More on Luke 18:1-8
2007-10-15 by Ron Allen
In Luke 17:22-35, the Lukan Jesus speaks poignantly about the suffering of the world that accompanies the final manifestation of the realm. This passage is a pastoral warning to the congregation: you need to be prepared for the fact that you will face difficult times as you wait through the delay for the return of Jesus and the manifestation of the realm.
Luke 18:1 makes explicit the purpose of the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. According to the Lukan Jesus, the disciples "need always to pray and not to lose heart." Through prayer, Luke wants the community to develop "heart" in the community that will withstand them through the suffering and delay. You might think of this as first century theological open-heart surgery.
Christians sometimes make the exegetical mistake of interpreting the parable proper (Lk. 18:2-5) as an allegory in which we are the church and God is the unjust judge. If this were the case, the parable would offer a callous picture of God.
A few interpreters think that the widow is a feminine image for God who is pleading with the world to live in justice. However, in my view, nothing in the immediate text or in the larger world of Luke-Acts supports this view.
The text is not an allegory but is rabbinic mode of arguing from the lesser to the greater. If a lesser situation is true, then a greater situation is true as well. If an unjust judge (who does not reverence God and does not fear people) will respond to the cries of a nuisance widow just to stop her from bothering him, how much more will a God of justice and promise respond to the prayers of the faithful by bringing the realm.
The parable does not specify the issue of injustice that has exercised the widow. Many scholars think that someone (her opponent) may be trying to scam her out of her husband's estate, thus leaving her in a very vulnerable position. If so, the judge's recalcitrance is especially reprehensible. Widows were among the most vulnerable people in antiquity. The Torah contains guidelines for caring for widows. From the perspective of Torah, caring actions of the community are practical expressions of God's providence for widows. The prophets inveighed against Israel when the community failed to act in behalf of widows and claimed that the mistreatment of widows were among the factors that brought God's condemnation upon the community.
In 18:7a, Luke offers a direct word of assurance to the community. God will grant justice to the chosen who cry to him day and night, i.e. God will bring the realm for those who suffer. Throughout the gospel and Acts, Luke emphasizes that God is a promise-keeper. The chosen certainly include Jesus' followers (who, in the Book of Acts, come to include gentiles) Given Luke's Jewish background, they may also include the Jewish community.
In 18:7b-8a, the gospel writer adds another dimension of assurance. The realm will come soon. Luke wants the community to think that they will not have to hang on through suffering for a long time. Of course, Luke wisely does not lay out a time table for the coming of the realm.
From these perspectives, the meaning of Luke 18:8b is self-evident. For Luke, "faith" is the trust that the ministry of Jesus is a sign (and agency for) the coming of the realm. To be faithful is to witness to the immediate partial realization of the realm through the ministry of Jesus and the life of the church (which is under the power of the realm-empowering Spirit). In v. 8b, the Lukan Jesus poses the question, "When Jesus (the Son of Man) returns, will he find this kind of faith on earth?" Luke wants the readers to answer, "Yes. We commit ourselves to becoming strengthened through prayer in order make it through the suffering of the delay. We want to be part of the final and full realization of the realm."
Luke believes that in the midst of its difficulties, the community can be heartened by prayer, that is, by intentionally opening themselves to the partial realization of the realm in the present and anticipating the final and complete coming of the realm when Jesus returns.
2007-10-15 by David Howell
Ron Allen is our guest blogger (his first post is below). Watch for more posts on Luke 18:1-8 (as well as the posts of our regular bloggers). We are fortunate to have so many sharing their insights on the texts and preaching.
We've been promised some Williamsburg recipes...so keep an eye on Divine Cuisine.
Over at the Sermon Feedback Cafe, Susan Eastman (NT professor at Duke) and Susan Andrews (General Presbyter from New York) are still talking about Nora Gallagher's sermon from Sunday. It's so busy that Chef Jean Paul had to hire some extra help to keep the coffee and tea flowing.
Nora Gallagher will be a speaker at the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis in May. Nora and Barbara Brown Taylor will offer writing workshops in addition to preaching and lecturing.
2007-10-15 by Ron Allen
Three big Lukan themes are in back of this text. The first is that Luke believes that the ministry of Jesus (and the coming of the Spirit) partially manifest realm of God in the present and point to its final and full coming in the near future. The apocalypse (the second coming of Jesus) will be the means of the final and full manifestation of the realm. For Luke, the realm is the restoration of all things to the way they were in Eden. The end-times will be like he beginning times.
Second, Luke believes that a delay is occurring in the final manifestation of the realm. Many people had expected the apocalypse to take place soon after the resurrection. Luke writes a generation later and it still has not occurred.
Third, many in the community are drifting away. Tensions have developed between the church and some traditional synagogues, between the church and Rome, and within the church. The community perceives itself as suffering. In the language of today's text, many people are losing heart.
Fourth, Luke understands prayer in a very specific way. For this writer, prayer is the intentional opening of the self and community to the presence of the realm. When the community prays, it seeks to make itself available to the working of the realm.
Sermon on 2 Timothy and Luke 17 (Oct. 14)
2007-10-12 by David von Schlichten
DON'T MISS NORA GALLAGHER'S EXCELLENT SERMON AT SERMON FEEDBACK CAFE. GO BACK TO "HOMEPAGE" AND THEN CLICK ON SHARE IT! THEN CLICK ON SERMON FEEDBACK CAFE, AND DRINK UP!
Endure; God Heals
(Word count: 608 )
Text: 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19
The great preacher Fred Craddock said in a sermon that most people he knows of who “turn in the keys,” who give up on serving the church, do not do so because of a sharp pain. They turn in the keys because they have “a dull ache all over.” In other words, Craddock says, they are tired.
We the baptized get tired, tired of trying to love God and serve the neighbor, tired of trying to help the needy, tired of cultivating faith in this unweeded garden called the world. After all, so many people are hungry, dying, sick, poor, marginalized. So many people need help, and progress merely plods forward or even tumbles backward. Ferocious evil seems omnipresent. Life throbs with unfairness.
Christians grew tired back in Bible times, as well. For instance, when you read all of 2 Timothy, it becomes evident that the original readers of the letter were growing tired. Being a Christian was demanding and even lethal. Paul says to Timothy and the other recipients of the letter, “Endure. I endure, and I want you to do the same. If you die with Christ, you will live with Christ. If you endure, you will reign. If you turn your back on Christ, there will be consequences, but Christ will never give up on you.” Paul says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed [ . . . ]” (v.15). In other words, do not give up. Endure. God has saved you, approved of you, so now you are to respond by enduring, persevering.
2 Timothy 4:21 tells us that, at the time that the letter was written, winter was approaching. Winter is harsh, dark, and deep. It is surely coming, but persevere, endure, with power from the Spirit, living like the approved people we are, thanks be to Christ.
Do you feel like giving up as a Christian? Unanswered questions, prayers that seem to go unopened, evil crowding around us, war in Iraq, genocide in the Darfur, school shootings, sexism, legions of people ignoring the call to combat global warming.
Instead of giving up, we persevere, endure, the Holy Spirit empowering us to do so. The Bible, Baptism, and Holy Communion are gifts from God to restore, feed and heal us. Worship, prayer, sermons, hymns – all these blessings strengthen us to endure, perservere. God forgives and restores us.
God also gives us each other to help with enduring and persevering. We stand together as a group, Jew and Samaritan, White and Hispanic, Black and Asian, Catholic and Protestant, male and female, elderly and teenaged, Democrat and Republican – we stand together as a group and cry out together, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Together, one, with the Spirit filling us with breath, we cry out with enduring voice, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Then Jesus heals us. He may heal us of disease. He may send us a doctor or medicine. Jesus may heal us with comforting words from each other. Jesus may heal us with a hot meal, a gentle evening, a purring cat on the lap. Over and over God heals us through Scripture, Baptism, Holy Communion. God heals us by forgiving us our sins.
Jesus Christ, in various ways, makes us clean and new, all of us, regardless of our differences, and we respond by all of us, despite our differences, kneeling before God and saying, “Thank you” and then showing ourselves to the Church, announcing, “God enabled us to endure, and we did. Now God has healed us. Thanks be to God! We still have problems, but God still endures. We stick together, one, enduring, knowing God continues in ways large and tiny, to heal us.”
David von Schlichten, poedifier
Our First Book!
2007-10-12 by Dee Dee Haines
Our first Book Club selection is Preaching as Testimony, by Anna Carter Florence.
In trying to compose an invitation to readers, I searched and searched, hoping to find a quote that would be so eye catching that no one could resist. But the book is so well crafted, so artfully composed that taking just one quote would have been like stealing one note from a song. It wouldn’t sound the same--- and it would not be what the composer intended. So, read just the introduction to see if you don’t agree that this book will alter our thinking about the practice of preaching. If you’re anything like this preacher, you’ll be hooked. Post your thoughts and comments in the Book Club portion of Share It!
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