14th June 2020
The Persistent Widow
Good morning folks,
How are you this week? Has it been a good week, or another long week for you? Keeping busy is the secret to passing the time quickly, but I suppose it’s easy for me to say as I’m always up to something. ‘Time flies when you are having fun’ or so the saying goes, I’m not so sure about that but a dogged and determined attitude will certainly help us through this difficult time.
Our Lesson for today talks of the Persistent Widow who was determined to get justice, and nothing was going to stop her. Her unwavering determination won the day for her and she was blessed far beyond her imagining.
Persistence, resolve and determination are qualities which improve our chances of success – that’s true of Prayer too. “Pray and keep on praying” Jesus tells us – and that is good advice for us in all of our undertakings.
But before that – let us pray ~
Loving, Heavenly Father – we bring you our worship and our praise.
We come from our different lives, our different homes – for it is the day we remember your goodness – your creation – and the day that you rested from your labours.
You really are an amazing God – who first spun the Heavens and the Earth – into life.
You created all the elements that we need – in just the right amount – so that life in all its variety – may grow and flourish.
You are an awesome God too – God of the Universe – so big – so mighty – yet you are the God who walks and talks with us each day. Who holds us in the very palm of your hand – and you watch over us as we make out way through the complex and sometimes difficult maze of life.
You see us stumble and fall– and you lift us up again.
You hear our profane words and you forgive us.
You listen as we ignore, reject and overlook you – as we neglect your written Word – fail to pray – harbouring dark thoughts –
Yet you continue to love us, forgive us, time and time again.
What a merciful God you are!
Lord – we hardly deserve such kindness, such forgiveness – and we say thank you, thank you, thank you Lord – help us to show our gratitude and appreciation – not by the words we speak – but by the lives we lead – lives full of love for you – love for each other – and a deep love for our dear Saviour, your son, Jesus Christ.
Hear us now we pray – as we spend a few moments in silent contemplation – in open and honest reflection of all the things for which we need your forgiveness –
Hear now – our personal and silent prayers ~
…..take a few moments to think about the things you may have said or done – or thought – for which you seek God’s forgiveness…………bring them to God in prayer……..He hears your prayers………..
We bring our thoughts, our need of forgiveness – and hand them to you – praying that you will forgive us – once more – and in Jesus’ name.
Lord, we know that you hear us when we pray to you in faith – so hear us now as we say together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~
Our Father.. Who art in Heaven.. Hallowed be thy name.. Thy kingdom come.. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven….. Give us this day our daily bread.. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.
If we were in Church just now we would be singing that beautiful Psalm 121 – “I to the hills will lift my eyes”…
We have 2 Readings this morning –
Psalm 121 & Luke 18 : 1 – 8
Our O.T. reading this morning is that well known Psalm, Psalm 121. It was a song that was sung by the pilgrims as they travelled through rough and perilous countryside – with danger on every side – as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the many festivals which were celebrated there.
It lifted their spirits and gave them the strength and determination to continue – as they appealed to the great unsleeping God who constantly watched over them.
Our N.T. reading is taken from the Gospel of Luke.
It’s a difficult text which seems to condone the actions of an unjust Judge – but as we might expect – there’s a whole lot more to this short passage than first meets the ear!
So let us read them now ~
Psalm 121 New International Version (NIV)
1 “I lift my eyes up to the hills,
from where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who guards Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your guardian;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not harm you during the day,
nor the moon during the night.
7 The Lord shall protect you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
from now and for evermore.”
Luke 18 : 1 – 8 New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
18 v1 “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
This is the Word of the Lord – thanks be to God
I recently read a twist on a well known saying which read ~ ‘if at first you don’t succeed –
Give up – it’s probably not worth it anyway!’ J
And sometimes – when things become difficult – we can certainly be tempted to give in and give up.
But both of our Readings this morning, speak of determination and persistence – when the going gets tough.
Psalm 121 (our O.T. reading) talks of Pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem – singing to keep their spirits up as they travel through bandit country – as we might ‘whistle a happy tune’ when walking along a dark and scary path.
They kept their eyes on the hills – yet looking – knowing – that their good and faithful God – that higher source – was watching over them as they kept going forward.
“I to the hills will lift my eyes – from where does come my aid?
My safety comes from the Lord – who heaven and earth has made”
The God who never sleeps (verse 3) – was travelling with them – and that gave them the comfort and the strength to carry on with their dangerous and hazardous pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
We saw something similar a few years ago.
Do you remember, about 10 years ago, when the Chilean Miners were rescued from the mine which could so easily have been their tomb – so far below the ground?
We saw persistence – determination – and much prayer.
A rescue plan that didn’t work – so a plan B was quickly put in place.
It was too important to give up – and so what seemed im-possible – was made possible – and the very moving images were beamed into our homes of miners dropping to their knees and praying in thanksgiving – for the determination of their saviours – and the goodness of God, who had been with them throughout it all.
The newspapers spoke of ‘Resurrection’ – calling the whole thing – a ‘miracle’.
And an article in the Scottish Daily Mail had the headline – “God and the devil were in that mine. But it was God – and the human spirit – who triumphed”.
Unusual language for the British Press!
One of the miners was an evangelical preacher – and held 2 services each day – “to keep their spirits up” it was reported.
And the BBC’s correspondent seemed visibly transformed by what he experienced by being there with the families, as they waited for news of their loved ones.
‘THEY’RE PRAYING NIGHT AND DAY!’ he commented – ‘AND THEIR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED! – I’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT!’.
What a wonderful – true life story of determination – and of God and Man working together, for the good of His people.
What a witness to the world !!
Our N.T. reading from Luke’s Gospel – is also a true life story of adversity and perseverance.
The heading for this text is – ‘the Persistent Widow and the unjust Judge’.
It begins by telling us about an unscrupulous judge – “who neither feared God or cared about people” (v 2).
In these few words we can paint our own picture of an arrogant, self serving, and corrupt man of dubious character.
And it was to a Judge such as this – that the widow had come – seeking justice.
Widows were particularly vulnerable in that culture – they had no voice – and no-one to stand up or speak up for them in an aggressive and male dominated society.
They had little hope of receiving justice – and lost everything on their husband’s death – so – no resources.
No resources – except one – hope –
No, 2 ! – hope – and persistence.
And it was these two qualities that paid off for the widow.
It was her hope that brought results –
Her persistence which won the day.
But – as we heard, this is a Parable –so we know that it has a deeper meaning – which gives us a whole other layer of understanding.
And this Parable – is also about the unjust and the unheard – it’s about the voices in our society which are not heard ~
The poor and the homeless – the abused and the lonely – people suffering in silence because no-one hears their voice – their cries.
Perhaps someone sharing this Service with us this morning knows that pain.
Many don’t need to be counseled – they need to be cuddled.
They need to be helped and hugged – not hindered or held back.
They need our love – not our lethargy…
They need to be heard – respected – valued – listened to – prayed for – Persistently prayed for.
Prayed for with determination – with purpose and perseverance.
Verse 1 Of our N.T. reading says we should ‘pray and never give up.’
And those few words – ‘pray and never give up – give us a challenge.
Yes we may pray regularly – if we pray at all – but do we pray persistently – do we pray for those we love – and ought to love – regularly –and repeatedly – constantly and consistently?
What about that friend or neighbour – that person you now who is struggling with the loss of a dear one – or perhaps the loss of a job – loss of dignity – loss of health – or of Faith?
Maybe they’re just finding life difficult at the moment – are you still praying for them?
Is there someone you once prayed for and have given up on them ? Have you stopped praying for them?
Don’t give up !! – this Parable tells us – don’t give in.
God never gives up on us – on you and on me – even though, at times, He may have good enough reason to.
No matter how strong or weak our faith in Him may be – you can be absolutely sure and certain – that He will never give up on you – never treat you with anything other than love, forgiveness, mercy, care and compassion.
That’s absolutely guaranteed, promised and delivered.
Talk to Him regularly – pray to Him consistently.
For our God is a good and merciful God – He’s unbelievable, unimaginable – unfailing.
He’s incredible – indescribable – inconceivable to our human minds –
And He loves – you – yes you…
He knows all about you – He’s known you since before you were born.
He knows your strengths – and your weaknesses –
And He loves you still, with all of His heart..
And that is a promise – made to you in heaven –
And confirmed to you – this very day.
How blessed we are !!
And all this –
In Jesus precious name.
May God bless the preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.
Let us pray –
Holy, heavenly Father – it is with joy and thanksgiving that we come to you in prayer – knowing that you are a loving God who watches over us as we journey through this life.
And we thank you sincerely for all your many, daily blessings.
We really are so blessed – yet so often we fail to see it.
So we say thank you Lord – for your goodness, your faithfulness, your closeness – your kindness and your compassion.
But we hope and pray that all these blessings will not blind us to the needs of others who are less fortunate than ourselves.
We pray for the poor – and the poor in spirit.
The hungry and those who hunger for your word.
Those who feel lost and unloved – and those who have lost their way.
We pray for the sad and the lonely – and those who mourn lost loved ones.
We pray for those who’s voices are not heard – and those who seek for justice.
We pray for those caught up in the wars of others – the everyday men, women and children for whom everyday is fraught with danger and difficulty .
And we pray for those who find it difficult to cope with the ordinary pressures of everyday life.
We continue to pray for those who put their lives in danger for the good of others.
The ‘front liners’ – those who work quietly in the back ground but do an amazing job that we might be safe.
We pray too – for those who have succumbed to the CV19 virus and those left behind who mourn their loss. Bless them Father, watch over them and may they know your presence as they make their journey back to your comforting, warm light.
We think particularly of those who live under the dark cloud of ill-health – of depression – of those awaiting the results of medical tests.
The uncertainty of epilepsy – the fear of cancer – the loss of faith – and the doubt that the promise of life eternal is available to them.
Bless each one with the knowledge and certainty of the promises of God – the love of Jesus – and the constant presence of your Holy Spirit.
Lord – hear now, our silent prayers – as we sit for a few moments, each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayers. As we bring our families and friends to you in prayer – as we remember those who need a prayer at this time…………. Lord, be with us – in the peace of our silence………….
…….. Take a few moments to think of those you know and love – and those who you know need a prayer at this time…… God hears your prayers…..
Listening Lord – hear our prayers, both spoken and silent – for we bring them to you in the name of our precious Saviour – your only Son, our only hope – Jesus Christ.
A THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Once upon a time a farmer had a tiny Shetland pony which fell into a dry well. It was an old pony and when the farmer saw what had happened – he determined that neither the pony nor the well were worth the trouble of saving.
Instead, he called his neighbors together and enlisted their help in burying the old pony in the well and putting him out of his misery.
Initially, the old pony was very upset. You would be, too, if you were in a deep hole and people started throwing earth in on top of you!
But as the earth rained down on his back, the wee pony had a thought.
He decided that every time a shovel of earth landed on his back, he would shake it off and step up.
And that’s what he did.
As the earth cascaded down the well, the pony kept shaking it off and stepping up.
Hours later, the exhausted wee pony finally stepped over the wall of the well. What was meant to bury him, actually helped him!
I don’t know if that’s a true story – but it shows us that when we feel trapped, under pressure and things seem to be coming in on top of you – we might do well to remember that pony – and “shake it off – step up and step out !”.
Perseverance is something which we must all learn to master – easier said than done I know – but listen to this reading from the letter written by James – the ‘brother of Jesus’ ~
“Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of any kind – because the testing of your faith develops perseverance”
– see James 1 : v2. (FYI – James is a good book for us to read, so why not read it through some time this week).
So when things get tough – shake yourself up – keep going – keep stepping up – looking up and most of all – keep praying !
Another wonderful Lesson for us – from God’s Holy Word.
Food for thought for us all…..
Whoever you are, wherever you go,
whatever your strengths,
whatever your weaknesses,
be assured that God will be with you, to hold and to heal –
To guide and to bless.
Go, then, in love, hope, joy and peace –
Go – assured of His love for you.
And may the Blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.
Take care and may God Bless you and those you love.
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