"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
October 17, 2022, Words By: Lina Thompson, Image By: Aysegul Alp
As I’ve read today’s passage, I’ve been wracking my brain with this question: Have I ever had to persist in my prayers to God? Has there ever been anything I have desired so much that I have continually petitioned God like the widow in today’s text?
Having looked at this parable myself, and having heard it preached many times over the years, the “obvious” lesson seemed to be this: My prayer life with God needs to be as persistent as this widow’s.
But I’ve started to rethink that interpretation. After all, putting myself in the place of the widow puts God in the place of the unjust judge. That seems like shaky theological ground. Far too often we assign “God” to the role in the narrative that we associate with power, even if that role is inconsistent with the just God we encounter in scripture.
So, with a little bit of “sanctified imagination” (a term one of my preaching mentors called it), I started envisioning God as the other person in this story.
And suddenly, it opened my eyes to the text in a new way…it creates such a beautiful picture. I can hardly type fast enough to capture what this is making me wonder.
Imagine God knocking at the door and pleading for justice. Doesn’t this resonate more with the God we know? A God who desires justice, who never gives up, who calls us into just relationships throughout scriptures, who advocates for the marginalized and who has an affinity for the excluded? It just seems to make sense that THAT God is masquerading as one of the most vulnerable people in society in this parable. As a widow.
Who then is the unjust judge? At the risk of over assigning roles like a bad Christmas pageant director, I am making space to try on the idea that perhaps I, or we (if you’d really like a part in the production), are the unjust and indifferent ones. Indifferent to God’s persistent pleas for justice. Indifferent to the cries that rise from within our communities — from places of suffering, marginalization, loneliness and desperation.
Imagining the parable in this way is freeing, albeit a little scary.
On the ground and in real time it changes the way I see the persistent ones — who are asking, pleading and demanding justice.
Several people in my community are involved in efforts to pass a local school bond that will ensure the rebuilding of 3 local school campuses. All three campuses are located in under-resourced neighborhoods serving large populations of students of color. Our students are expected to show up and to “learn” in physical spaces that are often unsafe, unhealthy and inadequate.
There is a clear equity issue at play. And a group of community members, faculty and students are mobilizing in a persistent effort to make the case with decision makers and voters — to act on behalf of justice and to resist the temptation of remaining indifferent when it comes to this bond.
We see in this parable that the judge is taking note of this widow. He anticipated her persistence was ultimately going to wear him out. I’ve seen this happen in our own communities. With a little persistence, things can shift. Transformation can happen. Even if hearts aren’t “changed” (which doesn’t really happen with the judge in the parable…he just got tired), good can come from the sanctified pestering.
Would it be better if people experienced wholesale transformation? YES. Would I love it if people made just and equitable decisions because they had a change of heart? Absolutely. BUT I will take justice that comes because God’s persistence, in and through God’s people, won the day.
Dwelling Among Us
Where are the persistent calls for justice in your community coming from?
How have you seen indifference at play with those charged to enact justice?