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A reading from the Gospel according to Luke 18. "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 opponents.' For a while he refused. But later he said to himself, '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. Yet when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
These days, some of our children appear to be staying dependent upon parental support (of all kinds) for longer and longer. When I was young we used to say, "When you reach eighteen years old, it's time to get out of the house." Now it's closer to twenty-one or twenty-four, and perhaps our youngsters are out of the house. And many of us find ourselves with children at home who are in their thirties, or we are caring for our grandchildren. We seem to be living in an age of long-lasting childhood dependence. If we take our parental cues from God our creator, we might develop a different perspective. God's persistent love for us as children from earth until our death. This might give us a different frame of reference for responding to the changing needs our children. Ours by birth, adoption or need.
This business of being children can be embarrassing, especially when we think that we are very mature adults. Let's look at Jacob, for he's a prime example of one who is child-like and childish, always being the younger twin. We find he has a set of goals for his life and has a particular way of going about getting them. In pursuit of his first goal, which was to obtain all of the blessings that his father had to offer, his mother helped him. Later, when he saw Rachel, he knew that he wanted her as his wife. And his father-in-law, Laban, did not give him what he had wanted and expected. He was thwarted. Even later, Jacob wanted to reconcile with his brother Esau, and an angel interveined and wounded him so that reconciliation happened but not when nor as Jacob had expected or desired. Jacob was a young man for a very, very long time in his life. He lived a large part of it as a child.
In the Gospel of Luke, the story that we read today -- the teaching of Jesus, the woman might be called honoree -- a little one, a poor one. She was a weak one, but she has a goal too. She persists that justice can be done, justice must be done for her. She has an antagonist who decides, well that may be so. There's this judge who cares not for her, nor God, nor fears anything, and who keeps her from achieving her goals, but in the end responds, if for no other reason, than to stop the nagging. And so this poor one encountering what might be insurmountable odds, is indeed given justice responded to as a child.
Finally there is the story of Timothy who Paul calls his son in Christ. Timothy, a little one, who Paul teaches and mentors, continues to serve. He is very gifted young minister but Paul tells him over and over what he needs to do, how he needs to live, what he needs to do to undastand himself and how to be an effective minister.
While these are just some of the examples of people whom we might see as being treated as children for a very, very long time, what might we learn from these examples in our lives today? I think there are several things -- perhaps three to mention here. The first is that the work of the Kingdom and the work for the Kingdom of God is work that is done where the goals may be ours articulated but the outcome is God's. We may be the ones who initiate the work but the results are in God's hands and in God's time. What we learn about the work for the Kingdom ofGod that it is being done by children -- the weak ones, the poor ones, the ones who are called daily and persist to know that God loves them -- to know that they can trust God, but to know that the work is indeed Gods. Spiritual maturity, that thing for which we pine in our lives, is the work of a lifetime and continues beyond this earthly life into eternity. And throughout all of that time, eventually, we come to realize that our life is not our own. It belongs to God.
The second thing that we can gather from this teaching is that we as children of God need to learn, to practice, to review these teachings all the time. Being a child means that we need to review the lessons of Sunday School, review the lessons of young adulthood, review the lessons of our middle life, review the teachings and scriptures, review the history of church tradition and of our individual traditions, because we cannot always remember them. Spiritual teachings, spiritual learning is so fragile, so gentle for God speaks to us so lovingly and quietly that we forget. And so, we need to practice our prayer-- our reading. We need to take time out. We need to go on retreats. We need to spend some energy just being. We need to learn to lead a more disciplined life. That does not mean punishing ourselves in that old understanding of discipline, but it instead means that we need to find that way of living life in an orderly fashion that energizes and replenishes us.
And finally, the last thing is that there are blessings for us who persist. For there is not only hope for our life here, but there is the gift of eternity. These blessings we know come in God's time -- not ours. In God's way -- not ours. For as we live as children, we come to understand that this wonderful feeling of care and concern and presence in our lives exists because we are indeed wrapped up, hidden in Christ with God. The gift we are given to continue to learn this over and over, and over is the gift of perseverance. The gift of ability to continue, to persist, to give it all to God -- all the time -- every day. And that is indeed a gift. For in it, we discover over and over again that no matter who we are, where we are, what our success is in the world, what our failure is perceived by ourselves or anyone else, God is always for us, with us, beneath us, and in front of us in love.
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