Afflicting the Powerful, Over and Over Again (Luke 18:1-8)

Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

I was born in the Midwest, where we’re not so good at continually bothering people. The nice folks in the Midwest are not known for our fierce, confrontational energy. That being said, there are times when the people on the plains stand up for what we believe in – the Populist movement a century ago, the unionization movement in the 20s-60s, the continual protest and disruption that led to the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline very recently. When the chips are down, don’t count out Midwesterners.

This story doesn’t make clear where this hypothetical widow is from, or whether she comes from a community that is known for standing up to judges. One scholar has suggested that this widow is wealthy and that she is pushing around this poor judge. I don’t know if I believe that, it flies in the face of every other parable in Luke’s Gospel. But this story presents us a clear conflict, and a remarkably practical political message: Bother the heck out of those in power and they might just get frustrated and listen to you.

The wonderful thing about GMC is that we all seem to be engaged in a hundred projects. I frequently see church members at rallies and protests, bothering those in power like this widow did. Its especially true when talking about education justice – so many students, teachers, parents, guardians, and mentors in our church experience the pain of an underfunded and unfair education system. There are so many movements that our church shows up for, but education is one of our long-term commitments. I have faith that our church will stay in this struggle until we get the education system that our city needs.

So – how can we keep showing up for all the educators and families and students in our church? How can we support all the troublemakers and bother-ers and annoyances at GMC? What grounded this widow, so she could continue to annoy the judge until he gave in to her demands? And what sustains us when we need to keep bothering the judges (and SRC appointees) for years to come?