for it persistently... and we might not like the results!

I can't help but wonder what this parable might mean for us if we saw our world in the position of the "unjust judge". In verse two we find Jesus' description of the judge:

2 ..."In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.

Isn't that a perfect description of our society... where people believe they don't have any need for God... and everyone wants to be "numero uno." And unfortunately... in our society... the have nots... the "widows" of our day... the poor... the homeless... the children... and every other type of outcast... have to continually beg for justice. We live in a society where the rich are getting richer... and the poor are getting poorer... where we give in to the petitions of the poor only because we are tired of hearing them complain.

Now we are cutting very deep... and the parable begins to be painful for us... because we live in this society... and we too are guilty of turning our backs on God... and living for ourselves... and in so doing... we too are guilty of perpetuating injustice.

Jesus tells us that God is different. In verses seven and eight we read:

7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. When Jesus comes... there will be justice for all people. For some that will be a blessing... for others that will be a curse! And when he comes will he find us being faithful to his Father's way?
9 ...will he find faith on the earth?"

God is... in fact... hounding us. We wants us to receive his love... for ourselves... and he wants us to acknowledge his love for every person... great or small. He wants us to seek justice in this world... to turn back to him and to care about humankind. In this parable Jesus compares the world's way with God's way and we can see how big the chasm is which exists between us and God. The good news is that God has provided us with a bridge... a way to reach him... a pattern for a new way of life. In Jesus Christ we have seen God's love for the world... we have been invited to allow God into our hearts and our lives... and God Spirit is available to help us in living lives that will achieve God purpose.

When Christ returns will he find us faithful?

A Sermon Preached on October 18, 1998
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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