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Faith, Prayer and Justice

By the Rev. Bob Olsen

Image     While I was trying to figure out what I was going to write about this month, I got some inspiration from Fr Ray’s sermon on Sunday the 20th.  It dawned on me that during the past few months our Gospels from Luke had a running series of themes, talking about faith, prayer and justice.

     In a very abbreviated form here are the Gospels from last month: Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith – nope, but then goes on to tell us we are all to be servants of God and not to expect thanks for doing what we are supposed to. Next, 10 lepers ask Jesus for healing and he does so, but only the foreigner – stranger – Samaritan comes back to offer thanks and is told his faith has made him well. The next was the story of the unjust Judge who neither feared God, nor respected men, but to keep a widow (representing the poor, the outcast, the marginalized) from pestering him, he grants her justice. Jesus continues if the unjust judge would do what is right, how much more will the Father do for his chosen, concluding “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” And finally the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee proclaiming loudly in his prayers what a great and righteous person he was, while the tax collector prays quietly for the forgiveness of his sins. Jesus concluding that the Tax Collector would go home justified.

     With Jesus’ parables or instructions there often seems to be a twist from what we might think or expect. I don’t think it is so much a twist, but rather, to quote Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord…So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts”. And that is what the Gospels try to show us, God’s way of looking at things and how we should do the same.

     Faith: while faith is often talked about in terms of a little or a lot, it really is a case of yes or no, rather than degree. And that was what Jesus was getting at with his comment about faith the size of a mustard seed. Unlike confidence, where you might say I’m 95% confident such and such will or will not occur, with faith there are no partial measures – you either have it or you don’t.

     Two of last month’s gospels specifically talked about prayer – continuing to pray and what we prayed. Our prayer life shouldn’t be restricted to Sunday mornings, nor only when we are in trouble, but we should always be praying.

     Last Lent I preached on the story of the prodigal son and referenced a few other passages that showed God’s justice might be different than ours. While we think of justice as either punishment of the guilty or about being fair (fair generally being whatever favors us), a careful reading of the gospels shows God’s justice is more about setting things right or restoring. Welcoming back those who repent and ask forgiveness, not welcoming them back partially or conditionally, but fully.

     What I take away from these gospels is that we aren’t to think or act in half measures – our faith and our prayers and our desire for justice are to be whole hearted and continuous. We’ve got one more month of Pentecost before Advent, during that time, pray for forgiveness, pray for those in need, offer thanksgivings for all God’s blessings.

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