Is anyone a fan of the radio programme ‘Just a Minute?’
I have to be honest I am an occasional listener rather than a devotee. But, when I do listen to it I enjoy it. Of course one of the things you mustn’t do, as a contestant, is to repeat a word or phrase.
If Jesus was telling the gospel story we have just listened to as a Just a Minute competitor he would have been eliminated fairly early on.
The gospel passage is just 8 verses and yet Jesus uses the words justice, and unjust, five times. The passage is most frequently used to demonstrate the importance of perseverance in prayer. But, I would like to suggest that it invites a deeper question:
‘What should be the focus of our prayers?’
Is it too much to suggest that when we pray we should be radically committed to the notion of divine justice breaking into the world; after all that is what the woman wanted; justice. She wanted to be treated with dignity and given her dues. Isn’t that what we all want for ourselves? And, if we want it for ourselves surely we should desire it for others? Our humanity is intertwined for as Desmond Tutu stresses ‘my humanity is bound up in yours, we can only be human together.’
The story is asking us, through prayer, to align ourselves with God’s values, with kingdom values; to strive for all that leads to justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Justice is one of God’s values.
We need as people of God to identify injustice and then pray into, even against, it week by week. That is why I always pray for those who are made to feel less than fully human. To be on the receiving end of injustice diminishes us all; this is Desmond Tutu’s point. I suggest that we all know this from our own experience.
As a Christian leader I have been inspired by those who have fought for justice, often sadly, having to go into battle with people of faith who have used, or do I mean abused, the Scriptures to validate all sorts of wrongdoings.
People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who refused to cooperate with Hitler’s regime and paid for it with his life or, William Wilberforce who stood hand to toe with those who sought to justify the slave trade and who wrote his petition on the altar of Holy Trinity Clapham, so sacred was his task and, Desmond Tutu who campaigned consistently and with dignity against the atrocity of apartheid. All of these characters understood the words of St. Paul to Timothy:
‘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.’
Today’s readings challenge us to identify the sources of injustice in our communities and around the world, to pray that justice will be restored and, to commit ourselves to be agents of justice, for God is just, and it is God who we serve, for as Desmond Tutu has reflected:
‘if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’
It is thought provoking stuff, isn’t it? Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown