Sermon - 10/20/19
2019.10.20 23:18:01

Proper 24/C [Pent. 19] (2019): Gen. 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5; Luke 18:1-8.


Faith,            [Jesus] told [his disciples] a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. [Then] he said… “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?... Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (vv. 1, 7a, 8b).


Jesus here is not teaching the virtues of prayer in general; rather as his Passion approaches (Lk. 17:25; 18:31), he urges his church to a specific prayer, for God’s faithful maintenance of her “vindication” by faith in an evil world.


The Psalmist expresses the manner, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1, 2).     


Last Sunday we encountered a Leper, not unlike today’s parable Widow. Both were societal discards. If the Widow cried for “justice” on the merits of her case, a seemingly impossible request from a dishonest magistrate; the Samaritan Leper pled of Jesus for better than justice, and as equally unthinkable, divine “mercy” from a man (Lk. 17:13; cf. Hos. 6:6).


In order to comprehend Jesus’ call to our fidelity to God’s own faithfulness, we must grasp what had occurred between the Leper’s healing and the Widow’s petition.


Pharisees enquired, when the Kingdom of God would come?” (v. 20). Jesus answered, “behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you (v. 21c); yet they did not see what was patent to the Leper in rendering Jesus worship in thanksgiving.


Jesus then returned to teaching his disciples that they persist in holding fast to him against all that would be seemingly impossible and unthinkable at the Passion, even as Jacob, progenitor of the twelve tribes of Israel, struggled to hold to the challenge of the divine Wrestler (Gen. 32:22 ff.).


In these last days, Jesus warns that justice and judgment comes “speedily” (Lk. 18:8) and suddenly as upon the Antediluvians mocking Noah’s prophesy (17:26, 27). As for those aware of the imminent crisis, but still mourn loss of the world’s blandishments, they will suffer the fate of Lot’s wife, forever frozen in their attachments (v. 32).


Having answered the Pharisee’s question about the “when” of the Kingdom, the disciples ask, Where, Lord?”. Jesus gives a provocative reply, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (Lk. 17:37).


By this, Jesus directs that we look “to the hills”, to Mt. Golgotha of Jesus’ crucifixion and Mt. Olivet, the place of his Ascension, where we are to discern God’s atoning work in Christ and Judgment. On those two “hills” the church locates both her “vindication” and God’s “mercy” for sinners.


The church comprehends her ascended Lord, alone worthy to interpret God’s word for “remembrance” (Rev 5:2, 3, 7, 9, 12; cf. Lk. 22:19b). Christ breaking of the fifth seal of Scripture in St. John’s Apocalypse reveals the church to be the explicit expression of Jesus’ parable Widow.


When Christ, ascended and enthroned, opened the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11), the Widow’s significance “crying day and night” without losing heart is understood (Lk. 18:7). From under heaven’s Altar of Incense the cries of the saints ascend day and night, “O Master, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).


The church cries on behalf of all the martyrs, those who struggle in faith is joined with the crying blood of Abel; whose plea is that God take righteous vengeance on those desecrating and discarding them and their witness of God’s Kingdom come in Christ.


Ironically, the Widow’s plea for righteous retribution against her adversary is presented to an unjust, worldly judge; pointing to the church’s “impossible” “unthinkable” faith in Jesus’ promise that God’s “will be done.”


We are “justified”, “vindicated” in and through Jesus’ sacrificial flesh, a corpse mocked by unbelievers; but the Corpse for believing sinners who locate the mercy of God, a risen and better “meat” than mere dead carrion for us who by nature are birds of prey. In the Ascension the Cross and heaven’s Incense Altar are one, the new “place” of Eucharistic worship of God by lepers and widows.


By the power of Baptism, the church holds fast to her faith by looking upon the Lord’s cross and ascension. As participants in Christ’s body, all partake of the same food for their priestly vocation of praise and Thanksgiving to God.


A strange thing happened upon Jesus’ ascension; the OT saints, martyred for their witness, received an answer to, “how long” until their spilt blood would be avenged? Christ on opening the fifth seal, revealed they were clothed with the same white robes of forgiveness and purity received by the earthly saints on in the Baptism’s faith (v. 11).


All worship in heaven and earth in the church’s liturgical unity awaits God’s final “vindication” in Christ on the Last Day. Until that Day the church prayerfully dispenses God’s mercy in Christ crucified, a better “vindication” than demanded by the cry from Abel’s blood or the parable Widow.


Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, is the revelation and content of God’s will and word. In him God declares, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Heb. 10:30); and so the saints are told, “to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Rev. 6:10, 11).


Heaven’s martyrs, old and NT, garbed in the white robes of Christ’s bloody sacrifice are enrolled into one Baptism (Nicene Creed, para. 3) of a Blood that speaks a better word than the cry from Abel’s blood from death’s dust; rather by the blood of Jesus we have his eternal Life in “grace and mercy” (Heb. 12:24).


Our better Covenant informs the church’s prayer. Our NT claim on God’s “justice and righteousness” is expressed in prayer for those who receiving faith’s righteousness in this time of the church. Preeminently, our prayer is, “Thy Kingdom [has, is, and will] come” comprehended in God’s mercy and love for the sake of his elect.


Still, on the Last Day, should the church’s offer of the Lamb’s mercy be refused; Christ will appear as Lion of Judah in answer to the blood of Abel for vindication from the followers of our Adversary.


Prayer at the church’s Altar witnesses to our patient and persistent formation in his white robes, thus providing an affirmative rely to Jesus’ question, “[W]hen the Son of Man comes [as today], will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8b). Amen.





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