March 17, 2024 Sermon: He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem & Heard a Desperate Widow

    03.21.24 | by Jennifer Parks-Snyder

    Luke 9:51, 18:1-8 Sermon: He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem and Heard a Desperate Widow by P Jenn

    In a recent survey conducted by Skylight it was discovered that 85% of Americans connect with their higher power on a daily basis. Some do so through spiritually based yoga, others through reciting affirmations or practicing mindfulness, but a majority will do so through prayer.

    The survey also discovered that:

    -Americans pray on average 2 times a day

    -They pray 18 minutes total each day.

    -And while 50% pray in the morning, 55% pray at bedtime.

    -1 in 4 pray at work with 74% at their desk, 42% in the parking lot, 31% in the restroom, and 19% a dedicated space.

    -70% pray to connect with God, 45% to feel less anxious and depressed, and 41% to find solutions to problems.

    -87% had a prayer answered in the past year.

    - 84% trust their prayers are heard.

    -After they pray most feel calm and grateful. Which is exactly what Jesus gets at with our parable this morning.

    Here’s the background. Jesus is getting closer to Jerusalem, his end days, and while he has taught his followers and the religious leaders about just mercy (the parable of the Good Samaritan); about trusting God’s care for them (as God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields, so does God care for you); about Sabbath healing (healing on the Sabbath is a true expression of what the Sabbath is for, remembering how God sets us free, just like the enslaved Israelites); and the wonder of God’s grace (the parable of the Prodigal sons), now Jesus prepares them for end times and does so by stressing the importance of prayer with this parable about the persistent widow.

    Now Judaism placed a special emphasis on caring for widows. While they were often times marginalized, God wanted the Hebrews to care for them, thus in Exodus 22 under the laws of social responsibility the Israelites were to care to and not mistreat the widows, 22 You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. 23 If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry;. The text goes on to claim that would bring trouble as it would arouse God’s righteous anger (verse 23-24!)

    And yet, notice what Jesus does in this parable, he makes the helpless widow strong, persistent, and willing to challenge a corrupt judge. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my accuser.’ 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.’ ” 

    In the original Greek, Jesus taught that the judge says: “because this widow causes trouble for me, I will give her justice, so that she may not, in the end, give me a black eye by her coming” (verse 5).. THIS would make a good cartoon! Jesus  is sharing a little satire here; if an uncaring, unfit, ungodly judge answers a poor, feeble, widow’s request in the end, how much more will a loving God give what is right to those who ask?

    God is in fact not like this reluctant judge. God does not need to be badgered into listening, and when God does respond, God does so willingly. If anything, God is more like the widow in her own relentless commitment to justice.

    So this parable of the persistent widow demonstrates that effective prayer requires determination and faithfulness. A disciple must learn that prayer never gives up on absolute trust and faith in God. Disciples of Jesus are people of persistent faith. Therefore, we must be a people of prayer because a lack of prayer will cause us to depend on ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. And that’s not good, as we discussed last week with the parable of the prodigal sons. Here, Jesus is teaching us that prayer leads to a union with God, that’s why it is an essential part of Christian living. 

    Theologian Dorothee Soelle says that prayer does not lead “to a new vision of God but a different relationship to the world—one that has borrowed the eyes of God.”5 When we pray, we learn to see as God sees.



    Therefore, our prayers need to include praises for what is before us, recognizing joys that bless so many.

    And in our prayers, we repent, acknowledge we are turning to God for the help and answer. In our prayers we need to ask for that help with those in our care, as well as the  many injustices that people face daily. Asking God’s help with all things counter to the kingdom of God. Finally, our prayers should help us yield to God’s will. Which means, like the widow, we don’t accept our fates in this broken world. Instead, we resist injustice by being persistent in our prayers, allowing our communion with God to inspire us, lead us, to follow God’s will.

    So that when we see something wrong, we don’t stop seeking it to be resolved, rather we become aware that God is with us, engaged in our thoughts and actions to bring about the right and just answer. Put it all together and we pray:

    1. Praise God for what God has done.
    2. Repent for what you are sorry for.
    3. Ask God for what you need help with.
    4. Yield to God’s will

    Today the gospel comes to us and teaches us that when we pray, we go to prayer  to be in communion with God, so that we will not lose heart with the struggles we face, rather we can see and make God’s will and kingdom known. 

    Let us pray:

    1. Praise God for what God has done.

    Good and gracious God, we praise you for another day to come together in this sanctuary where we can safely honor you, draw closer to you and to each other, and learn from your Son the ways of your will that inspires us, changes us, and leads us. 

    1. Repent for what you are sorry for.

    We are sorry for the times we walked away from you in thought, word, and deed. We repent for what we have done and left undone. We apologize for not loving you and not loving our neighbors, those near and far, as we love ourselves.

    1. Ask God for what you need help with.

    That is why we are here, in prayer now, seeking your mercy and forgiveness to encourage us, strengthen us, so that we may better follow the life of seeing the world as you see, not as abandoned and broken, but blessed for more. More hope, more peace, more righteousness, more justice, more love.

    May it be so for all the countries in armed conflict: Palestine and Israel, Ukraine and Russia, many countries in Africa, as well as  Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico, and Colombia.

    We pray for the visible and invisible injuries of trauma for still captured and just  free Israeli hostages. For the starving people of Gaza awaiting aid. For  the grieving in Australia’s gold mine collapse, as well as the people of Haiti as gang violence sweeps through their capital city.

    For those caught in human trafficking; those hurting from addictions; those with physical, emotional, and spiritual turmoil, we seek your mercy and your aid, O God.

    1. Yield to God’s will

    And yet, in the midst of these struggles, we recognize signs of goodness and joy such as the various people sending food to those in the Gaza Strip. For Raising Hope Ukraine that ministers to their people with food, shelter, and faith in you, O God. For She’s Somebody’s daughter, that sets the captured free. And for Hope Within whose ministry to the refugees provides necessities they can achieve nowhere else. For the many locally and  worldwide, creatively working for peace, love, forgiveness, and righteousness, we thank you, God, for how you work in and through lives that bring about positive change.

    So renew us today, gracious, loving God, that we too may trust and delight in your will and walk in your ways that lead to the abundant life for all. We ask this, as we pray the words Jesus taught us….Our Father…