Sunday, October 17, 2010


Genesis 32:22-31
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Luke 18:1-8
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?"

A Message from the Pastor
Jesus’ parable today from the gospel reading is peculiar. We left Jesus last week healing the ten lepers. Today, the author is telling us that Jesus told this story so that the disciples would pray always and not lose heart. However, the parable ended with Jesus asking the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” What’s going on here? We need to know what happened when Jesus left the lepers.

Well, Jesus is approached by Pharisees asking the question, “When will the kingdom, or reign, of God come?” It’s understandable why they would ask that. Jesus began his ministry proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, the reign of God has drawn near, repent and believe.” Jesus talks about the reign of God throughout his ministry. In fact, in the Gospel of Luke, he mentions it forty-seven times. Jesus responds to the Pharisees saying that it will come in a way different than any expectations. He then said that the reign of God is among them. In other words, wherever Jesus is, the reign of God is present. This keeps us from losing heart and wanting to pray since, when we were baptized, it is not we who live, but Jesus who lives within us.

Jesus turns to his disciples, after responding to the Pharisees, and tells them what to expect and not expect when the Son of Man comes. The disciples end up by asking where. Jesus responds that the action will begin around his dead body. Because of the concern when the Son of Man will return, Jesus comments about the need to pray always and not to lose heart. Jesus is encouraging the disciples to be persistent in their faith. And faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

We have a good example of how to be persistent with the first reading for today. Jacob was persistent from the day of his birth. He came out of the womb holding on to the foot of his older twin brother Esau. Then, when Esau had a weak moment, Jacob bought his birthright for a bowl of soup. Later, with the help of his mother, he went to his blind father, Isaac, dressed in animal skin to appear to be hairy like Esau and got Esau’s blessing. However, the latter did not come without a price. When Esau found out, he sought out Jacob to kill him. Jacob fled.

Jacob’s persistence continued. He went to his grandfather’s home and connected with his great uncle, Laban. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. He fell in love with Rachel and worked for seven years to marry her. However, after the wedding, he realized he had married Leah. He had to work seven more years for Rachel to be his wife. Then, through persistence, he developed large flocks of sheep and goats. He became very wealthy. He left to return home.

However, his troubles were not over. He still had to face Esau. As he drew closer, scouts returned and reported to Jacob that Esau was coming toward him with four hundred men. (That would concern me greatly.) Jacob separated from his wives, maidens, and children. He was left alone that night before he faced Esau. That’s when he met the man who we believe was God. Jacob remained persistent, wrestling with him until daybreak to get a blessing. Although Jacob’s hip socket was forever out of joint, he received a new name and the blessing he wanted. Jacob was persistent, “praying” always and never losing heart.

I don’t know how many in this holy space pray frequently or persistently or how many sense they have a difficulty praying. I want to note that nowhere in scriptures is there any manual on how to pray. There are no written guidelines. The closest we come is in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus how to pray, and he provides them with a shortened version of the Lord’s Prayer.

I can suggest a simple way to pray. All you need is one word, “Help!”

There is no correct way to pray. However, let’s think about a new born child. I have never heard a situation where the parents provided the baby with instructions on how to talk – oral or written. The baby started out by saying, “mama,” or “dada,” or “no!” And, the parents didn’t get upset because of the primitive way the baby talked. The parents were delighted that the baby talked to them, however he/she could. As time passed and the baby grew, the conversation between parents and child developed. There was communication. There was conversation. The relationship between them increased. It’s no different with prayer. God will take us at whatever level we are able to pray. God is delighted that we know him, we identify with him, we desire to converse with him. God wants conversation. God wants communication. God wants to have an intimate relationship with us. God wants us to grow in our faith, the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

There’s so much we can talk about. There’s the global situation with wars, terrorism, poverty, starvation, and human rights. There’s our national situation with polarization, a fragile economy, the national debt, and bigotry. There are the local issues of poverty, education, and single-parent families. Besides that, there are our personal issues of relationships, economic hardship, and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual sickness. God wants us to be in conversation, to communicate, and to be in an intimate relationship with all of this. God wants us to be persistent, praying always, and not to lose heart.

Who knows? With our persistence in praying and not losing heart, the Son of Man might find faith on earth.

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