God on the Take
St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr 
23 October 2017
In the parable of the insistent widow (Lk 18:1-8), the judge is portrayed in the most uncomplimentary terms. He is the Judge Roy Bean of the Bible. Perhaps he is willing to take bribes in exchange for favorable opinions and judgments. His court was open to the highest bidder. The widow has no chance to purchase his judgment. She is left in the deepest poverty by her lack of a husband. But she will not be denied her day in court. Her cause is just and she just has to demand that justice be granted to her. She just has to get in front of the judge. We are the widow and God is the judge. Like her we have nothing with which to earn a just judgment. That part the church has straight. We know our impoverished standing. We sing along with Mary the ultimate widow, that God "has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away" (Lk 1:52-53). We must ever be the demanding widow.
Yes, but what of God? If He is the judge of Jesus' parable, what shall we say of Him? Is He unjust because He procrastinates? Is He on the take? Is He waiting for the payola? Whom does He fear? He fears no one; and certainly not man. But He is patient. Unlike us, He has an eternity. We think only in terms of years, maybe decades. A human generation is only twenty years. God thinks for His church over centuries and millennia, until the Lord Christ comes again to be the instant judge. Then there shall be no more waiting, no more prayerful knocking, no more faithful seeking, no more asking. It will all be opened to us. All the questions will be answered. We who sought will be full found. Those who knocked will have the door opened for them that no one can shut because the Lord of the Church who holds the Key of David will be the One who cracks open the gates of heaven for all believers.
Here is the key also to the parable. The story cannot be understood apart from the Teller. Try reading a Garrison Keillor monologue from "The Prairie Home Companion." It just isn't the same without Keillor's breathy voice. The Son of the Judge Himself tells the story about the unjust judge. If the judge is on the take, then the Son is providing the payola. The widow can demand all she wants, because God's Son is the Teller of the story. The Son provides the price: His precious blood is spilled. He does not fear man, and is God. The woman has every right to demand. And the judge must listen. For His justice is certain in the Teller of the story. The judge's justice pivots on the Teller of the story. The Teller is the subject of the parable. The judge will listen for this judge has been made gracious by the sweet offering of the life-blood of the judge's Son. He will answer speedily. It is no wonder we are so eager to pray.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"The pastors and preachers are to exhort the people to pray. For we fulfill [the second] commandment by praying, that is, asking Godfor his help in all our trials and troubles. They are to instruct the people what prayer is, and how one is to pray.
"They should teach that God has commanded us to pray. Just as it is a great sin to commit murder so also it is sinful not to pray or to ask God for something. Indeed this commandment is meant to urge us on to pray. So great is the goodness of God that not only does he help those who ask for help but also bids us pray, as we read in Luke 18[:1] and many other passages, which pastors should teach their people. If we knew of a prince who not only gave what was asked of him, but commanded everyone to ask for what he needed, we would look on such a one as a gracious master and ask much of him. Our Lord gives the more freely as we pray the more of him, as he said of Mary Magdalene in Luke 7: 'Therefore is much given her, because she has looked for so much from me' (Lk 7:47)
"Second, they should make clear that God also has promised to hear us: 'Ask and it will be given to you' (Mt 7:7; Lk 11:9) We should depend on such a promise and not doubt that God will hear our prayer. So Christ speaks: 'Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours' (Mk 11:24).
"The fact that we are sinners should not frighten us away. For He does not hear us because of our merits, but on account of his promise. Thus, in the last verse of Micah: 'You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old' (Mic 7:20).
"But no answer is promised the prayer of the sinner and the hypocrite who knows no repentance for his sin and hypocrisy. For of him Psalm 18 says: 'They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them' (Ps 18:41). But those who are repentant, and believe that on Christ's account God has forgiven them, should not hold back because of the sins they have committed and their hypocrisy. For God does not want any doubting, but wants us to believe that he hears and will help us. Therefore, the pastors should also instruct their people that prayer includes faith that God will hear us, as James writes: 'Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord' (Jas 1:6-7)."

Martin Luther, Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (1528)
James 1:1-12
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have urged us to pray because Your heavenly Father is eager to listen and will swiftly answer. Send us the Holy Spirit that we might ask continually, seek without ceasing, and knock until You open. Send justice upon the earth that You might find faith when You come to judge. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
For police, firefighters and all first responders, that they would be kept safe in the conduct of their duties
For Christopher Atsinger, who has cancer, that the Good Physician would be with him in body and soul
For Pearl Conrad, who is gravely ill, that the Lord of Life would grant her health and strength
Art: Tobias Haller  St. James of Jerusalem (2008)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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