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Hills

October 13, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

Proper 24/C [Pent. 19], 10/16/2022: Gen. 32:22-30; Ps. 121; 2 Tim. 3:14—4:5; Luke 18:1-8.

Hills

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1, 2)

Jesus told a parable to the effect that his disciples always ought to pray and not loss heart. Then he said … “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? … Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:1, 7, 8b).

Jesus is not teaching of generalized prayer; rather as his Passion is approaching (Lk. 17:25; 18:31), he urges a specific prayer for faith’s “vindication” in an evil world. The Psalmist directs us to the manner of this prayer, that we look to the hills.

Last Sunday we encountered a Samaritan Leper, not unlike today’s parable widow; both were societal discards. The widow cried for “justice”, an impossible expectation before a dishonest judge; the leper’s petition of Jesus was equally unthinkable, divine “mercy” from a man (Lk. 17:13; cf. Hos. 6:6).

Pharisees enquired of Jesus, “when God’s kingdom of would come?” (v. 20). He answered, “behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (v. 21c); yet they did not see what was patent to the worshipping leper. Jesus returned to teach his disciples; they must hold-fast to him against all that seems “impossible” and “unthinkable” by his coming Passion, as Jacob, held the divine Wrestler (Gen. 32:22 ff.).

In these last days, Jesus warns judgment comes “speedily” (Lk. 18:8; cp. 16:6) and as upon the Antediluvians who mocked Noah’s prophesy, suddenly (17:26, 27). As for those aware of imminent crisis, but mourn the world’s blandishments, they may expect to suffer the fate of Lot’s wife, forever frozen to these attachments (v. 32).

Having answered the Pharisee’s kingdom “when?”; his disciples asked, “Where?”. Jesus enigmatically replied, “Where the Corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (Lk. 17:37) by which we gaze “to the hills”, first to Mt. Golgotha of Jesus’ crucifixion and to Mt. Olivet of his Ascension, for discerning God’s atoning work in Christ. On those two “hills” the Church has her “vindication” and God’s “mercy”.

The Church comprehends her ascended Lord, alone worthy to interpret God’s word for “remembrance” (Rev 5:2, 3, 7, 9, 12; cf. Lk. 22:19b). Christ breaking Scripture’s fifth seal in St. John’s Apocalypse reveals the Church to be Jesus’ parable widow.

When enthroned, Christ opened the scroll’s fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11), revealing the widow “crying day and night” without losing heart (Lk. 18:7). From under heaven’s Incense Altar, saint’s cry day and night, “O Master, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).

The Church cries on behalf of all martyrs, those in heaven and earth joined in the blood of Abel, whose pleas for vengeance on those desecrating and discarding their witness to Christ. Ironically, the widow’s plea for retribution against her adversary is presented to an unjust judge; suggesting the Church’s “impossible”, “unthinkable” faith in Jesus’ promise, God’s “will be done.”

We are “vindicated” in and through Jesus’ sacrificial flesh, a Corpse mocked by unbelieving birds of prey; but his Corpse for sinners is where we locate God’s mercy, risen as better “meat” than carrion. On the Cross, in the Resurrection and Ascension heaven’s Incense Altar is one, the new “place” of worship for lepers and widows.

By Baptism, the Church holds-fast to her cleansing in vindicating faith. Participants in Christ’s body, all partake the same food for their priestly vocation of praise and thanksgiving to God.

On Jesus’ ascension OT saints, martyred for their witness, received an answer to, “how long” until their blood would be avenged? Christ, opening the fifth seal, revealed their clothing with white robes of forgiveness and purity received on earth by Baptism (v. 11).

All worship in heaven and earth in the Church’s liturgical unity awaits God’s final “vindication” on the Last Day. Until that Day the Church prayerfully dispenses God’s mercy in Christ crucified, a better “vindication” than Abel’s blood or today’s parable widow.

Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, is content of God’s word. God declares, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Heb. 10:30); and so, saints are told, “rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Rev. 6:10, 11).

Heaven’s martyrs, OT and NT, garbed in Christ’s white robes of bloody sacrifice are enrolled to one Baptism (Nicene Creed, para. 3); a Blood that speaks a better Word than Abel’s from death’s dust; rather by the blood of Jesus we have eternal Life by “grace and mercy” (Heb. 12:24).

The NT informs the Church’s prayer; our claim on God’s “justice and righteousness” expressed in this time of the Church. Preeminently, our prayer for vindication is, “Thy Kingdom [has, is, and will] come” comprehended in God’s mercy and love for the sake of his elect.

Still, on the Last Day, should the Church’s offer of the Lamb’s mercy be refused; Christ appears as Lion of Judah answering Abel’s blood and the widow’s plea for vindication.

Prayer at the Church’s Altar witnesses patient and persistent white robe formation; providing an affirmative rely to Jesus, “[W]hen the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8b). Amen.

pem.