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Luke 18:1-8

I was very much troubled the other day to hear a Cambridge student describing the persistent low grade racism that he experienced. He described how other students would ask him who he was visiting and when he told them he wasn’t visiting anyone, that he was a student, they went on to say ‘Oh, at Anglia Ruskin?’ which is another university that has students in Cambridge but is not part of Cambridge university itself.They were assuming, because he was black, he didn’t belong.

Or the occasion when he had to go to a different college for a tutorial, the porter at the gatehouse wouldn’t let him in and he had to get his tutor to come down and meet him whilst other white students were allowed to go through.

Pretty shocking stuff!

Whenever we hear widows mentioned in the gospel, we are hearing stories of the marginalised, those treated as second, or even third rate citizens; those that the system was accustomed to overlook, to treat as invisible, with no right to be heard.

Jesus told us the poor would always be with us, so too the excluded and the marginalised. We need to learn to look for them, to hear their voice, to include and empower them.In Jesus’ time, women had no voice of their own, they could speak only through their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.Very easily, the widow, could find that she had none of these and became a non-person.I am delighted to say I know many widows these days who do not fit this description.Strong, independent, capable women, who certainly hold their own in the world.

But there are still many people who live disadvantaged and dis-empowered lives, who can so easily fall to the edges of our communities and struggle to find their way back.These are the ‘widows’ of our time, and we so easily look beyond or around them, telling ourselves that they either don’t need or don’t deserve our help and we pass by, look the other way, either metaphorically or literally.

Who then, are we, in this morning’s parable?

So easily we hear this parable and put God in the place of the lousy judge and ourselves in the place of the persistent widow, and tell ourselves that we are to be encouraged to be persistent in prayer.Really?

Jesus is asking his disciples about what, God, the Son of Man, will find, when he comes to judge the earth.Here in this parable there are two possible answers.

There is the example of the judge, who is expected to do the right thing, but who is motivated to do so only by convenience and appearance. What would it look like if he is seen to keep ignoring this persistent woman who bothers him at every opportunity, who if he doesn’t do anything about, will be forever under his nose, under his feet, in his face. He might as well get rid of her, never mind the many more like her, who need his help and the justice he should rightly bring but who don’t have the means to plead their cause.

Or there is the widow who persists because she knows she is right even though everything is set against her. Who risks further rejection and ridicule, who keeps coming back because of her sense of justice and the belief that in the end things will be right.

Which do we want to model, who are we called to be?

We are living in very challenging times. We do need to hold on to what we know to be right, to be persistent in praying for this, to believe that God’s justice will prevail. We will be judged but we will be judged mercifully. Things aren’t always as we want them to be but God is still with us and he shares in our longing for a time when justice and peace will be known throughout the earth. Never stop hoping, never stop longing, never stop praying, the time will come.

Questions

  • What do you long for with ‘groans too deep for words’? (Romans 8:26). Ask the Spirit to guide your prayer.
  • Who are the ‘widows’, the dis-empowered and under-recognised, in your world and what are their needs? What can you do to bring justice for them?