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               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

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October 21, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 18:1

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
October 20, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 19

LUKE 18:1–8 (DKV)

And he would tell this parable to them to the end that men ought to pray at all times and never lose heart. He said, ‘There was a certain judge in a certain city who neither feared God nor regarded man. And there was a widow in that very city who kept coming to him and pleading for justice against her adversary but he would not do it for the longest time. But then he said to himself, 'Though I do not fear God, nor regard for any man, because this widow will not stop bothering me, I will grant her plea lest she wear me out with her continual appearances."

And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not God vindicate his elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you that he will vindicate them and do so quickly. Nevertheless will the Son of Man, when he comes, find faith on the earth?

This parable does not mean what you think it means.

It is not about wrestling God to the ground until he relents. And so don’t think that if you scrunch up your face, clench your jaw, and “pray real hard” that God is going to do your will instead of his own. But Christian prayer is this:

“Nevertheless not my will, but yours be done.”

This is the prayer the Lord prayed immediately prior to his death and it gets to the heart of today’s gospel. For, you see, it was the will of the heavenly Father to send the eternal Son to become man and to experience the full range of human woe.

To become obedient unto death even the gruesome, terrifying and demonically-devised death of the cross that broke down a man until he was a worm and no man at all.

But if the Lord had not suffered such a death, not suffered all that sinful humanity in league with the Evil One could heap upon him then he would be no Savior at all. For the wages of sin is death, and this is what it looks like!

But by his passion the Lord cast in his lot with ours! He put himself into solidarity with us and raised us up from the death of sin, to a better life by his resurrection.

But he did something else as well, he elevated suffering, he gave it meaning! So that when we suffer poverty, woe, illness, loss, evil and injustice we can say with Saint Paul that we are being “conformed to the image of the Son” (Romans 8:29). That we are becoming like him in his death, so that we might also attain the resurrection of the dead. (Phil. 3).

With thoughts like these swimming about in his head the great 20th century hymn writer, Martin Franzmann, wrote in today’s hymn:

From the cross Thy wisdom shining
Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might;
From the cross forever beameth
All Thy bright redeeming light.

This is “the coming of the Son of Man” that the Lord speaks about in today’s parable.

But what about the widow in the parable? Who is she?

She is the church!

In first century Israel a widow was as helpless and hopeless as any person could ever be. She had no power. No influence. No respect. No dignity but was at the mercy of all – whether their intentions were good or evil.

In similar fashion we are helpless in the face of sin, death and Satan, and in desperate need of justice which is better translated here as vindication! As victory over enemies that would sift us like wheat.

But no earthly judge, good or bad, can deliver this justice! None ever has in earth’s long history, none ever will, but still we want to believe that they can. And so we put our trust in men, in systems, in institutions, in technology, but still evil prevails.

Still love grows cold, and things go from bad to worse as men reject sound teaching. As they accumulate teachers to suit their own passions, turn away from listening to the truth, and “wander off into myths.” And what a perfect description that little phrase is of current culture, though spoken 2,000 years ago by Saint Paul.

Everyone today cries out for justice, but do we know what justice is and would we recognize it if we saw it? It is not mere equity – a child could think of that. But you can not have justice without mystery!

And so Jesus goes to the cross. Not in defeat as it would appear but in conquering might, to engage sin and death, to enter their haunted house, and to bring it down upon their heads in sacrificial love – just like Samson prophetically did many centuries before.

And so the Widow church prays and never stops. Never loses heart as she prays for God’s kingdom to come, and his Spirit to renew the face of the earth. And so it is not personal prayer that the Lord is teaching us about today but the church’s sacred prayer: this very liturgy we offer in union with Christ today.

The most powerful prayer that the church offers is when the Widow, now Bride, enters into Holy Communion with her Lord. She has always known that THIS is the time and THIS is the place that the Holy Bridegroom opens his heart to his Beloved.

It is here, she knows, that her Almighty Lord and Gracious King will vindicate her, answer every prayer for body and soul, time and eternity, and put her heart at rest.

And so take note of what we pray for today in the Prayer Of The Church. That God should save and defend his church, grant us heavenly wisdom, preserve our nation, sanctify our homes, look after the sick and the suffering – because though she appears to be but a helpless widow – she is “the LIGHT of the world, and the SALT of the earth.” (Mt. 5:13)

She possess and proclaims the oracles of God which are able to make men wise unto salvation by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord; and to teach, rebuke, correct and instruct the world in authentic righteousness – not the hollow “values” that seem to be so popular in the world today.

Listen to what the unjust judge says! Though he did not care a whit for God or the opinion of any man he did finally relent, if only to save his own skin.

But the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Just Judge of all the earth, needs no such prodding. As Luther writes in the catechism, “The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.”

And so “do not lose heart.” Jesus, who is the Kingdom of God, is with us today. It is he who absolves our sins, charms us with his gospel, and will “quickly” vindicate us with his flesh and blood. He will conform us to his own image as we suffer, and answer our every prayer. Amen.