|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|➤Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
Pentecost 19, Year C
Sermon Date:October 20, 2019
Scripture: Luke 18:1-8
Liturgy Calendar: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24
“Old Woman Praying” – Aert de Gelder (1700)
Jesus told the disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
Jesus knew that discouragement in prayer, especially when we don’t get instant answers, or the answers we want, is one of the biggest challenges that people face in their relationships with God.
So Jesus reminds us that we need to pray always.
Jesus wants us to pray constantly and confidently.
Praying constantly is to offer every minute of life to God. God is our constant companion, always standing with us, even though we often forget God’s presence.
God is always with us. Constant prayer doesn’t bring God closer to us—constant prayer brings us ever closer to God.
Confident prayer doesn’t make God any more merciful or compassionate. Confident, persistent prayer on our parts is a constant reminder that to have faith is to turn to our God who hears us, because we believe that God is compassionate, is merciful and that God loves us constantly and persistently.
I heard this story last Wednesday night from The Rev. Jeff Smith, the Methodist minister in Spotsylvania who preached at Daniel Johnson’s celebration of new ministry at Christ Church, Spotsylvania. Afterwards, in a conversation at the reception, he shared this story with Daniel and me.
On 9/11, Jeff’s wife was scheduled to be on United Airlines Flight 93 flying on business. So naturally, Jeff was worried when he heard about the crash of this flight in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. He heard nothing from his wife as the day went on. He and Jeff Packard, the rector at Christ Church, who some of you remember, decided to hold a prayer service at Christ Church at noon, and the church was packed. After the service, the two ministers were walking to the small café down the street to plan the evening prayer service when a woman across the street began cursing and swearing at them as she came across the street toward them.
And when she reached their side of the street, she screamed at them, “Where is your God now?” Where?”
And Jeff Smith looked her straight in the eye and said, “My God was on those planes that flew into the twin towers. My God was with the people in the towers. My God was on that plane that crashed in Shanksville. My God was at the Pentagon. And my God will be with us at in that church right over there, (pointing at Christ Church) tonight when we have a service. Come and join us.”
The day dragged on with no word from his wife. Her company kept calling and calling. Had he heard anything? They had heard from all their employees except his wife and one other person.
Right before the 7PM service, the company representative called again. And Jeff said, “Please don’t call me again. If I hear anything, I will let you know. Right now, I have to concentrate on this prayer service I’m going into.”
This man could be this focused, this trusting and this sure of God because he is a man who prays constantly, confidently and persistently. His prayers have brought him close to God, convinced him of God’s goodness and mercy, and of God’s presence, even at the heart of the great human tragedy that unfolded on 9/11.
And so Jeff’s prayer on 9/11 was faithful. He knew where his merciful and compassionate God was. He knew that God was with his wife, dead or alive. And he knew that God was with him as he went into the church for the prayer service.
Finally, Jeff heard from his wife. She had missed her flight by ten minutes due to an automobile accident that had held up traffic. And the flight she did make had been grounded like every other flight, and she had not had access to a phone until right then.
As Jeff Smith told Daniel and me this story, he never said, “You know, my prayers that my wife was alive were answered! God saved her.”
Instead, the point of his story was that our merciful and compassionate God is always with us – regardless of the disasters that happen in our lives.
And the only reason he could pray faithfully the way he did that day, or could tell this story the way he did, was because of the constant prayer on his part that has stretched over years and years.
Our persistent prayers doesn’t necessarily produce the answers we want and expect, but instead, these prayers open our hearts and minds to God’s constant love for us and help us to understand that God is always persistently and confidently working for us, even when we can’t see beyond the next tough thing that we must go through.
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is praying persistently. Mark tells us in his gospel that after the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus takes the disciples with him to the Garden of Gethsemane, with the specific intent to pray. He says to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
And then Mark tells us that he begins to be distressed and agitated.
Jesus throws himself on the ground and prays that if it is possible, this hour might pass from him. He says, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.”
He prays not only for what he wants, but he prays knowing that God’s constant love for him will not fail him, no matter what is ahead.
Mark tells us that Jesus prays this prayer in the garden not once, but again. And then Jesus is ready to face the betrayal that is at hand. He has not lost his heart or his nerve, even in the most desperate death dealing situation—one that will indeed lead to his death.
And then Jesus’ death ends in his resurrection, which in Mark’s gospel, is not a given in the mind of Jesus when he is praying. His prayer wasn’t “Let me get through this so you can resurrect me,” but instead, it was “I am willing to do what you would have me do, knowing that your love, mercy and compassion for me is everlasting.”
Jesus couldn’t see how God’s love, mercy and compassion would be present in his betrayal and death, but he had faith in God. And so his prayer was “God, your will be done,” because he knew that God loved him and that God’s mercy and compassion would overcome, no matter what happened to him.
And as Christians, we believe that not only was Jesus resurrected, but that through the faithful obedience of Jesus, God’s mercy and compassion poured out, not only on Jesus, but on the whole world, and that this mercy and compassion is still pouring out on us.
Each week we say, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
We don’t know when Jesus will return,
but as we wait for his coming, God will work through our constant prayers to shape us into the faithful, merciful, compassionate and loving people that God calls us to be, here and now, on this earth and in this time.
And if we are praying always, we will be ready, and we will not lose heart.