Pestering God

Proper 24C
Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:15 — 4:5
Luke 18:1-8a

This is one of those parables we have a hard time with. Is Jesus suggesting that God is like the unjust judge? Several observations: this parable comes at the end of a long passage about the last days. Other Gospels saw the end of days coming soon. Luke wants to push it off into the indeterminate future. So, we have to keep praying. Also, there is bad mis-translation in the passage in the NRSV. Jesus asks, “And will God not grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” The last sentence should read, “Will he not be patient with them?” There is no way to construe the Greek verb makrothumeo to mean delay. It seems to me the point of the story is that we are to be constantly reminding God of justice, of how things are in the delay, and God will be patient with us.
That fits with the passage from Genesis. Israel has wrestled with God, and extracted a blessing from God, and has lived to tell the tale. We are to wrestle with God until we know what blessing God will give us. It’s not always pleasant to wrestle with God: Israel limps the rest of life. But we are not to give up.

The language of crisis

Proper 22C
Habakkuk 1:1-13, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:3-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

We are all now thoroughly aware that there is a “crisis” in the Anglican Communion. People on all sides of the issue are saying, with Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord?” The language of crisis is a way of selling newspapers, or of driving political wedges. I am not convinced there is a crisis.

Several years ago, Archbishop Ndungane visited our diocese. The Offices of the Bishop sent out an email that Ndungane was available to preach on a certain Sunday. No one responded, so they sent out the note again. By now, it was late in the game, so I responded. We had little time to prepare a reception (we did put something on) or a special liturgy. I remember meeting the Archbishop on the side walk, and nervously asking if he wanted to preside at Eucharist, as it is always a bishop’s prerogative to preside at table. He thanked me, but allowed that he would rather just preach and then be in the congregation as it were. He had only brought office vestments.

I recall being all thumbs at the altar (an Archbishop sitting over there at the sedilia!), but getting through. Somehow, I managed not to drop the host as I communicated him. Between services, we had an adult forum. Gene Robinson had just been consecrated, and several people asked the Archbishop if communion would break. He paused for a minute, and then said, “Your Rector and I are in communion. I have just taken communion from him. Nothing can change that.” No crisis here. Whatever others might do, communion is made up of such simple acts.

Jesus reminds the apostles that they are servants. Faith is as much about loyalty and doing what we owe to do, as it is about feeling or thinking. The difficulty comes in trying to remain loyal to all our brothers and sisters. Now, we plead, “Lord, increase our faith!” Habakkuk assures us that vision is coming. It may be delayed, but come it will. The righteous will live by their loyalty in the meantime. It may be hard and thankless work to live that way, but the language of crisis only divides.