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Swift Justice

October 16, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

cross glowing

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
October 16, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 19
Swift Justice

Then Jesus told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart, saying, "There was a certain judge in a certain city who neither feared God, nor regarded men; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him pleading, "Give me justice against my adversary." But he would not do so for the longest time. But after a while he said to himself, 'Though I do not fear God, nor have any regard for people's opinions, yet because this widow keeps irritating me, I will rule in her favor so that she does not grind me down with her endless appearances before me.' And the Lord said, "Take note of what the unjust judge says. And will not God perform justice for his Elect who cry out to him day and night? Indeed will he delay long over them? I tell you that he will vindicate them and do so quickly. But will the Son of Man at his coming find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:1-8 (DKV)

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If we want to understand the inspired Word of God we must learn how to interpret it rightly. Case in point: Today’s parable does not stand alone, but is part of the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem where the vultures will feast over his corpse: neither knowing nor believing that the crucified Christ is the Justice of God that he himself performed to right all that is wrong in this world.

Pay attention all you worshipers of the “green god.” Fossil fuels will not ruin the world, nor will the lack of them save it. This creaky old world is headed for a sudden, shocking and unavoidable end that God himself will bring about without the help of the oil industry, or environmental activists. And so repent. Put your pride and self-righteousness aside! Turn away from your alternative life-style and get in line with the Scriptures that are able to make you wise unto salvation which is by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. They will moreover reprove you when you are wrong, and instruct you in true righteousness so that you may be thoroughly prepared for every good work” as Scripture defines these things.

Again, today’s gospel is no stand-alone parable meant to teach us better techniques of prayer so that we can get “better results.” We do not need to “wrestle” with God because our God loves us. He loves us because we love his Son and believe that God sent him to redeem us from our sins. Which he has done. And now we stand redeemed! And that glad refrain: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” sets us free from our “low desires” and “extinguishes passion’s fires.” It makes us “New Creations” in possession of the mind of Christ; so that we are fully equipped to leave our brittle ideologies behind, and serve God day and night.

No, today’s gospel does not stand alone but it intimately connected to all that we have heard from chapter nine of St. Luke’s gospel. As the Lord gets closer and closer to Jerusalem history begins to collapse. Heaven comes to earth with power to cure not just one, but ten hopeless lepers from a lingering and painful death sentence: even if only one returned to commune with the Great Physician.

Be that one! Especially when you have seen the power of God at work before your very eyes. Prostrate yourself at Jesus’ feet, at this altar, and he will exalt you.

While today’s readings could take us to any number of sunny destinations let us consider only one today: namely these dominical words:

“And will not God perform justice for his Elect who cry out to him day and night? Indeed will he delay long over them? I tell you that he will vindicate them and do so quickly. But will the Son of Man at his coming find faith on the earth?"

The coming that the Son of Man is talking about here is not the event that Christians call: the Second Coming, at least not at first blush. But the primary thing the Lord has in mind here is his own sacrificial death on the cross. This is the event St. Paul calls “the wisdom of God, and the power of God.” A wisdom that no mind darkened by “the god of this world” could ever believe. Indeed your pet gerbil could understand the national debt more easily than darkened hearts can believe this glorious gospel! That the “blood of Jesus his son purifies us from every sin.” (1 Jn 1:7)

Every!

And while the Son of Man could find no faith, the dazzling gospel quickly overwhelmed the darkness (John 1:5) and created a mighty faith that saves us from all our adversaries. For, you see, we are the beggarly widow, standing against all the unjust judges of this world who neither fear God, nor regard the opinions of men. Much like America’s leadership today!

But the Light did dawn, and men did believe, when the Lord gave over the Holy Spirit with his dying breath. Case in point: the thief on the cross, whom the church knows as St. Dismas, who said: Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And to whom the Lord answered: this day you will be with me in paradise. Burn that precious promise from the Lord’s lips into your minds, Oh Christians. And it will give you supreme calm as you leave this womb, and are born into the New Creation!

Case in point: the centurion beneath the cross who came to crucify! But remained to glorify. (Mark 15:39)

And from that point the faith of the cross spread across time and space and found its way to Cleveland Ohio, to Christ Lutheran Church, and into the ears and hearts and minds of those in this holy house today: where the Lord Christ “inhabits the praises of his people.” (Ps. 22)

Yes, by the cross our God has delivered swift justice to the world. But what does that mean?

It is called Swift because it happened all of a sudden. When the world was going about its daily grind; when no one was looking, or expecting or believing. At that time the God/Man gave up his holy life to bring justice to the world. He engaged death on its own terms, and trampled it and brought light and immortality to life.

But to understand what’s what, we need to know what justice means in the Bible: because it is very different from what the world means by that word.

On its best day the world understands justice to mean equity and fair play. That we can all compete on a level playing field. That those who do good are rewarded, and those who do evil are punished. That those who work get paid, and those who don’t, don’t. That a woman who does the same job as a man should get the same pay. But this is no brilliant deduction. A child could think of that.

But there are darker understandings of justice afoot in the world. For example as soon as you put a modifier on the word justice such as: social justice, racial justice, economic justice etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. – the moment you qualify the word justice in that way: justice disappears and injustice is given free reign. And so let us not be unaware of Satan’s designs. (2 Cor. 2:12)

But in the Bible justice means something very different. In Scripture it is the MEANS BY WHICH God brings Righteousness (restoration and perfection) to the earth. It is THE MEANS BY WHICH he puts humpty dumpty back together again; unscrambles the egg; squeezes the toothpaste back into the tube; and by which he restores a world gone very bad. A world beyond repair but not beyond redemption.

That is what Jesus gained for humanity on the cross. And so let us continue to celebrate the feast of victory for our God, which is the constant prayer that God’s people pray for themselves and the whole of mankind. Amen.