“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children,” the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said.Today is the annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths. A weekend when people in Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, the faithful of all religions throughout our country pray for and think about children. “Blessed to Be a Blessing: Lifting Up the Next Generation" is this year’s theme, reminding us to be advocates and supporters of children, that children are indeed a blessing. Children, both in the days of Jesus and today are vulnerable, they can be exploited or forgotten for they do not have power of themselves to get what they need. They need others. They need us. Could the parable about the unjust judge we heard this morning, have a child instead of a widow crying out for justice?
Think of the Gospel and the parable that Jesus tells, An unjust judge in a certain city refuses to give a widow the justice she seeks. The widow kept going to the judge, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” He refused. But she would not go to her home and give up. Over, and over again this scene would happen...
The judge, as we are told, who does not fear God or respect anyone else, decides to give her justice, not for her sake as a widow or because she is right, it is not for the sake of justice, but so that she stops being a nuisance to him, a very practical step! The unjust judge in the parable has all the power for he can grant justice to the widow or not. The widow of course, in the time of Jesus, is vulnerable, she can be exploited or forgotten, her very survival could be at stake because she has no husband, and maybe no kin to take care of her.
She is on the margins of that society and would seem to have no power in this situation. And yet, she does not give in to his refusals. She uses what she has available to her, her persistence, & her voice, “Grant me justice.” The widow refuses to be marginalized, and uses her voice to be heard. From the days of the OT on, widows were not the only ones who were among the most vulnerable of the society, so too were the children, esp. the orphans. Time & time again, you hear God pleading with Israel to take care of the poor, the widow and the orphan.
Jesus follow in this line asking us to help those in need and to respond to those in need by being their advocates. By giving all children what they need, justice, hope, & love.
We have done just that, by making one of our outreach projects, the orphanage at Biro #1. Remembering children half way around the world, who have no one speaking up for them or supporting them. It will be tough work, but we should not despair at the way things are. Jesus finished his parable by reminding us how God will respond.
As Jesus said, God will quickly grant justice to them, when we call. So we start with prayer. For the parable reminds us about the need to pray always and not to give up. That God will answer our prayers. Our prayers are meant to connect us with the source of who we are, that is God our creator. It is not to change God; our prayers don’t make God act. The prayers make us act, prayer changes “us.” You and me. God acts through us in this world.
We often describe our worship together on Sundays as liturgy. We forget that the word liturgy means the work of the people. "To stand before God and pray is to stand before God and work. Always to pray for our children is always to work for our children. To pray for our children’s blessings implies that we work for their blessings. Sometimes, this worship-that-is-work involves real struggle against injustice, and, therefore, to pray for justice is to work and struggle for justice." (Mark Bozutti-Jones)
We who follow Jesus are the ones who act in God’s name, to help children. To be the advocates they need, with our hands, our heart and voices. We hear that voice that says again and again, Grant them justice! I think of a story…
Once there was a little boy who wanted more than anything to play in the band at school. The boy went home from school one day and asked his parents if they would buy him an instrument and let him sign up to play in the band. Well, the boy's parents didn't say yes, and they didn't say no. They said, "We'll have to think about it. After all, a musical instrument costs a lot of money and we aren't sure you will stick with it."The boys persistence pays off – but more than that, he used his voice to advocate for himself and look what he became. The same is true for us, as we use our voices for Biro #1 and the other children in the US and the world. Let us pray.
A few days went by and the boy's parents still hadn't said anything, so the boy decided he should ask again. The boy's parents didn't say yes and they didn't say no. They said, "We are still thinking about it."
On his way home from school the next day, the boy decided to stop by the local music store to check out the musical instruments. When he walked in the store, the first thing that caught his eye was a beautiful, shiny trumpet. It wasn't new, but it was in very good condition and it had a really cool fake alligator skin case. It was just what he wanted.
That night at supper the boy said to his parents, "I went by the music store today after school and they have a really nice used trumpet. It is exactly what I want and it only costs $100."
The boy's father turned to his wife and said, "I guess we had better go take a look at that trumpet or we are never going to hear the end of this." The next day, the boy went to the music store with his parents and they bought him that trumpet.
The boy joined the band -- and he did stick with it. He played in the band all through high school and when he graduated from high school, he went on to college and studied music. After graduating from college, he became a music teacher. Now I wonder, how differently his life might have turned out if he had asked his parents for that musical instrument one time and never mentioned it again.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have blessed us with children and called us to be a blessing. In Christ who came to bring good news to the poor and welcomed the children, you have revealed your intention for justice and compassion. Prosper now the work of our hands that we may faithfully serve you by lifting up the next generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.