The Long Arc of God’s Justice
The Long Arc of God’s Justice
Jesus continues to make connections about how our faith works and plays out in this world. Our passage from Luke this morning connects prayer, justice, and faith together. Indicating that each is reliant on the other.
Scripture: Luke 18: 1-8
Prayer for the Morning by Audette Fulbright Fulson
Did you rise this morning,
broken and hung over
with weariness and pain
and rage tattered from waving too long in a brutal wind?
Get up, child.
Pull your bones upright
gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun.
Draw breath deep into your lungs;
you will need it
for another day calls to you.
I know you ache.
I know you wish the work were done
with everyone you have ever loved
were on a distant shore
safe, and unafraid.
But remember this,
tired as you are:
you are not alone.
and here also
there are others weeping
and gathering their courage.
You belong to them
and they to you
we will break through
and bend the arc of justice
all the way down
into our lives.
In that city there was a widow who kept coming to the judge and saying, “Grant me justice…”
Justice will look different to each of us. What will be of deep concern for my neighbour may not even register as an issue for me and vice versa. Grant me justice.
The widow has issue with her neighbour who has offended or caused harm in ways unknown. However, it isn’t the harm caused that is the focus, rather it is the justice rendered.
Chelsey Harmon reminds us that “This is one of those texts where knowing the context really steers the way the passage punches. The lectionary skips over the previous section, “The Coming of the Kingdom,” but its frank discussion of how the disciples will face hardship, suffering, and rejection while “life goes on” for the folks around them leads again to a choice that must be made. It is then that Jesus tells this parable about justice and prayer and faith. Understanding this connection helps us understand the point of Jesus’ story: yes, he is talking about an individual sense of justice, but the salve to this pain is cosmic.” (Chelsey Harmon – Luke 18:1-8)
If the salve to the pain is cosmic, then perhaps we should also look beyond our personal grievances and look at those cosmic injustices which seem to linger with us as a people.
On first glance we might believe the key to the passage is in the first sentence. “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” Oh, this is a parable about prayer and it is. But it’s much more than that. It’s not instructive like we find when Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer. We aren’t told pray for this and pray for that, though there is a strong arc of justice in the Lord’s Prayer.
The parable is not instructive about what to pray for, rather about the need for prayer. We might also look back at the passages we’ve been reading from Luke recently. Perhaps prayer is a habit, an activity that deepens our faith. Remember the passage from a few weeks ago, “Increase our faith!” How do we increase our faith, by practicing our faith. Why do we pray, so that when the Son of Man comes, faith will be found.
What Jesus does in the telling of this parable is make a clear link towards prayer, justice, and faith. Francisco Garcia writes, “It speaks to the divinely rooted call to pursue justice, while also grounding it in the context of living a faithful life.” (Francisco Garcia)
I enjoy the comedy of Hassan Minhaj. I like that he is political and points out the inequities he sees in society. Comedy as an art is based on pain or hurt. Someone or something is always the butt of the joke, we are always laughing at someone or something else’s expense. What I like about Minhaj is that he doesn’t punch down, he punches up.
The widow in the parable, she punches up. And she does it in such fashion that the judge, who has been punching down, takes notice and acts out of fear of the widow. The widow receives justice because she punches up. And if a corrupt judge can provide justice, then how much more can God provide?
In the Jewish tradition, the widow should have been treated with compassion and justice. However, we see that this is not the motivation of the judge. The parable challenges the assumption that the widow is helpless. Instead, we see that she has the ability to challenge a lazy and thoughtless judge. It may not be a stretch to call the judge corrupt in his use of power.
Jesus depicts the unjust judge as finally doing what he ought to do because he was concerned about the widow making a fool of him in public. The rather humorous picture is lost in our English translation: what we read as “so that she may not wear me out…” is literally “so that she doesn’t give me a black eye,” i.e., “punch me in the face!” (Chelsey Harmon – Luke 18:1-8 – Center for Excellence in Preaching (cepreaching.org))
Prayer is an act of faith. Prayer is communion with God.
Jesus uses an unsavoury character to link prayer, justice, and faith together. The unjust judge is key, we are provided with a parable of comparison. The judge is the one who teaches us something about the character of God, even though the judge is not painted in a favourable light. If the judge can provide justice, then imagine what the justice of God will look like and feel like.
Through prayer we bend the long arc of divine justice all the way down into our lives. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
Donate to St. Andrew's
Thank you for visiting St. Andrew’s. It’s our prayer that this sermon was helpful to your walk of faith. We would ask you to prayerful consider donating to the mission of St. Andrew’s. You can make an online donation through our website.