Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year C

Title:Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year C

 Pentecost 19, Year C, Oct. 20, 2019 (full size gallery)

A rainy Sunday all day long! We still had 36 in attendance and celebrated the Duke family with Hamilton’s birthday and Arthur as acolyte.

This week was the Village Harvest on Oct 16. Our average number of clients for the last year has been 112 and we were lower at 96. The weather was not good earlier in the day. With 1,296 pounds we were close to the average. Food provided for 2019 over 10 months has exceeded that from the years 2016-2018. The average value to the 96 people who ventured to the harvest was $81 each.

The sermon based on readings from Luke’s Gospel was on what we receive from constant prayer. “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. ”

The sermon included a story from The Rev. Jeff Smith, the Methodist minister in Spotsylvania who preached at Daniel Johnson’s celebration of new ministry at Christ Church who share a story from 9/11 .. 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.

“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.”

“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.”

Today’s readings encourage us to seek intimacy with God through scripture study and constant prayer. As he wrestles with God, Jacob becomes Israel, patriarch of God’s people. Paul commends the use of “the sacred writings” for growth in the faith. Jesus illustrates how, unlike an unjust judge, our God welcomes our persistent prayers and quickly gives justice.

Genesis 32:22-31

This story indicates a turning point in Jacob’s relationship with God. Jacob prepares for the reunion with his brother with his usual instinct for self-preservation, anticipating another contest between Esau’s might and his own shrewdness.

The mysterious assailant is unexpected. Jacob struggles to compel a blessing from the stranger, as all his life he has tried to ensure God’s blessing through his own stratagems. But he must, instead, first yield up his own name–the essence of himself–and receive a new name for his new life and mission. He is no longer to be the Supplanter or Deceiver, but Israel, “he who strives with God.”

Jacob feared to meet Esau, but now encounters God and is allowed to live. The stolen blessing of 27:1-40 is legitimized. Jacob, now Israel, is commissioned as the patriarch of the people who will bear his name.

Psalm 121
This is one of the songs of ascent, a title given to psalms 120–134. These were most likely songs sung by pilgrims on their way to and from the temple of Jerusalem. Psalm 121 is in dialogue form, possibly between a group of worshipers and a priest, perhaps as a blessing at their arrival at or departure from the temple. The Lord, the Creator, will watch over the people day and night.

God is not like the native deities, who must be awakened from their seasonal sleep by their followers. God is the “shade” for the people (Psalm 63:7; 91:1; Isaiah 49:2; Lamentations 4:20), sheltering them from every danger of the day and night. The key word is keep, which occurs six times, and emphasizes God’s role as the guardian of the faithful, one who watches over every aspect of our lives (Deuteronomy 28:6).

2 Timothy 3:14–4:5

Today’s reading stresses the stabilizing role of tradition in the Church, both the teaching handed down through generations in the family and in the Church community, and the written tradition preserved in scripture (3:16), primarily referring here to the Old Testament.

Scripture is “inspired by God” (3:16), that is, God’s life-giving Spirit has been breathed into it. It is thus a positive source for Christian teaching, useful to refute error, to identify sin, to direct people back to the right path and to sustain them on their way.

Christians are to preach the word at all times, in all ways. The situation described in 4:3-4 as a likelihood is in fact already present for Paul (1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7). But in response, the leader is to “do the work of an evangelist” (4:5), that is, of a preacher not restricted to one particular area. He is to fulfill his “ministry” (4:5; literally, his service), the ministry that Christ came to embody and to which all Christians are called.

Luke 18:1-8

This story is found only in Luke. The unjust judge is someone whose concerns are all worldly, centered in this age and characterized by self-interest and evil.

The judge’s behavior is not commended; rather a comparison is made by arguing in rabbinic fashion from lesser to more: if even the unrighteous judge will bestir himself to vindicate the widow, how much more will God act to vindicate God’s elect. Though God acts “quickly” (v. 8), unlike the judge, God’s speed often seems slow to humans.

Luke’s introduction to the parable (v. 1) shifts attention from the judge to the widow, and from assurance of the speedy second coming to an exhortation to persistent prayer until its arrival, however delayed. In the Old Testament, the widow is the epitome of those who, having no wealth or influence, are under God’s special protection.

In his book Luke, scripture scholar Eugene LaVerdiere offers insight into the parable of the unjust judge. He believes Jesus is drawing a contrast between the reluctant judge and God. If even a corrupt official would respond to a plea, how much more swiftly and sympathetically God would answer the cries of needy daughters and sons. When someone we love makes an urgent request, we don’t drag our feet.

If we see God as a miser dispensing graces like candy, we need to realign our image to fit the reality of God as generous parent, always anxious to obtain our good. Along these lines, William Barry explains that mature Christians don’t ask for goodies; instead, they desire intimacy with God. He writes: “Many of life’s problems and challenges have no answer; one can only live with and through them. Problems and challenges, however, can be faced and lived through with more peace and resilience if people know they are not alone.”

This image of God as companion also appears in today’s psalm, Psalm 121. There, God is as close as a person’s hand, and as welcome as shade from the sun. The psalmist’s image of God as guardian will ring true for anyone who has felt insecure about sleeping in an unfamiliar place. While most of us don’t have bodyguards, we still know how the presence of a trusted friend in a strange situation calms fear and enables sleep.