Sunday, May 25, 2014

Electronic Operators, the Burning Bush and Encourgaement to Pray In All Circumstances from jesus Parable of the Persistant Widow and the Unjust Judge (Exodus 3:1--12 and Luke 18:1-8)

I have been noticing recently that I'm getting older... my hair is having a race between turning grey and falling out... but at least it's competitive and lets face it I'm old enough to remember why the picture of the right is funny from the first time round. and I’m getting to that stage in life where I’m struggling to keep up with technology, at least that’s what my kids tell me. I’ve recently got a smart phone and I’m definitely not sure I like the idea of my phone being smarter than I am. And the number of times it tells me I’ve pushed the wrong button and the way it tries to predict and correct my words make me think that it thinks it is smarter than me. And it makes me seem rather dumb as people get these garbled txts for me with weird words plonked in the middle of them. But one piece of modern technology I definitely don’t like is electronic operators. You know when you ring a company or a government agency, even my doctors office, and instead of getting to talk to a real person you get to talk with a machine and have to navigate your way through countless menus before you can get to someone who will help. Anybody else find that frustrating? Or just down right annoying?...If you do then press 2.

A while back I wondered what it would be like if God Installed an electronic operator to deal with prayer in supposedly a more efficient way.

EO: Hi you’ve reached prayer central

If you are praying a prayer of Adoration Press 1

If you are praying a set/read or liturgical prayer Press 2

If you are praying a prayer of confession Press 3

If you are saying grace before a meal please Press 4 and depending on the time of day expect a delay.

If you are praying a prayer of intersession, that’s praying for others Press 5

If you are praying a prayer of thanksgiving Press 6

If this is your first time praying Press 7 and we will take you through the process in three easy to follow steps.

If you are praying “the sinner Prayer” Press 8


Person: Oh OK I’d better press 5

EO: You have chosen ‘Intercessory prayer’.

If you are praying for the World in general Press 1

If you are Praying for a specific country Press 2 And access our Continents directory.

If you are Praying for your city Press 3 And access our city directory.

If you are Praying for your church Press 4 And access our Denominational directory.

If you are Praying about a health issue Press 5 and Access our Medical directory.

If you are praying for family members then Press 6

If you are praying an emergency prayer Press 7

If you are Praying for the Lost Press 8

Press 9 if you wish to hear these options again and 0 if you wish to be returned to the operator.

Person: Oh I’ll Press 7 If it wasn’t an emergency prayer before but it’s getting that way…

EO: You’ve selected Emergency prayer Hold the line please. RINNG, RINNG, RINNG Click.

You’ve reached the voice mail for “God”. “Hi I’m Not in at the moment Please leave your name, phone number, church affiliation and a brief message after the beep and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” BEEP.

Person: Oh ah It’s Heinrich Morse, 347 0002, St Emma’s at the mall here, Umm I’m Just praying to you about my mum’s health. She’s Ah really sick, the doctors say she doesn’t have that long to live and that it’s only a miracle that can save her now. I tried to get you this morning but well I just got your answer machine again. I really would appreciate an answer”.

EO: Thank you.

Press 1 to end this call.

Press 2 if you want to hear your message played back.

Press 3 to delete your message

Press 4 if you would like to re-record your message.

Press 5 for the soothing music of the heavenly choir

Press 6 If you are going to continue praying and would like to access another department.

You know sometimes prayer can seem like that... right? Sometimes we pray and the only answer we seem to get is the mocking echo of our voices off the walls and ceiling, or deafening silence as we shout our prayers into the void. We pray and we feel we are not heard let alone that any answer comes. That somehow God is otherwise occupied, too busy with world affairs to worry about our concerns, or just away from the office. He’s gone home left the phone off the hook, put his feet up and fallen asleep in front of the tele…Now before you all go moving away from me just in case of a lightning strike in some of the psalms of lament people of faith have thrown that sort of accusation at God, as they feel abandoned in their suffering.  And it can be easy to get despondent and give up. It’s as if the gates of heaven we’re closed tightly to us and we are left pounding on the doors hoping someone will hear us.

But God Jesus says is quick to answer pray, He doesn’t fob us off. He hears our prayers and he answers. God doesn’t have an Electronic Operator, or voice mail or an answer machine. God’s open twenty four hours a day, and you don’t need a touch tone phone to get through. God’s schedule is never too full that he will tell us to go away and come back another day. God doesn’t have a guard dog secretary to keep people away. But rather ‘God will see his chosen Get Justice quickly’.

In the bible reading we had this evening from Luke 18 Jesus told a parable to encourage us to pray. I have a suspicion that many of you here today could relate to that, from a position of powerlessness and the edge of society wrestling to make someone in authority hear and respond to your need.

Jesus talked of a widow who went to an unjust judge to demand justice. In Jewish culture care for widows and orphans was an important part of the way people were to honour their covenant relationship to God. If it was in a modern setting, she would have gone to his office to see him. She’d have made an appointment and been seen but then heard nothing from the judge. Why should he deal with this issue, she is just a poor widow there is more important and lucrative things to deal with. She’d rung back almost everyday, left messages on his phone, sent emails, she’d come back to see him and he’d told his secretary to tell her he was out, then she’d taken to waiting for him in his waiting room. He’d had to tell her a few times as he went out to lunch with important people that he didn’t have time at the moment. She’d even started waiting outside his door every morning and night… he used to park his flash car outside so everyone could see it but now he simply drove into the security parking area under the building and took the lift up to his office. She’d got his home phone number and mobile and kept ringing. Now when he walked down the street or drove past a crowd he thought he saw her there on the side of the road looking at him… He’d look up when he was out to dinner or lunch and he’d catch a glimpse of her, or at least he thought he did. Perhaps he could take out a restraining order… but she’d even started to appear in his dreams. This can’t go on… It’s wearing him out…So finally, even though he’s not interested in justice, he goes into the office one day rings her up sees her and deals with the situation… and he gets the first full night’s sleep he’s had for a while.

Well how is that an encouragement for us to pray in every situation?

The hope we have Jesus is tells us is that God is not at all like the unjust judge. In fact all the way through scripture God is affirmed as being a just judge, full of mercy, for and with his people. The hope we have when we pray is in the very character of God.

In our other reading this evening from the book of Exodus we have God revealing himself to Moses in the burning bush. And I love the fact that the logo of our church is the burning bush because of what it tells us of God’s very nature. Moses encounters the Holy God in the burning bush, not a distant disinterested deity, but one who has drawn near. God tells Moses that he has heard the cries of his people, he has seen their suffering and that God cares and will deliver them and he is sending a saviour to free them from their troubles and slavery, and he will go Moses. God’s nature is revealed… God hears, God sees, God draws near, God cares, God sends and God goes with. We can come to God in prayer because the God Moses encountered at the burning bush is the same God who is the father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the same God who hears and sees and care and answers and sends and saves today.

Coming back to Luke chapter 18, we only need to see who is telling us this parable to see it is true, God sees, God hears, God cares about our suffering about our slavery to sin and to death that he has drawn near, as John tells us in the prologue to his gospel, the word became flesh, as he tells us in that most well-known of scriptures John 3:16 “for God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. We see it in the way Jesus invites the outcasts to come to him, he owns that most beautiful of titles, which was thrown at him as an insult but is so full of hope and the compassion of God “Jesus a friend of sinners” you look at the gospels and see how he sees and hears the needs of the poor and the sick and heals them. How he challenges the authorities of his day to be about Justice and mercy, how at the cross he asks forgiveness for those who persecute him and invites a repentant thief hanging on the cross beside him to be with him today in paradise. …In the fact that he willingly gave up us life on a cross so that you and I may have our sins forgiven and know abundant life in Christ.

It is the same God who meets with by the Holy Spirit today. Who the writers of the New Testament can say ‘cast your cares on him because he cares for you’, ‘we may boldly approach the throne of grace Hebrews 4… That if we say that we are without sin we call God a liar, but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just,…there it is again, the very character of God… he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The one, Jesus told us, knows how to give his children good gifts and will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.  We have a God who hears and who sees and who cares and who draws near and who sends and in that is encouragement to pray… in that is the assurance that God will see his people get justice quickly.

And like many of Jesus parables this one finishes with a challenge, “but when the son of man comes… referring to Jesus second coming… will he find faith on the earth?” Will he find people who have put their faith and trust in Jesus as their saviour and who are willing to trust him in all circumstances, to continually and persistently come to God  and trust in the sure knowledge that God is with them and for them, that he hears and sees and cares and draws near and responds. The parable we are looking at is most often known as the parable of the persistent widow, and she is the model for us of the life of faith. Coming to God and never giving in or losing hope. Even when the answer is wait or no she is willing to keep putting her trust in the fact that she will receive justice. Jesus words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:7 sum up that faith… Ask and it will be given to you, Seek and you will find, and Knock and the door will be opened … they also are backed up by the very character of God, God knows how to give good gifts to those who ask him.

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