Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, "Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, "Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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: 1-8
I read this, yesterday's gospel lesson, while waiting to pray and process in with the rest of the altar party. And I was blown over by that final statement:
"And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Even though God has heard the cries of those "done wrong" for whatever reason, what will be the response from those who receive said justice. I was reminded of the ten lepers who were healed in last week's gospel lesson from Luke. Only one returned to acknowledge that he was made well, not by some fluke but by some faith. Can we find it in ourselves to slow down in our harried existence long enough to see that God is continuing to work God's purpose out in our lives in ways both big and small?
In his sermon, our priest-in-charge Fr. Dave talked of the recent Chilean miner rescue. His sermon was not so much based on the gospel story as it was on the reading we had about Jacob and his wrestling match with "the man" in Genesis. He noted that some of the miners had described a kind of wrestling match they were having with the hope that God would save them, while being in a kind of Hell with the devil raising doubts that they'd make it. He noted that those miners, their friends and families, and their country would be changed because of this incident in the same way that Jacob is changed by refusing to let go of "the man" until he'd received a blessing (and an important name change).
The question for me remains: will they remember God acting in this? I'm guessing that, for many, they might because this was a huge deal. But what about the smaller things in life? The less dramatic? Or when things don't go well?
Think about the attack made on the United States on September 11th. Three thousand people killed in the World Trade Center; passengers on airplanes taken on a suicidal mission not of their own choosing. Shock. Awe. Anger. I knew people directly affected by the disaster. I knew someone who almost flew out of Boston to Los Angeles that morning. As a nation, we grieved a horrible wound. I remember reading an account of an Episcopal chaplain in New York City who found his faith in God shaken to the core by the event. "Where is God now?" might have been on his mind.
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson put it out there that they knew the mind of God: God was punishing us because of gays, pagans, abortion rights activists, liberals. Of course, lots of people were quick to condemn their remarks as insane and hateful rantings. But were they any more insane and hateful than a country that responded with patriotic fervor and an unjust attack based on lies about weapons of mass destruction... which has now racked up several thousand more dead people both among the Iraqis and our American military?
I am among those who have witnessed these events and wondered at times about God in all of this. From a place of quiet, I can sense that God is still present and knows the prayers of those who wish the conflicts and the name-calling to end. And yet, I remember an anti-war vigil I attended with my partner. She came away from that place saying that God wasn't done working through Bush yet. Thinking on it, I believe she may been right. As my spiritual director noted, sometimes you need the death and decay before you can have a renewal of life. Perhaps it is through the actions of a President Bush that we are to called to tap into our faith that God is calling us to take a deeper look at ourselves.
I believe this is what the people of St. John's are experiencing now. I recently heard that the one who caused "the split" apparently marked the fifth anniversary of that painful event by preaching a sermon about us "bad unorthdox people who 'they' left behind." Meanwhile, we are looking to a future in which we are one parish, one family... with one goal of getting to know one another, and share what we each bring to the table (and I mean God's table here). That's both our joys and our fears and our hopes and our dreams. As noted yesterday, we have wrestled with God, and held on. For that, we give thanks. For that, we see what Christ was saying about prayer: you will be granted justice if you stick with it, don't lose heart and remain faithful that God is with you to the end of the age.
"Will he find faith on earth?" Such a pointed question. I hope we can say, "Yes."