Summary: A sermon for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 24 A sermon about Prayer
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Gen 32:22-31 Luke 18:1-8
"From the Depths--Prayer"
When I was in college, my first two years I was a drama major. I really enjoyed the theater, and the different plays I got to act in, and the different plays I had to read or see. One of my favorite plays, and one of the favorite plays for a lot of people since it was one of the longest running plays on Broadway, was Fiddler on the Roof. I really enjoyed reading, listening, and studying the part of Tevye, the father of that Jewish family of all girls. If one would really study the character of Tevye, one would see he is very human, a common sort of a man, but at the same time, he is wise beyond many so-called wise people of this world. He can see beyond the simple to the complex, the inner conscious of things. He also has a good relationship with his God. He is comfortable with God. He can talk freely with God about most any subject. His prayers to God are from the depth of his being, and at times they are very humorous, but at the same time reflect the concerns he has with his life and the world around him.
I would like to share just one of his conversations with God this morning.
Listen not only to his words. hut the feelings:
Tevye is talking to God: "Today I am a horse. Dear God did you have to make my poor old horse loose his shoe just before the Sabbath. That wasn’t nice. It’s enough you pick on me, Tevye, bless me with five daughters, a life of poverty. What have you got against my horse? Sometimes I think when things are too quiet up there, You say to Yourself: ’Let’s see, what kind of mischief can I play on my friend Tevye’. He continues talking to God: "As the Good book says, Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed. In other words, send us the cure, we’ve got the sickness already. I’m not really complaining--after all, with your help, I’m starving to death. You made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor, but it’s no great honor either. So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?"
Can you sense the comfort, the ease Tevye had in talking with God, Maybe his theology wasn’t the best blaming God for all of his troubles, but his expression, his right to express these kinds of feelings to God is what prayer is all about. Prayer is asking, prayer is wondering, prayer is bringing to God all of the feelings from the depths of our souls, so that we might lay them before his throne. So that we might cry out from the very inner longings of our soul all the concerns, all the problems, all the things that make us who we are, and what we are.
As you can tell by now, our gospel lesson this morning concerns Prayer. Prayer is even in a sense visualized in our first lesson in very dramatic ways. Jesus tells the disciples that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. This morning I would like to look at three different areas of prayer.
The first area is that of struggle. Prayer is a struggle, a tug of war between parts of myself, between me and God, between me and others.
A poem by Ethelyn Shattuck says:
Dear Heavenly Father:
I’m working on a puzzle pure and simple.
It is I.
Dear searching child?
Here’s the answer to your puzzle pure and simple,
It is I."
Prayer is a struggle of searching, of asking, of bringing ourselves to God. In our Old Testament lesson Jacob is fighting with God. Jacob has just returned to his homeland to make peace with his brother Esau. His conscious is still bothering him about stealing the birthright from Esau, but Jacob also knows that through this brokenness, God has used him now to build a mighty nation, the nation of Israel. This fight symbolizes for Jacob and for us, his struggle to understand the mysteries of God, to make sense out of the brokenness of this world, to discover the course that God wants him to take. He struggles with God, and finally God speaks with him, asks him his name and then tells us that he will have a new name, Israel, and from his family a mighty nation will be born. Out of that struggle a stronger, newer, better relationship with God was established.
Jesus in our gospel lesson shows us also this struggle with prayer. He again uses a shady character, a dishonest judge, to make a point about the goodness of God. This woman was wronged by someone, and her case was in court. The judge being a dishonest man wasn’t in too much of a hurry to settle the case, because the woman being poor as women were in her day didn’t have any bribe money to help the judge along in deciding her case. So, she keeps coming to him asking that she be vindicated or in other words that she be given protection, justice, that her rights be honored.