Clarity and Persistence
The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, October 20, 2013
II Timothy 3:14-4:5
It is good to be with the people of Calvary Church this morning. To state the obvious, I recognize that Calvary Church is not meeting today in your customary place of worship. It may be interesting to you that other churches have experienced displacement from their liturgical homes in recent times as well. For instance, Grace Church, Charleston, met outside their nave and sanctuary for a period of a year while damage from an earthquake was repaired. And, our worshipping communities or remnant Episcopal groups have also been displaced from their spiritual homes for many months.
Even though the experiences among these various communities of faith have been different from each other in many ways, nevertheless, in some other ways they are all alike. Along with the additional effort and confusion which comes with such a change in location, in every case these communities of faith have learned a very significant lesson. That is, the building is not the most important thing in the community’s life. The church building may be wonderful; it may be grand; it may be the place that significant events have taken place. But it is not the most important thing. Rather, the community’s gathering to worship – wherever that happens – and, then, the community’s going forth into the world as the Body of Christ – those are the most important things. The gathering of the community to worship God and the scattering of the community into the world as the Body of Christ – those are the things that really matter. Sometimes it takes a major upheaval for us to understand what is most important.
As I read the Gospel lesson for today, I realized that the widow in the parable was completely focused on what she considered to be the most important thing in her life. Now, I need to admit to you at this point that a couple of other things occurred to me as possible sermon topics at first. At this time in the life of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, I was intrigued by the image of the unjust judge and by the idea that justice is sometimes delayed. However, I thought better about preaching on those topics. The widow and her focus need to guide our thoughts this morning.
We do not know a great deal about the people in this parable from our Lord. But we do know that there was a judge who apparently was motivated by impulses other than justice. According to our reading, this judge “neither feared God nor had respect for people” (Lk 18:2). He was not well thought of, and from Jesus’ account, the judge had earned that reputation. And, we know a little bit, too, about the widow. She had been wronged somehow, and she sought justice from the court and from the judge. Further, she did not give up easily in her pursuit of justice. In fact, she was quite persistent.
While Jesus does not convey a great deal of information about these characters, though, he does tell us enough to get the message across. The widow was focused on what mattered a great deal to her. She persisted in seeking justice. And, eventually, she wore out the judge, who was neither just nor honorable. However, because of the widow’s clarity and her persistence, justice was achieved eventually.
Two primary themes, therefore, emerge from the recent experience of Calvary Church and from today’s Gospel as well. And, to be sure we get those themes, let me repeat them here. These themes come as words of encouragement to us.
First, focus attention on what really matters. It seems to me that all of us waste a lot of time and energy on things of very little consequence in life. We do this in the life of the church and in our own private lives as well, no doubt. And so, the first theme – the first encouragement – is to focus attention on what really matters.
Then, secondly, persist in seeking that thing which really matters. Often times, our efforts are diluted by the variety of our goals and, also, by our reluctance to do what it takes to achieve the most important things. Therefore, persist in seeking that thing which really does matter.
In conclusion, therefore, our prayer for today involves lessons from the current life of Calvary Church and from the Gospel reading as well. With God’s help, may we gain clarity about the things in life which are most important. And by God’s grace, may we exercise persistence as we seek those most important things. Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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