Ep. 33: Bob Loblaw's Law Psalm


For Sunday, October 20, 2013
Proper 24C / Ordinary 29C /Pentecost +22

Show Notes after the break (click read more) 

SHOW NOTES -  10/20/2013

Opening Music: Don’t Stop Believin by Journey

Bob Loblaw's Law Psalm
For Sunday, October 20
Episode 33 - Proper 24C / Ordinary 29C / 22 weeks after Pentecost
Luke 18:1-8, Persistence in Prayer
Psalm 119:97-104, Praising God for Instruction


  • Government Shutdown
  • Robb and Sarah Anniversary
  • Pastor Appreciation Month

Primary Scripture -– Luke 18:1-8, Persistence in Prayer

  • Luke 17:20-37 - does not appear in the lectionary cycle- VERY IMPORTANT - esp. vv. 20-21:
    • 20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, "Look, here it is!' or "There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."
  • Parable uses contrasts to teach us about God and about us.  The unjust judge is used to show how good God is.  The widow is used to show how unfaithful we can be.  
  • Judge
    • A judge is supposed to uphold the rights of the vulnerable - the orphan the widow, and the alien.
    • This judge “cares nothing for the law of God,” which means he is not interested in protecting the vulnerable.  
    • Only takes action out of convenience, not out of sense of duty or obligation.
  • Widow
    • No status. No advocate.  Totally vulnerable
    • Despite vulnerability, trusts that the judge will grant justice if she is persistent (how much more can we trust God)
    • Model for persistence and perseverance - sometimes it takes being totally vulnerable to fully trust God.  Otherwise, we trust our own devices.
    • Easy to see self as the widow crying “woe is me,” then wonder why God isn’t answering.
    • Closer, more honest look, reveals how quick we are to give up, blame others, and surrender to injustice.
  • God
    • God is not like the unjust judge.  The rhetorical device here is to contrast God, who is a good judge, with the unjust judge.
      • If even an unjust judge will grant justice, then how much sooner will God?
  • Prayer
    • "When the consequences of belief are worldly goods, such as health, fixing on these turns religion into a service station for self-gratification and churches into health clubs. This is the opposite of religion's role, which is to decenter the ego, not pander to its desires.” - Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters.
    • “‘A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone,’ we sing, echoing the psalmist. The God of Isaiah reminds us, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways" (55:8). It is hard, however, to take the long view when we are praying our hearts out, bruising our hands with our continual pounding on heaven's door.” Kimberly Bracken Long - Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).
    • Prayer life is not about comfort or fulfilling a “wish list,” it is seeking God’s justice, and placing self into world to bring it about.
    • "All we know in the life of prayer is asking, seeking, knocking and waiting, trust sometimes fainting, sometimes growing angry." - Craddock, Interpretation: Luke.
    • “Only after you have knocked at the door until your knuckles bleed and have still received no answer do you begin to understand what prayer is about.”- source unknown, quoted by Cradoock and others
    • The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Theodore Parker 1857
      • sidenote - This is a popular quote these days, and it is usually attributed to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and he did write it and say it, but according to Quote Investigator, he was quoting Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, who first used the phrase in an 1857 sermon against slavery.
    • What do we do with the maddeningly long arc of justice?  
    • Jesus asks a tough question at the end, one that leads to tough introspection.  Will he find the faithful?  Have we been persistent?  Are we just waiting for God to do the work, or are we being dogged in our pursuit of justice?
    • Do we pray expecting results or do we pray to build the relationship and fortify our spirits for the journey toward God’s Kingdom?

Secondary scripture - Psalm 119:97-104, Praising God for Instruction

  • Perhaps a good time to re-introduce people to the Bible
  • Longest Psalm
    • 176 verses, 22 - 8 line stanzas each beginning with a sequential letter of the alphabet (Like the Neverending Story)
    • Immersed in God’s presence (Breaking Bad, TV, finances, etc)
    • What we immerse ourselves in changes us
  • What do we think of when we think of law?
    • Especially at the moment - re:government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis looming
    • Do we tend to throw all laws into the same basket?
    • Martin Luther
      • civil use of law - to restrain evildoers and maintain social order
      • convicting use - awareness of our own failure to follow the law and therefore our need for grace
    • Calvin - adds a third use of law
      • Principal use of law - to teach the ways of life. Not in response to human sin, but as directed for an ordered life directed toward worship of God and care for each other
      • Decalogue was often read or sung in churches after confession as thanksgiving and direction for the “redeemed”
  • God is the primary agent- not the psalmist
    • “your commandment makes me…” v 97
    • “you have taught me” v 102
    • Is a life of faith following the law or relying/trusting in God’s guidance?
      • or both?
  • Knowing the law is not the same as keeping and meditating
  • Letter of the law vs Spirit of the law - enter into the complexity?

Closing - “Teach Your Children Well” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
TY: listeners, Opening music, Dick Dale and the Deltones “Misirlou”
TY: Closing music,Paul and Storm, “Oh No”

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All, Luke, PsalmEric FistlerComment