THOUGHT FOR THE DAY - 7TH JULY
7th July 2020
Psalms 87, 89: 1-18
Luke 18: 1-14
Psalm 89: 19-end
Romans 15: 1-13
Thought for the Day (Luke 18: 1-8)
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3.14-17)
What is your relationship with scripture?
If you take hold of a bible, what are you be thinking and feeling about the book in your hand?
Your relationship with scripture has probably changed over the years.
The scriptures tell us how to live God's way.
The scriptures open up to us the image of a God who has a real passion for justice - justice based on a deep concern for the protection of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
The scriptures tell us of the power of the creator God; the scriptures introduced us to some of the heroes of faith - David, Solomon, Jesus, John the Baptist; the scriptures instruct us how to live in unity with other Christians through the teachings of Paul; the scriptures speak of a God who is alive and active in the affairs of the world and deeply devoted to justice and righteousness, demanding these things of those who follow him.
The scriptures are full of hymns and songs of praise. The psalms especially, and many other passages of scripture too - help us tell God what we think of him, in thanksgiving and praise: 'Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever'.
Passages of scripture are also what we use to ask God what we need of him, tell God when we're doubting him: 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?', 'O Lord, do not withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and faithfulness keep me safe for ever'.
How do you engage with scripture today? How have you, over the years?
Today's gospel story can be read as a parable about two very different people with two very different relationships with scripture, and how this affected the way they behaved.
Jesus 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."' (Luke 18.2-5)
The judge - what was his relationship with scripture? He would have been steeped in a knowledge of scripture as it was the foundation-stone of the law which he arbitrated, the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy - the founding legal and ethical religious texts of Judaism - the scriptures on which the law was based. And yet this judge is described by Luke as a man 'who neither feared God nor had respect for people', and that must make us wonder whether he was taking any sort of notice of the scriptures at all.
Even a cursory glance at the Five Books of Moses should persuade any reader that the scriptures demand of everyone a fear of God and a respect for people. But the judge had neither, as his behaviour towards the widow shows.
The widow - what was her relationship with scripture? It would appear that this woman, whose social position was among the poorest and most vulnerable in society, also knew her Torah, and believed what it said about protecting the likes of her from ruin - believed this so much that she persisted in asking the judge for justice against her opponent.
Jesus didn't say what her legal case was about, but commentators suggest that it was a money matter, maybe about her inheritance rights, something which would be crucial to her, and urgent too: she would need that money to survive.
Jesus didn't say why the judge was so reluctant to grant her a hearing but commentators suggest that maybe this corrupt official had received bribes from the woman's legal opponent, or maybe that opponent was an influential person, someone in the same social circles as the judge, who he would be biased towards helping.
Jesus didn't himself say anything about how we should 'read' this parable which he told. Luke wants us to receive it as a parable about persisting in prayer, but that makes God out to be like the unjust judge, and that poses problems for us.
Perhaps we should take Jesus's parable as a story which instructs us about our relationship with the scriptures. Are they collections of words which we know very well but choose to ignore so that we can live however we like; or are they passages which carry great power for us because believing them we can be confident in our faith and in choosing to live in the light of what they say to us, we can challenge those who hurt or harm us, we can confidently call on God for help, guidance and direction - and we can call on others for justice?
Let us rediscover for ourselves a living, breathing relationship with the scriptures we hold in our hands.
Heavenly Father, shine the pure light of Your Word of truth into our hearts today and open the eyes of our minds to comprehend the nuggets of truth that are contained within Scripture. Amen.