Sunday, 16 October 2016

Trinity 21 - Justice

Luke 18.1-8 & 2 Timothy 3.14-4.5 If we look around us examples of injustice both large and small are very easy to find, ranging from a leader of a poor country laundering corrupt money overseas to that person passed over for a job or promotion because of the prejudices of the decision maker. It’s the decision maker that holds the power, he or she may be the recruiter, the allocator of housing or as in today’s gospel reading, the judge. It doesn’t seem an unreasonable expectation that those appointed to positions of power should do all they can to make honest unbiased decisions and uphold justice, particularly for the poor and weak who may struggle to obtain access to the system. We know that problems occur, not when an honest error of judgement is made but when the system is corrupt, or remarkably, in today’s reading when the adjudicator really can’t be bothered. Perhaps he justifies his apathy by reasoning that the event is now in the past but we know that justice matters beyond logic, right to our very soul, even when there is no prospect of punishment of or compensation from the offender. There are so many high profile examples over recent years that I’ve had to limit my examples. One purpose of the parable must be to encourage us as Christians to persevere in our faith even in times when we feel it is against all odds. A man called Adria Tempany was in the stadium at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and only 27 years later was the account of both him and many others in attendance at the time 96 fans were crushed to death, and many others injured, believed. The jury’s decision meant so much to those who knew they were not responsible for the deaths, it could not change the sad situation but he was one of many who had to live with the state and popular press blaming them for what happened. Of course, some never lived long enough to see their version believed. Access to justice can be limited by money or comprehension of the process, a point many are arguing as many cuts to our legal system take effect. It would have been even more difficult for the lady in the parable. It is no coincidence that Jesus tells us that she was a widow. Not only were individuals required to bring their own case to the judge without a prosecution service, but a woman without male representation or support would have been right at the bottom of the pile, no doubt the judge thought such an apparently powerless person would soon realise they were wasting their time, as no doubt many others had done before her. In our parable the judge, admits to having no fear of God and no respect for anyone, not the sort of credentials you would imagine finding on a judges CV. But Jesus’ point is to illustrate the fact that those who are persistent in prayer and in their love of justice will not be let down by God. After all even this corrupt judge grants justice eventually, if only because the woman is driving him nuts and probably also to avoid the potential shame of his unsuitability and many inadequacies being exposed. But if this is the case how much more can we rely upon a God who loves both justice and his people. We are being told to keep going despite all the setbacks we may encounter, to keep pursuing the truth even if we may not see the conclusion in our lifetime. The message reinforces Jesus teaching about prayer found earlier in Luke’s gospel when he said "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (11:13). We might compare by interpreting today’s parable: "If even the most unjust of judges will finally relent to the relentless campaign of widow, then how much more will God, who loves justice, answer your prayers!" Jesus concludes the parable by asking ‘when the son of man comes will he find faith on earth?’ What do you think the answer is? Will we persist in prayer and maintain hope for justice or will we have given up like the lazy judge was hoping that the widow would? Similarly in Timothy’s community the people have ‘itching ears’, they hear of stuff which sounds easier than staying faithful, perhaps they can tweak their beliefs to suit their lives but it is for Timothy to keep them on the path that reflects consistent, long term faith in our unchanging God. It’s never going to be a clean cut business in our earthly lives but we have seen enough apparently hopeless situations change for the better to give us the sustenance to keep trying and keep in mind Jesus words ‘will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?’ We each see our personal victories occasionally but also shouldn’t forget that, the Berlin wall opened, the apartheid regime crumbled, peace broke out, people were believed. We may be tempted to despair at the injustice of many things, not least war and poverty in the world, it’s hard not to. But Jesus message is clear, let our faith set us apart as people who pray persistently with real hope despite many signs of hopelessness and let us be people who play our part in a world where God delights in every act that builds justice. Amen Kevin Bright 16th October 2016

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