The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of
Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals.
And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow,
destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,
says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say:
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour
grapes shall be set on edge.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the
covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand
to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though
I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will
make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put
my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be
their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one
another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know
me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive
their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
97 Lord, how I love your law! •
All the day long it is my study.
98 Your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies, •
for they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, •
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I am wiser than the aged, •
because I keep your commandments.
101 I restrain my feet from every evil way, •
that I may keep your word.
102 I have not turned aside from your judgements, •
for you have been my teacher.
103 How sweet are your words on my tongue! •
They are sweeter than honey to my mouth.
104 Through your commandments I get understanding; •
therefore I hate all lying ways.
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his
eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent
them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was
left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw
that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket;
and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said,
‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you
go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he
said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob,
but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’
Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is
it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the
place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life
is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because
of his hip.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills; •
from where is my help to come?
2 My help comes from the Lord, •
the maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer your foot to stumble; •
he who watches over you will not sleep.
4 Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel •
shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord himself watches over you; •
the Lord is your shade at your right hand,
6 So that the sun shall not strike you by day, •
neither the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall keep you from all evil; •
it is he who shall keep your soul.
8 The Lord shall keep watch over your going out
and your coming in, •
from this time forth for evermore.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed,
knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known
the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through
faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living
and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly
urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable
or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience
in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound
doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves
teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to
the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure
suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
2 Timothy 3:14–4:5
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?’
Sermon on 21st Sunday of Trinity
“Jesus said, ‘And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on
earth?’” What is the relationship between faith and justice? What do our
contemporaries say? Do they have any faith? Do they have any expectation
of justice? What do you think?
I despair when I come to ponder these questions. At times I don’t think
there is any faith amongst my fellows, nor do I believe there to be any
justice in the world we inhabit. How can I say such things as I stand here
in these robes of office?
The unjust judge is my reason, for I think he is the most accurate description
of contemporary society. The unjust judge looks just like anyone you might
care to name. He even looks like me, doesn’t he? After all, he dresses
in fancy clothes like mine – gown and scarf adorn him just like me.
What are the main points of this story? First we have the widow constantly
demanding justice in her case before the judge. Next we have the judge
and his attitude toward everything, Finally he relents and decides to give
judgement in the case. This is a simple story about life, isn’t it? Essentially
the story is this – We get into trouble, argue about it, appeal to someone
who should be able to sort out the difficulty, but that person is unwilling
to help or see any justice done. What are we to do?
The widow persists in asking for justice. The judge who has no truck with
God or his fellows does not wish to do anything for her. But she persists.
She continues to ask for justice. The judge is exasperated. He wants a
quiet life, doesn’t he? He talks it over with himself – a very satisfactory
discussion, it seems. He says 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
The judge tells us a lot about ourselves, doesn’t he? He is contemporary
society at a stroke, isn’t he? He, like so many of our neighbours, has
no fear of God. He also has no respect for any around him. Don’t we know
people just like that? Humanity has not changed at all, has it? So many
profess no feeling for the divine. They say, “I gave up God when I left
primary school.” They have no awe in their lives. And I would like to say
that the other, self-confessed characteristic of the judge just follows
from the fact that they have no wonder – I would say that they have no
respect for anyone else.
I am making a value judgement on this sort of life – I would like to say
that this lack of awe towards the world in which we find ourselves is very
limiting. When we can wonder about the purpose of life and imagine the
divine touching our lives in some way – whether it is the beauty of a sunset
or the slaying of the holy spirit – then life adds up to something. Life
is mysterious. In this openness toward the world, we can be open with one
another and so have respect for everyone and everything. In this openness
toward the extraordinary, we might even see God as the reason for life.
– As I have said before, if we truly love, then there are no bounds to
our care. No person or thing can be “boring” because everything can become
an object of concern in and of itself. We are wide awake to infinite possibilities
and can comprehend them, in them and in ourselves.
That judge is not like Chesterton’s Father Brown who can understand the
criminal in his possibilities and so foil him. Unlike Father Brown, however,
the judge has no respect for anyone and so will never understand in this
case why the widow seeks justice. Father Brown engages with all he experiences
and can care for the highest and the lowest of society because of his faith.
I have heard it said that the widow is like that mosquito in the middle
of the night – she buzzes around incessantly, far enough away, always close
enough to cause annoyance. We just have to arise from our bed and get
rid of that pesky mosquito!
I have also heard it said that the widow is like a squeaky wheel. It just
gets on our nerves so much that we have to grease it.
What do you think? Do these similes make sense of this parable? I don’t
Let us really hear what Jesus says: “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.”
Jesus is telling us that if a man finally will give justice in a petty
case, how much more will God provide that final justice we all desire.
This is a rhetorical device, the argument from the lesser to the greater.
We have heard it many times in the bible – if God cares for the smallest
creature, how much more will God care for the greatest of his earthly creations?
It is a compelling argument. It counsels patience in the face of God’s
But this discussion of Jesus about the judge speaks to an active patience
to compel God’s care. Incessant and insistent prayer about the world around
us concerning where justice is required, this is the rule the faithful
must live by.
I would say that if we did live up to this rule, everything would be so
very different. Our neighbours would hear our pleas for what is right.
We would act as the world’s conscience. Rather than “interfering in politics”,
christians would be seen as the people who act morally based on their care
for the world – christians would be the people truly engaged with everything
in the created order.
That question about “the turbulent priest” might be asked again, but what
if so many were acting with conscience and demanding it? Could the callous
judge or king act so badly ever again?
I suppose the widow is like our conscience, like what I remember of Jiminy
Cricket from Disney’s Pinocchio of so many years ago. That voice which
enters your mind compelling you to do the right thing – well, if you hear
it. That is why I think Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes, will he
find faith on earth?” The question I leave you with is this – Will humanity
ever listen to that insistent voice of conscience just as the judge finally
listened to the widow?