Rev. Sara Ofner-Seals is the co-pastor of First Congregational Church in New London, CT, and also serves as the Volunteer Coordinator at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center.
Scripture: Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
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?’
Reflection: The Power of Persistence
I’ve always had trouble with persistence. When I started taking piano lessons as a kid, I loved practicing, and I excelled quickly, until the music became more difficult and required more detailed attention. That’s when I decided that I probably wouldn’t be a concert pianist and started to lose interest. In high school, as soon as I started having trouble with math, I gave up and just decided it was something I couldn’t be good at. For years now, I’ve wanted to lose weight, but just can’t seem to commit to an exercise regime without getting bored. I’ve always had trouble with persistence.
Nevertheless, according to Jesus, persistence is a virtue worth cultivating, especially when it comes to seeking justice for ourselves and others. In today’s world, the pursuit of justice can be tiring, and we can easily lose heart. Many of us in the church can start to feel compassion fatigue, as the injustices against the poor and the marginalized pile up day after day. Yet even as someone who has struggled with persistence in other parts of my life, I know that this is one area in which I cannot just give up. Whenever I start to feel tired, the Gospel reminds me of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s wise words, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
This week’s gospel text reminds us that God hears the cries of the oppressed and those suffering under the weight of injustice. Elsewhere in scripture, we are reminded that when it comes to who God has empowered to fight against injustice and persistently plead the case of the oppressed, we are the ones that we are waiting for. There is no one else. God has entrusted us with the care of all creation, and God relies on our persistence to make manifest the kingdom of God on earth. We are Christ’s hands and feet in the world today.
Church, we may grow weary at times, but let us take heart in the knowledge that we are not alone. We do the work of justice-making together, and we do it with the Spirit of God surrounding us, holding us up, and giving us the gift of persistence that we may not be able to maintain on our own. Let us take heart in the knowledge that if we remain persistent, love and justice will eventually win out. Victory is ours! Amen.
God, we give thanks for your persistent love of us, your ever-present Spirit, and the strength you give us when we falter.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the family and friends of Ruth Ann Dudley, for Director of Faith Formation for the CT Conference, who died on Oct. 4
- For the family and friends of Rev. Dr. MaryLou Howson, retired UCC pastor, who died on Oct. 13
- The people of Syria who find themselves in harm's way as fighting renews in the war-torn nation
- For indigenous people whose histories (and present) include forced displacement, oppression, or genocide at the hands of other people
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For those who dedicate themselves to helping the homeless through shelters, kitchens, and other assistance programs
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Bridgewater Congregational Church UCC
First Congregational Church, UCC
Broad Brook Congregational Church
Congregational Church of Brookfield
Federated Church of Christ UCC
This Week in History:
October 14, 1964 (55 years ago) civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America. King donated the prize money, valued at $54,600 to the civil rights movement.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”