Thursday 17 October 2019

What if it's not just a nice story, but a discerning parable?

There’s a federal election in Canada very soon. Please be sure to vote, if you haven’t already.

That’s all, just please vote.

I won’t say more about that, but I will just add that I think the gospel story this week is rather timely. And I’ll certainly talk about that.

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells a story about a widow who persistently takes her case to a judge, seeking justice. Jesus doesn’t give any details about the case, only that she seeks justice and is persistent. She has to be, as it happens, because the judge “neither fears God or cares what people think” and is happy to ignore her. At first. But she’s so persistent that he finally decides to give her what she wants, not because it’s justice, but because he’s tired of her and afraid she’ll give him a “black eye” in front of the community.

Jesus then says even this judge gave in to her persistence. So how do you think God will answer? God answers quickly to those who call out, answering their prayers and bringing justice.

It seems pretty clear that Jesus is encouraging the disciples to be like the persistent widow. Be persistent in prayer and don’t give up, God will answer because God does answer. The author of Luke thinks so, too, because they preface the story with “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” That seems pretty clear. And good point, too.

But it’s a parable, not just a story, and parables can have many sides.

What if this weren’t just a story affirming persistence, but a parable asking us to examine how we listen and respond?

What if we’re not the widow and God’s not the judge. What if we’re the judge, as self-centred and uncaring as this judge. What if God’s the persistent voice of the widow. Or the hungry. Or the poor. Or the sick. What if God’s the persistent voice of justice and we’re not listening?

What if this parable might simply be asking us just that: “are we listening?” Are we hearing the persistent cries of the marginalized and the needy? And are we ignoring them as the judge does or are we listening with compassion and care? Are we acting when it suits us, as the judge does, or will we be the image of God and see that “they get justice, and quickly?”

As we wonder if God’s listening to us, maybe we should wonder if we’re listening to each other. Jesus would ask us to do both.