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Oct 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 16, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to the RefleXion Community!          May the Lord be with you!

We’ve been talking about the being and doing modes the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been thinking more about this.  Do you think that we can be doing something and still be in the being mode?  I think I do.  In Acts 17:28 Paul says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

The being mode is not a special state in which all activity has to stop. I may have made it sound like that when I was talking about my contemplative practices last week.  I recognize a doing mode in myself that is quite goal-oriented, motivated to reduce the gap between how things are and how I think they should be, and to get things done.  And, so, when I might think I’m in the being mode, in meditation for example, I can actually be in the doing mode if I’m oriented toward a goal of accomplishing relaxation, pleasing God, or improving myself; then,  I’m after the future, the outcome. The being mode can be characterized as a direct, immediate, intimate experience of the Holy, the Presence of God.  We can call it Abiding, in Flow, or the experience of being In Christ; it is quite a powerful and dynamic state of being.

And, since we are creatures who overflow what’s in us to the circumstances and relationships outside of us, whatever we’ve spent time being with (it could be anger, fear or shame), that can overflow into my activity.  Even in activity though, if I relax into a deeper awareness of the Presence of God, with Him whom I’ve spent time being with, I can continue to be in His Presence.  So, it’s not about activity, it’s about Presence and about being in relationship with God, I think.  Could this also be called prayer?

No matter if I’m meditating or accomplishing a task, worshipping or serving, if the orientation of my heart and my mind are toward God, can I say I’m in a state of prayerfulness?  If prayer is dialog with God, then in all circumstances, I can be in conversation with Him. Prayer is engagement with God in whatever approach I take.  That’s what I’m thinking, and praying for.

Our Father, in You we live and move and having our being.  You are the source of life – real life– where we breathe and enjoy the true and the worthy. Your Spirit offers to move us in the flow of Living Water, having vital power to exert your empowering presence upon our souls and upon our world.  We have our being in you:  fresh, strong, powerful, efficacious.  Set us in motion to do good by being in you, In Christ.  Thank you for your Presence.  Amen

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart Luke 18:1-8

Intro: A friend once told me, I had changed his thoughts about Jesus

This man was a few years older than I, and a deep thinker
– he had an unusual perspective on things that I found interesting
• what he said was that the way I talked about Jesus had bugged him
• he had a very manly, tough and unflinching image of Jesus
◦ but I emphasized his tenderness, kindness, and compassion
◦ he equated those qualities with weakness and vulnerability, not masculinity
– what happened for him is, he began to see Jesus in a new light
• he discovered the “beauty” of the person of Jesus
◦ a word he would not have used to describe him previously
• as a result of this change, he felt closer to the Lord and a deeper love for him

I remembered that conversation while reflecting on these verses,
– because what I see Jesus doing here as being “lovely”
• I realize it isn’t typical to admire a man for his lovely deeds,
• but Jesus was looking out for his disciples – and for us
– Jesus knew what could happen when we feel:
1. our prayers have gone unheard
2. God’s answer to our prayers is always, “No”
3. we simply do not know how to pray to get God to listen
• he knew we could decide that prayer just doesn’t work
• and as a result, we would “lose heart” and give up praying

Jesus knows this about us

How does he know?
– could you imagine he was ever tempted to “lose heart”?
• were all of his prayers answered?
◦ we know he did not get what he asked at least one time
• but isn’t it possible there were other unanswered prayers?
“Father, would you please open the blind eyes of these Pharisees?”
“Speed up your work with my disciples, because they aren’t getting it”
“There are so many poor families–please ease the oppression they’re under”
– this is mere speculation, but the fact is Jesus knows us–and cares
• he does not want us to lose heart, but to stay with prayer

Luke uses a word that creates anxiety for some of us

Jesus tells us what “ought” to do
– now, Greek word means no more than “a necessary situation,”
• in fact, it also translated “must” (Jn. 3:30)
• an act must be performed to achieve a goal
– but some of us were beaten down by people who have told us,
• what we ought to do and not do, or what we should do and not do
◦ abusing others this way is a trait of pious and self-righteous people
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger (Mt. 23:4)
• the problem is that it’s easy to internalize these voices, and then do this to ourselves
• and this too can cause us to “lose heart”
– Jesus is not putting a chain on our necks with a moral “ought”
• he is preparing us to survive inevitable hardships
• he is securing our connection with him and the Father

The parable Jesus creates is brief, yet compelling
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary’” Luke 18:2-3

The two opponents are common characters in scripture
– their symbolic value is important to the story Jesus tells
• the judge and the widow are on opposite ends of the social spectrum
◦ the judge wields ultimate power in their world – a god-like power
[the king of Judah] said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God (2 Chr. 19:6-7)
How long will you [judges] judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless
maintaining the right of the afflicted and the destitute. . . .
I said, “Your are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince (Ps. 82:2-3, 6-7)
◦ the widow was powerless – she among weakest and most helpless members of the community
• the last time Steve Gumaer was here,
◦ he went through the Scriptures pointing out a consistent concern from beginning to end
◦ his repeated refrain was: “The widow, the orphan, and the stranger”
Prof. Snodgrass, “The trilogy of widow, orphans, and strangers is a standard description of those who are vulnerable.”
– I would only add, widows held a special place in our Lord’s heart
• some scholars believe that Jesus’ step-father, Joseph, died while he was still young, leaving Mary a widow
• one time Jesus approached a city as a funeral procession was coming out of it
◦ the deceased was the only son of a widow
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep” (Lk. 7:13)

The judge was corrupt and the widow was desperate

“For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming’” Luke 18:4-5

It is easy for us to identify with this situation
– in the normal course of litigation,
• if the judge is corrupt, and against you, your case is hopeless
◦ justice is irrelevant – right and wrong have no influence
• Jesus said the judge had neither reverence for nor respect for other people
◦ he was going to do whatever pleased himself
• he did not even have to hear the widow’s case
◦ she had no power, no leverage, no representation
– as rotten as he was, what made him change his mind?
she kept coming
she bothered him (troubled)
he became afraid the she would beat him down
• the Greek word refers to a literal physical attack
◦ though here is was probably more of a psychological concern
• she was more than annoying – she was wearing him out

Jesus begins to make his point with the word “Hear”
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” Luke 18:6-8a

He is telling his audience to pay attention
– what is the judge is saying? What is his reasoning? His motivation?
• this judge is “unrighteous,” his reasoning is self-centered,
◦ yet he comes to the right decision, “I will give her justice”
• once again we see how Jesus’ logic works in our favor
◦ that is, in favor of those who put their trust in God
– the contrast between the unjust judge and our righteous God
• is not only about justice and responding to a request, or corruption versus integrity
◦ but it is a contrast of an unrighteous, finite man and the wholly righteous and infinite God
• we can expect God to respond to our prayers with infinite concern
– two words deserve attention, because both can be misleading
delay – the Greek literally translated is “having patience”
◦ the idea is that God patiently listens to and responds to his people
◦ too often, as parents we do not have time to listen to our child; God always has time
speedily – the Greek word can also mean “to happen quickly” or “suddenly”
◦ I was first introduced to this word when reading a commentary on Revelation 1:1
◦ I think that may have significance to what Jesus means

Immediately prior to this parable, Jesus described events surrounding his return
– God has placed us in two time zones at once
• we live in what Paul referred to as this present evil age
◦ but we are given promises about the age to come
◦ in some way, our lives today are conditioned by the future
• our lives in the present are incomplete – we’re missing pieces
◦ our knowledge is limited, our vision isn’t clear
◦ but our future will the fullness of all we lack now
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. . . . For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Cor. 13:9-10, 12)
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that wen he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2)
– Jesus teaches us to lean into future, where completeness awaits us
• to let the future shape who we are now in preparation for its arrival
• read closely the way God spoke about the vision he had received:
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay (Hab. 2:3)

Conclusion: Jesus had a parting word before moving on
Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Luke 18:8b

Jesus gives us a reason to be optimistic about prayer
But the he inserts this “Nevertheless”
“Although the Father is good and loving, responsive to your prayers;
and though he is working out a future that is worth the wait;
and though I have nothing but encouragement for you regarding prayer,
will this parable do you any good?
When I return, will there be anyone left who still prays faithfully?
Who still trusts in the Father?
Will there I find faith on earth?”
The Father will do his part, but we may give out–and this was Jesus’ concern
It is true, that we find it difficult to maintain our grip on the invisible,
when the visible closes in on us
Jesus looks at us through hopeful eyes and says,
“Don’t give up. Don’t stop praying. Don’t lose heart.”

I hope you’re at least beginning to see
that prayer is not about getting things;
it’s about our connection with God
A good example of not giving up on this connection
comes at the end of this chapter
A blind man hears a commotion, asks what’s going on,
and is told Jesus of Nazareth was near
And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent
(the blind had no more value or influence than the widow)
But he cred out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus heard him, called for him, asked him what he wanted,
and then healed him
The blind man refused to lose heart when he learned Jesus was near,
even when others around Jesus tried to discourage and silence him
Let’s be that guy

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