Stepping into the Story

On Sunday, August 4th, Pastor Susan preached a sermon called Don’t Mess with Widows in reference to Luke 18:1-8. To read the full sermon click HERE

During her sermon she asked for a congregation response:

“I don’t think Luke should tell us what this parable is about but if he does I think it would be more accurate to say: “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray for justice, persist with hope, stand collectively in the very act of faith, upset the apple cart in solidarity and raise a holy ruckus!” But that is what I see when I walk around inside this storyI want to hear what you see.  Send me a text or an email this week and tell me what your life experience allowed you to see in the stories of Jesus.  They are there a gift to you.  What do you see?  Amen.”

Here are some of the responses: 

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A Response from Michelle

The message that hit me on Sunday and that I keep coming back to all week regarding Luke 18:1-8, is that we should do as God does: “quickly grant justice” to those who ask for it. That, then, though, begs the question of how. 

What can those with no political or financial power do to alleviate the suffering of separated families, caged children, and homeless languishing in feces- and rodent-lined streets? Here are a few things I’ve come up with that I, personally, can do right now: Vote, write letters to the editor, research the issues and hold discussion groups, have an open and loving heart and be present with everybody I come in contact with on a daily basis, and spend more time pulling weeds and caring for the plants in the Peace and Carrots garden. I can also nurture the values of service and compassion and peaceful action for my daughter, and hope that her light becomes contagious to everyone she meets.

And as for whether the Son of Man find people of faith on Earth – my thought is that if love and the simple willingness to consider those who think and eat and pray differently from us exist, then, I hope, the answer is yes. 

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A Response from Anna 

Persistence Pays: Luke 18:1-8

Quite early one morning Jerry and I went for a walk in Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden—a favorite thing to do. The subtle changes from season to season delight us, and each time we look for new paths to explore.  This time was different, though.  You see, there was this pesky fly.  It found my face: sticky, steamy, sweaty…Paradise!

I swatted. I swiped. I scratched. I shook.  Didn’t help. That would-be passenger hung around my chin all around the Garden and over to the parking lot. How could any critter be so persistent when it was so obviously unwelcome?  Grrr!

Back in the air-conditioned car, I got to thinking.  Moisture is absolutely essential for a fly.  And there’s precious little in the high desert. The fly meets its true destiny as squishy food for a finch, not by my fingers.  So it persisted in the struggle for survival.

Think about it. Prayer and persistence. That’s what Jesus was talking about in his story about the unjust judge and the importunate widow. Persistence in clamoring for justice.  Being a nuisance, making a fuss, not taking no for an answer. That self-serving judge of the court didn’t give a fig for an annoying old lady.  He could just brush her off, so he thought. But like my fly, she persisted. Her voice got ever more shrill; her presence ever more irritating. 

Odd as it sounds, I started to identify with that widow. True, I live in comfort among friends and I’m included in the legal system, while she had no legal rights whatsoever. We had one thing in common, however.  She was old, and so am I. People stop noticing you when you are old. They don’t listen to what you say; they don’t take you seriously. You feel powerless. But, like the widow, you have a secret weapon. You have time.  You can be persistent.

In Claremont, California where I live, every Friday afternoon at four o’clock, men and women from my retirement community stand on all corners of the busiest intersection, waving placards for peace. They have persisted in this witness since the Vietnam War. Others travel to the U.S. border to advocate for refugees fleeing injustice. Still others of us stay home and write Amnesty International letters month after month. We are inspired by the far greater commitment of some Chicagoans. Every summer evening, grannies grab lawn chairs and go sit on neighborhood street corners where gangs roam; moms cook hot dogs and hamburgers and offer them to gang members.  They face danger daily, yet they persist. They pray with their bodies, their persistent actions.

Jesus’ parable shows us that persistence has power. Power to bring justice for yourself or another; power to end gun violence; power to provide homes for people who are homeless; power to help disenfranchised communities vote; power to restore the earth. 

So don’t lose heart. “…Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable…with the utmost patience…” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). That is what it takes for justice to reign.

The fly will always win. Pray and persist!

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A Response from Jerry 

There they were.  In black and white.  Right in the Call to Worship.  Words that jumped out and grabbed my imagination:  “table of abundance,”  “persistent presence.”  Words then hammered home in Scripture story and sermon.

My thoughts soared back through the eons since creation that shaped us to today. Too often we feel squeezed by scarcity and overlook the persistent abundance, the overwhelming potential built into the very essence of the universe.  This is not some elusive, esoteric, spiritual abundance, but an actual physical abundance sourced by the mysterious energy at the heart of the universe, which is adequate to bring into reality every persistently expressed need.

Isn’t that how life emerged on earth?  First a single living cell sunbathing in primeval water, over eons became a fish, whose fins eventually became flippers so it could maneuver not just in water but also on land. And through sheer persistence, those flippers grew into legs, and some fish evolved into animals.  Through more millennia of persistence some animals learned to walk on two legs and became human.

I know the Bible doesn’t explain it that way, but that’s how science makes sense of the paleontological record.  Sheer persistence of the life force within the universe is how God created all that is.

So if the laws of the universe allow a persistent fish to become an animal and a persistent animal to become human, why isn’t it reasonable to believe that with persistent longing, praying, asking, working, organizing, voting, sacrificing and, if necessary, nagging, we can bring about justice and peace on earth?

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A Response from Mike

There was this Jew who did not care for mildness,

He walked without a strong strategic plan,

His actions with the money changers, cows and birds

Made plain he did not deeply see the need for words.

And as we ponder how to heal our tribes inequities

May we too, kick over the tables of safe communities.

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A Response from Mary Kay 

I am thankful and blessed for the life and opportunities I have had. At Susan Boyer’s invitation to reflect on justices, I share the following.

As a babysitter, I made 50 cents an hour, caring for up to four children at a time. As a road construction worker, my brother, three years my senior, made $3.50 an hour as a tar sweeper.

When I was 16, a member of the Elgin Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren asked if I would like a summer job where he worked – Owens Illinois Bottle Cap Factory. I said yes. He picked me up every morning and brought me home every evening. I covered desks in personnel and marketing while secretaries and salesmen were on vacation, one to two weeks at a time. In personnel I noticed that there were two hourly salary schedules – one for women and one for men. I didn’t think too much about it at the time.

I started teaching in the fall of 1968. In 1974 when my first daughter was born, I as required to take a leave of absence without pay and cover the costs for my medical insurance. Men working in the same teaching positions women held, could take up to six days for the birth or adoption of a child with no loss of pay or termination of insurance coverage. In 1978 when my second daughter was born, I was able to use accumulated sick leave and had medical insurance coverage paid by the school district.

When the first group of students went through the doctoral program at La Verne College, I applied. I was denied acceptance. Position was recognized over scholarship. All the students were men. Out of over 40 administrative positions in the Azusa Unified School District, only two were held by women. I was a an out of the classroom resource teacher, though that was not considered an administrative position. Of those accepted into the program, all were men. Several men who graduated in my class were in the group. I was the only applicant in that group who graduated from La Verne College with honors (Cum Laude). It seems that position was more significant than scholarship for the first cohort of the Doctoral program.

It is now 2019. My daughter works as an American Sign Language – English Interpreter for an agency contracted by New York Public Schools to provide interpretation services in mainstream education classes. She has worked for the agency for six years. As one of nine interpreters at the high school where she woks she is the only one to have passed the test for national certification. One male interpreter who has worked one year with the agency and has not passed the exam was earning what she was offered after passing the exam. The other male interpreters at the same school all earn more than she does. 

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May these responses encourage you. And may we each step into the stories of the Bible. Amen.