Sometimes I spend less time on a text than I would like, and this sermon was one of them.   I had however never thought of the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge as being about justice, despite Jesus’ words to that effect in vv 7-8.   I think I’ve previously thought of it as being about persistence in prayer, which is part of it, to be sure.  At any rate, I’m happy I now see the text in a newer light.  MP
A Sermon Preached at
St. Margaret of Scotland Anglican Church, Diocese of Toronto, Barrie, ON, 20
October, 2019, the
Lectionary Texts for
the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost: 
jeremiah 31:27-34, Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:15-4:5, Luke 18:1-8
And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day
and night? Will he delay long in helping them?  I tell you, he will quickly
grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith
on earth?” (Luke 18:7-8)
This last week at work, one of my colleagues has spent a lot of his time
with Canada Revenue Agency, trying to something fixed with his tax file.   I’ve frequently looked into his office to
chat and seen him on the phone, only for him to say “It’s ok, I can talk, I’m
on hold”.   Sometimes I could hear the
muzak coming from his speaker phone when he was waiting for someone to get back
to him.
After going through three or four different people, over the course of
several days, my friend got his problem fixed.  
I’m sure you’ve all had similar experiences, perhaps with a bureaucracy
of some sort, where you’ve had to get you want from sheer persistence, just by
making a nuisance of yourself.
So there are times in life when we might feel ourselves to be like the
widow in the parable which is today’s gospel reading.   Of course, the difference between us and the
widow is that the people and the bureaucracies we have to deal with are not
wicked.   They may be slow-moving, maddening
to deal with, and their rules may be ridiculous and even stupid, but they are
not generally corrupt.   The widow on the
other hand has to deal with “a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for
people” (Lk 18:2).  
Certainly there are places in the world where justice, such as it is, is
in the hands of the wicked and corrupt.  
Imagine if an updated version of this parable was set in some
neighbourhood in Central America that was controlled by cartels, and the widow having
to go ask a drug lord to help her settle a dispute.  In this version of the story, we would admire
the widow’s courage and persistence, while wishing that there was some way that
she could obtain proper justice from people with integrity.
Jesus’ audience would I think have had a similar reaction.   They lived in a society where tyrants and despots
like Herod enforced the rules.  The would
have seen the parable through the lens of the psalms, which see people like the
widow as being especially deserving of God’s justice:  “Give justice to the weak and the orphan,
maintain the right of the lowly and destitute” (Ps 82:3).
For those who first heard or read this parable, the point of it would
have been the widow’s persistence.   They
wouldn’t have said, “Well, it goes to show, eh, the squeaky wheel gets the
grease”.   Rather, the point of it would be
to reinforce the call in Israel’s scriptures for God to come with God’s
“O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek, you will strengthen their
heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the meek and for the orphan
and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.” (Ps
Jesus’ parable thus takes up a call for justice for the poor and
powerless that runs throughout the Hebrew scriptures.  Verse 7 of the gospel reading should be read
in this context as a powerful promise that God’s will bring justice to the
world:  “And will not God grant justice
to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping
them?” (Lk 18:7).
Jesus is explaining the parable as follows:  If a stubborn widow can get some justice out
of a wicked judge, how much more can the faithful get from God?  The final lines of the gospel reading are
eschatological, in that they point to a day of justice that God will deliver at
a time of God’s choosing: “I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.”   However the Gospel ends on a question that
seems almost foreboding: “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find
faith on earth?”
There are several answers we could give, depending on how we read today’s
gospel.  if we read it as being about
prayer, we could say that faith is measured by our persistence in prayer.   However, I think that if we read it as being
about justice, we could say that faith is the extent to which we believe in and
strive for God’s justice, in our actions where possible, and in prayer often.  In this context, “faith” is understood to
include “faith/belief in God’s justice”.
Caring about justice doesn’t necessarily mean that we as Christians and
as Canadian Anglicans need to align ourselves with any one political party or
cause, though it does mean I think that we care about what happens in the
political realm.   I think we have pretty
good instincts when it comes to looking around us and recognizing
injustice.  Injustice is simply that
which isn’t right.
For example, it’s not right that children go to school with empty bellies
It’s not right that so many of Canadian indigenous communities do not
have safe drinking water
It’s not right that God’s creation is being destroyed and that species
are going extinct daily

It’s not right that hundreds of thousands of people are abandoned and
left defenceless after two powerful men have a brief phone conversation
And on and on and on …
In this parish there are ways that we can and do act for justice.   Our deacon’s cupboard is one example.   Being an open and inclusive community is
another.    But as the gospel reminds us,
we are called to pray always and not to lose heart. 
Our prayers of the people should always include prayers for our
community and for the world.   We need to
be as intentional and as deliberate in praying for Barrie, for Canada, for
troubled places in the world, as we are when we pray for our families and for
our loved ones.  Praying for justice
requires effort and patience, especially when it’s easy to lose heart.  Praying isn’t a way of alerting God to bad
things happening here or there.  We can
presume, I think, that God knows and God cares, passionately, and that God is
acting in the world.  Praying for
justice, I think, is a way of aligning ourselves with God in the world.
I think of two men of faith who were in the news recently.  Both exemplify the faith in and persistent
work for God’s justice that are relevant here.
One is Elijah Cummings, the American political who died last week,  The son of poor farmers and Baptist
preachers, an advocate for residents of poor neighborhoods in Baltimore,
champion of healthcare for the poor, he worked right up to the day he died
The other is Jimmy Carter – married to Rosalyn for 73 years, longer than
some presidents have been alive.  Now in
his nineties, he still teaches Sunday school, and still devotes time to Habitat
for Humanity, building homes for the homeless.
Both men are examples of good people who cared about God’s justice and
did what they could to pursue it.  As
impressive as they are compared to what you or I might do, their efforts may
seem like a drop in the ocean compared to the injustice in the world. 
However, prayer reminds us of God’s purpose and plan to rescue and
redeem the world, to return it to the way he created it.  I think of another widow in Luke’s gospel,
not the widow of the parable that we heard today, but one who is mentioned in
the nativity stories, the prophet Anna, who lives long enough to see the
Saviour born:
She was of a great age,
having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage,
37then as a widow to the age of
eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and
prayer night and day.
that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to
all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.  Luke 2:36-38)
Anna reminds us that
prayer is heard and answered, that God does care for the world enough to send
us his son, and that as Christians, are prayers are part of God’s ongoing work
in Christ to save and rescue the world.
Gracious God, we thank you that you
are not like the judge in he parable, and we thank you that you do hear our
prayers.  We pray that you give us hearts
for your justice and for the world you have given us.   Give us faith and persistence to pray, so
that our work and prayers may become part of your justice.  Amen.