Year C Proper 24 Luke 18
What Can We Count on from God?
Luke 18:1-8

Recently I received an e-mail message that was entitled "Things I Really Don't Understand." It had a list of questions for which there seems to be no clear-cut answer. Here are a few of them:
  • Why do doctors and lawyers call what they do practice?
  • Why is abbreviation such a long word?
  • Why is it that when you're driving and looking for an address, you turn down the volume on your radio?
  • Why is a boxing ring square?
  • What was the best thing before sliced bread?
  • How do they get the deer to cross the highway at those yellow signs?
  • How did a fool and his money get together in the first place?
These questions represent a lighthearted humorous reminder that there are indeed a lot of things in this life that we just really don't understand.

There are so many things in this life that we just don't understand… that we just can't comprehend. For example, we don't really understand disease. Why is a youngster perfectly healthy for 13 years of his life… and then suddenly just happens to be in a place where he suddenly encounters some germ or bacteria that invades his body and destroys it?

And we don't understand accidents. They are so random and indiscriminate. You start out a day that is like any other day… and then something happens in a matter of seconds… and life is forever different. You can never go back beyond that accident.

On and on we could go with our list... of things we don't really understand.

  • Why is there so much pain in our world?
  • Why do good people suffer?
  • Why do we hurt one another?
  • Why can't people get along?
  • And why do some of the best prayers seem to go unanswered?
Now, all of these difficult questions prompt us to raise yet another crucial question: What can we count on from God? When we face the troubles of the world, the heartaches of life, the tough challenges of this existence… what can we count on from God?

This parable in Luke 18 points us toward an answer. At first glance this parable is confusing to a lot of people. It does sound pretty strange when we first hear it. The parable involves two people: an unjust arrogant judge and a humble but persistent woman. The judge ignores her at first, but finally grants her justice because she is so persistent. She won't give up and she won't go away… so eventually he gives in and comes through for her.

Now, let me hurry to point out that Jesus was not suggesting that God is like the judge… not that at all! Jesus was pointing out that God is as different from the judge as day is from night. He is not likening them; he is contrasting them. This is what I call a "How Much More" parable. Jesus was saying: If a selfish arrogant, unfeeling, unjust judge can help you if you ask, then how much more can God who loves you intensely help you when you ask.

I use this kind of "how much more analogy" all the time. For example, imagine that a woman comes to me and tells me of something bad that she has done. The woman is penitent, remorseful, ashamed, and heartsick over the wrong she has committed. She confesses it in sordid detail… and then she asks me, "How can God still love me after this terrible thing I have done?" I can say to her, "Well, you've told me all about it… and my heart is going out to you. I just want to help you. I don't want to condemn you or fuss at you or criticize you. I just want to help you make a new start with your life. And if I feel that way with all of my sins and frailties, weakness, and foibles and inadequacies… if I'm capable of that kind of love, how much more is God who is the Lord of Life, the Lord of Love forgiving?"

That's what we have here… a "How Much More Parable" – a Contrast Parable. If that unjust judge can help you when you ask, how much more can God help you??

Luke makes sure that we know what the parable is all about. He introduces it by saying this: He spoke to them in a parable to show that they should keep on praying and never lose heart. This parable means be patient, don't lose heart, don't give up, keep on trusting, because you can count on God… and God will come through for you.

Now, with all this as a backdrop for our thinking, let me list three things we can count on from God...

  1. We Can Count on God to Hear Us When We Pray.
  2. We Can Count on God to Be with Us When We Are Hurting.
  3. We Can Count on God to Go with Us Wherever We Go.

Don't Blow Off What Is God-Breathed!
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Two "investments" have proven to be recession proof in the past twenty years: security and storage.

Why storage? We've bought so much stuff we can't live with all we've purchased. So we have "storage" units where we have visitation rights to spend time with our stuff.

Why security? Look around you. Security systems are everywhere.

Our cars blare their horns and blink their lights if someone dares to open the door without disarming the alarm system.

Our houses have security systems that watch-dog our doors, our windows, even our movements and our voices.

Our online lives, our bank accounts, our workplaces have security codes and security cards that must be deployed to gain access.

We are dedicated to protecting ourselves and our "stuff" more completely, even as the world becomes ever more dangerous and unpredictable. We are desperate to protect that which is most precious to us.

As Europe struggled out of the "dark ages" and into the "middle ages," one of the most precious commodities, available only to the elite and the educated, were books. Books were tucked away and treasured in monasteries, which housed the only libraries in existence. Later on, if a community were wealthy enough, there might be one or two "chained books" in the church for the parish members to gaze at.

The high security system for protecting these treasures? Bolting the Bible to a heavy stone lectern, chaining up the word of God inside the church. Among the most popular of the "libri catenati" ("chained books") in Protestant circles were the Bible and Fox's Book of Martyrs (immensely popular because it contained gruesome illustrations made from woodcuts even the illiterate could easily comprehend). Martin Luther spent hours pouring over a Latin Bible chained within the Augustine monastery at Wittenberg, and his reading of this "chained book" changed the world.

In most Protestant churches today two books slide snugly into the rack on the back of each pew — a hymnal and a Bible. It was the radical audacity of the Protestant reformers, many of whom were martyred for their revolutionary faith, which made the presence of those books possible. Not only is there a Bible within easy reach of every person in the pew. It is printed in the language of the congregation. The Reformers dared to translate the Latin and Greek and Hebrew into the languages of the common people, the vernacular— making the word of God available to anyone who could read. What had been available only to the eyes of the ordained or the university educated for hundreds of years, suddenly became accessible to everyone.

Words that had been unintelligible, stories that had never been told, prayers that had never been heard, were finally put into the hands and hearts and heads of all God's people.

So how did the Bible go from being the most precious "chained" book and a safe-guarded gift to being something we let sit in the back of the pew without ever cracking the cover?

You say: what are you talking about?... presents Leonard Sweet