10/18/98, P20C

“Never, Never Give Up!”
Luke 18: 1-8

ritish Prime Minister Winston Churchill failed eighth grade English three times but, during WW II, it was his eloquence over the radio that encouraged the huddled masses in bomb shelters to persevere. After the war Oxford University invited him to make a commencement address. He arrived on stage with his usual props: a cigar, a cane, and a top hat that accompanied the beloved Churchill everywhere he went. He stood confidently before his admirers. He removed his cigar and laid the top hat on the podium. All ears wondered what great things he would include in his speech. He gazed over his silent audience. A few seconds passed before his authoritative deep gravely voice said, “Never give up!” Again he waited a few seconds before he shouted, “Never, never give up!” His profound words thundered in their ears as everyone realized that their nation had been saved by such perseverance. There was deafening silence as Sir. Winston reached for his hat and cigar, steadied himself with his cane and walked off the podium, his commencement address finished.

This story has been redacted in our personal history all of our lives. Churchill, and the British peoples’ fortitude has contributed greatly to our American ideal of stick-to-it-tivness.

Our text records a story told by Jesus to encourage us “to pray always and not to lose heart.” (v.1, NRSV).

There are two intriguing characters in Jesus’ parable: The Widow, and the hard hearted unjust Judge. We have all known men who were as hard as iron on the outside; who somehow thought it was macho to show no mercy. Most of us are really actors on a stage, playing the role in which we feel we have been cast: the tough school principal, the absent minded professor, the sweet housewife, the big shot preacher. You have quite possibly encountered a judge who masqueraded as a “Hanging Judge”, “who neither feared God nor had respect for people.” (v. 2).

But this pretentious judge encountered the hero of our story, this strong, resolute widow, who would not take no for an answer. Even though the evil judge did not change his heart, he did finally alter his legal opinion because the widow wore him out asking for justice.

Not all judges fit the mold of the crook in Jesus’ story. Frank Boggs ran into a judge this past week while out shopping. He recognized Frank and asked where he was singing and when Frank said Atlanta First he responded, “O I know Bob Allred, he was our Associate at Northside years ago!” I had kept up with the career of my old friend Judge Braswell Deen, who had become Senior Appellate Court Judge in Georgia; but, I was surprised that he had kept up with me. What a sterling example of the legal profession Judge Deen has been. I am convinced that the vast majority of our judges are just in their professions and in their personal lives: courteous, merciful, open minded, and most of all authentic persons of integrity. There is no reason why a judge, like the rest of us who morror Christ, can not rise to the level of the Ultimate Judge of us all. This is the faith experience we seek.

The point of Jesus’ story is that since God is just he will quickly grant justice to those of us “who cry to him day and night.” (see v. 7-8). Indeed, God hears and answers every prayer, and every request as we cry out to him, often in desperation. Some have interpreted this story to mean that we should pester God with our ideas about what we need for years, but the story is really saying that our loving God will respond quickly, but not necessarily according to our will. Justice refers to God’s perfect will and according to his divine time table. A big part of our growth in discipleship is coming to get our lives in sync with his divine timeline. Our persistence needs to be directed at finding his will and enacting it.

God’s timing is different from ours, thus we pray always and continually for his will. Jesus, in his self-limited human and divine form on earth, did not know exactly when God’s timetable would fulfill certain future events and promises. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 24: 36). So we do not lose heart when everything does not go our way; in humility we submit to events and conditions, knowing that since we have this inward assurance of his grace, all things will work out for the best in time.

And finally, Jesus’ story ends with a haunting question: “... when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (v.8).

Jesus seems to be asking if when he returns at the end of time, will he find much authentic faith in the lives of people who have pretended to follow him.

Just as we have known unjust judges, we have known phony disciples. We may even identify with such ourselves. Or, maybe just sometimes we pretend: Out in public we clothe our evil in the persona of faith.

I deeply believe that all people everywhere have a hunger to be set free from their perceived false roles in life that they are so tired of failing to live out. We all want to become authentic human beings, we desire to find our true selves. To me this should be the great byproduct of our lives in Christ. How can we help but be who we are after encountering the Christ who gave his life for us and so wants us to become the vision of the person that our Father created us potentially to be?

We are not told too much about the widow in our story, but I kind of feel like she was such an authentic person. Perhaps she was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Perhaps her persistence was a result of knowing him. We do know that her cause was right and her case was just and she would never give up. We also know that because our case is just, and our heart is right, we too will never, never give up!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

10/18/98, P20C