Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 10-20-19 Sermon – “Let Us Persist”

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I would like to begin my meditation by clarifying one thing: The parable we just heard is not about a nagging prayer or an unwilling God. This parable is about a God who bears the suffering of people. It is about a God who always listens the cry out for justice. Christ’s parable teaches us that we are to continue to pray and not hesitate or become disappointed if our prayers do not seem to be answered right away the way we want.

This story has a lesson for us Christians from the Western hemisphere, and the lesson is: learn to be patience. We are a society short of patience and perseverance “We would like to have all our problems fixed quickly.” Because that is the way we live. Everything we need, we needed it by yesterday. Prayers for many people have become “a process of giving God an ASAP’ to-do’ list” and that is not what the Bible teaches us about prayer.

The irony of the story in its context is that widows did not have any rights. Therefore, they could not expect much, let alone demand justice. They could not have access to a judge in a formal process of law. This woman’s cry out to the judge is done unofficially. In Jesus’ society unmarried women were not supposed to leave the home of their father without male company and married women were not allowed to leave their home without their husbands. They were normally restricted to roles of little or no authority. They could not testify in court; they could not appear in public places without their husbands and they were not allowed to talk to strangers.  

So, as a woman with no man to speak for her, the widow of the story did not have any chance at all because she had to follow all these traditions effectively and silently. However, even when the very setup of this story was loaded with ironic fantasy and her cry out for justice is in fact a parody, Jesus presented the widow as an example of courage and patience. But not the kind of courage and patience which is fruit of one’s strength. No, this courage and patience are the result of her faith and confidence in God.  Let me explain what I mean. The widows and the orphans were two of the most helpless people in Jesus’ society. I said before, women did not have rights and the same was true of children, especially those without parents. Children were not a valued part of society and to be without parents to speak on their behalf, children were completely helpless. Therefore, widows and orphans were dependent on the care of their neighbors and community to get through life. Nevertheless, in his law God asked special care for them. I will share some verses from the Old and New Testament where God asks for protection of these two groups, Psalm 82:3 “maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute; give justice to the weak and the fatherless.” Psalm 10:17-18 “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed.” James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” One more, Exodus 22:22-23, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.”

As I mentioned earlier, Jesus presented the widow as an example of courage and patience. But not the kind of courage and patience which is fruit of one’s strength. But a courage and patience as the result of her faith and confidence in God. You see, I believe this widow knew her Bible and she knew what God had promised to her, particularly what Exodus 22 says, “If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry,” and she dared to believe. She dared to embrace God’s words and made them hers and that faith and confidence gave her courage and patience to face an unjust judge, a judge who did not fear God nor man. That faith and confidence gave her courage to say day after day, “grant me justice…”  

At the end of verse eight there is a question that is important for the interpretation of this parable, Jesus said, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” and I think the kind of faith Jesus is questioning to find is the one shown by the widow. A faith that believes against all odds, a faith that persist even when there is no hope on the horizon, a faith that dares to believe in what God has promised. This kind of faith is not unique to the widow. We have precedents in The Old and New Testaments, Abraham believed God when God promised a son even when he and Sara were old. Their faith was against all odds. Elijah believed rain was coming even when the sky was clear and only a cloud as big as a fist was on the horizon, his faith was in what God had said even when there was no hope in sight. Moses walked and touched the rock knowing that water would come out because God told him so.    

Did you notice that Jesus asked the question, but he did not answer it? I believe he did it on purpose so every generation of Christians could question their own faith. Therefore, let me ask, if Jesus came today, will he find faith on his Church?” will He find the kind of faith the widow had? A faith that bent the unjust judge and transformed her reality. A faith that put to shame her adversary. A faith that dared to believe not only in God, but also what he says and what he has promised.

My sisters and brothers, history tells me that every successful man and woman in the history of Christianity were people with the same type of faith the widow had. They were examples of courage, strength and persistence as a result of their trust in God. The God who called them, the God who promised to be with them always. Let me share one of many examples we find in our history, John Wesley. Let me read some parts of his diary.

1738 Sunday a.m., May 7, preached in St. Lawrence’s, was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday p.m., May 7, preached at St. Katherine Cree’s church, deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday a.m., May 14, preached at St. Ann’s, can’t go back there either.
Sunday afternoon, May 21, preached at St. John’s, kicked out again.
Sunday evening, May 21, preached at St. somebody else’s, Bennet’s maybe, deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return. Now listen another part of his dairy a year later. 1739 Tuesday, May 8, afternoon service, preached in a pasture in Bath, 1,000 people came to hear me. Sunday, September 9, preached to 10,000 people three weeks in a row in Moor fields. End of his diary quotes. 1738 could discourage any other preacher, but John Wesley was a man of faith, he had courage, strength and patience from God. He was persistence and he saw the fruits.

What can we learn from the widow and from John Wesley’s faith? First, do not be discouraged of our reality. Do not be discouraged of what we see. We see empty pews and we know people who do not want to know anything about Jesus nor church. However, as women and men of faith we must do what the writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12 verse 2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  We must do what Elisha did. Listen to 2 Kings 6:15-17, “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” An empty pew can discourage us or can animate us to trust and believe in what God has done with other Christians in the past. Listen to Acts 2:46 and 47, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” They praised God; they were in favor with the people and God did the rest.

Second the must persist and be patience. You see it took time for the widow to receive justice from the unjust judge. It will take time too, for a person who has been away from God to come back to His path. About a month ago we had the “Back to church Sunday” (many people came) They came because we invited them to come. Let us continue doing it, let us persist, let us do what we have to do, and God will do the rest as He did in the past.

If there is something, I would like you to remember this Sunday is to be persistent, believe in God and in what He has promised. Dare to believe against all odds; dare to believe even if there is no hope in the horizon. Remember Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” If Jesus came today will he find faith in us?  

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