Last week, most ELCA churches had Luke 18:1-8 as the Gospel reading. It’s a story about never losing hope, never giving up, and I heard a great sermon about it at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church here in Alpharetta. Here’s the reading:
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?”
After worship I did some digging into this passage. I’m always interested in what comes before a bible passage and what comes after. This passage is actually the fifth answer to a question Jesus is asked in Luke 17:20. Some Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God is coming. He tells four other stories, and this is the final one.
So I looked at this passage again, this time as an answer to the question “When is the Kingdom of God coming?” When I read it through that lens, it changes the meaning of the story. The part about not giving up hope is still there. Praying without ceasing is still there. All of that is still true and important.
But the end is interesting. Jesus has just told this great story, and essentially answers the question “When is the Kingdom of God coming?” by saying “No one will believe it when it does.” Jesus is saying that when the Kingdom of God comes, people won’t know it. That they will miss it. That we will miss it. That I will miss it. And I have. I’ve missed many of things God has done in my life. I’ve missed answered prayers, I’ve missed unexpected blessings, I’ve missed thing after thing. I’m sure you have too. We all miss the Kingdom of God, sometimes when it’s right in front of our faces.
So perhaps we would be wise to not demand signs. Why ask for them when we’re just going to miss them? Instead, I am inspired by the good word I heard on Sunday: pray without ceasing, and always with hope. We won’t always get the signs we want, but we can have the hope we need.
God bless you.