Sermon: 18th Sunday after Trinity 2019
Will the Son of Man find faith on earth?
Readings: Genesis 32: 22-31, 2 Timothy 3: 14 – 4:5, St Luke 18: 1-8.
Preached at 0800 Holy Communion service on Sunday 20 October 2019
Paul Ramsey, Reader
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well, we have heard quite a reading as the Gospel for today. The OT reading and the Epistle too each have lessons, encouragement and hope for us all. But I’ll concentrate on the Epistle and Gospel.
I did start to draft this sermon earlier in the week when the many events of each day were changing hopes and dashing fears, that I wondered whether I should have to rewrite parts of it. But even within the turmoil, the words of Scripture seem to be so universal that it has seemed to be appropriate just to concentrate on these.
We are introduced clearly by St Luke about the subject of the parable – for Jesus to show his disciples about how they should always pray and not give up.
So first then, Jesus’ parable about the persistent widow. Or rather it could be called the atheist Judge – one who himself confessed that he didn’t fear God and didn’t have any respect for people. How strange it is for Jesus to talk of this judge like this when later in the passage, he intends the judge to stand for God. The point being contrasted is that even if such a rotten judge can be persuaded to do the right thing by someone who pesters him day and night, then of course God, who is justice in person, and who cares passionately about people, will vindicate them and see that justice is done.
Turning back to the persistent widow, as we heard, St Luke tells us that Jesus offers this parable so that the disciples might “pray always” and not “lose heart”. Here was someone, the persistent widow, who by bothering became vindicated by the judge. In the courts at the time each person had to plead on their own behalf, no barristers or solicitors to call on. The widow did this to a T and succeeded. So we have seen how God, the very opposite of the rotten judge, is the God of justice, acting quickly to bring about justice for all.
Turning to our epistle, I wonder today whether we could be as encouraged as was Timothy by St Paul. I pray that we all can be. Perseverance is a quality which many of us have. Can we continue in what we have learned and been convinced of? How in infancy we have known the Holy Scriptures – which if we really know them, make us, me and you wise? We here may all be able to say we have been brought up with, and in our adult life, to know the Scriptures. I am the first to say that I don’t know them as well as I should, but then I do find that preparing sermons does give me the great privilege of delving into passages from the Bible again. I am the first to agree that they need to come naturally. As St Paul writes, all Holy Scripture is God breathed and useful: all is God inspired, inspirational for all to know and understand.
So we return to the beginning of the Gospel to be again reminded of what we, with God’s grace, need to do: to always pray and not give up. It has been said that all life can be a prayer, can be our conversation with God. This is all the time, not only during our worship as this morning here, but all today with those we meet, and all during the week, Monday to Saturday. Our worship here is a bedrock for our lives and prayer. What we do during the week gives full opportunity to bring our faith to bear on all we do. We only spend perhaps 1% of our week in church which gives us 99% of our time in the world as an opportunity to live as Christians. That is the challenge. Parts of the Church of England are already working on the initiative ‘Setting God’s People Free’, which is to better equip us to live out our faith.
So we can return to the question posed by Jesus directly with his disciples. We each have the challenge to live our faith in our life and work. We believe that Jesus, as we say lives and reigns now, here, every moment. We go out from here, as we say in prayer on Sundays when we use Common Worship, that we are sent out to live and work to his praise and glory. This is God’s kingdom here now on earth, and we are part of the working out of his presence in the world. As enthusiastically as we can in God’s love and grace, sometimes perhaps as enthusiastically as those this last week in the Extinction Rebellion, at other times just by being where we are and with those we are with. And this needs to be throughout our lives until we pass through death’s portal, or whenever otherwise the Son of Man comes.
I and you, each of us needs to work towards being able to answer that question posed by Jesus: ‘However when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ That is the question we are just as much challenged with in our time, in the universe, in earth, in Europe, in England, in Cheshire East, here in Nantwich and where we live and work.
In God’s love and with his grace, let us so work and pray and never give up – and so we each can answer this question with an emphatic ‘YES!’ Amen, YES.