Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14–4:5
Luke 18:1-8

Did you ever have a time in your life when you just felt completely overwhelmed?  Like the weight of the world was on your shoulders and you were just drowning in a sea of stuff so thick and there was no end in sight?  Like you feel so in over your head that any attempts to reach out and grasping onto something for relief seem so utterly futile that it would almost seem foolish to even try?

I have, and it isn’t for what you’d think.  It wasn’t anything to do with me being a pastor, although I’ve been talking about the difficulties we’ve all been facing the past little while.  It has nothing to do with me as a parent, as you parents know sometimes it could very much feel like drowning.  It doesn’t even have anything to do with school, as some of you know I’ve taken a lot of schooling. 

No, the one time that stands out for me when I felt completely helpless and alone, at the end of my rope and wit, totally deflated and dejected, was about 13 years ago, during the dead of winter, and the heater core of my 1995 VW GTI VR6 blew.

And without getting into too many details, the heater core is the part of the car that allows the inside of the car to be warm.  And it isn’t uncommon for them to fail in this generation and model of car, and so there were plenty of tutorials online of how to fix it yourself, and for a $20 part, fix it myself I shall.

Or so I thought.

Now, I should tell you that there is a myth out there in Volkswagen lore that when they made this model that I was working on, they suspended the heater core in the air and then built the car around it.

Meaning, it was a really big job.  Everything on the dash had to come apart and of course, everything is connected to everything which is connected to everything else.  It was confusing, it was mind-numbing, but I was doing ok until I had to move the dash rebar.  Try as I might, I could not get it to budge.  It was frustrating that after 3 hours turned to 4 then to 8, I was stuck at this one part and my car wasn’t even drivable so I had to finish it.  I admit, I was feeling so tired and overwhelmed that I might have cried a little.  Then it got too late and I just had to call it a night, car unfixed, dash still completely in pieces, and myself totally frustrated and crawling into bed in the fetal position.

Now, you might think that I’m just being a dork for not having just paid a professional to fix it.  Or an idiot for biting off more than I could chew.  Or just a moron for making you listen to that whole story.  But the point is these times in our lives when we feel so frustrated, so overwhelmed, so beyond help, that we might just want to collapse, maybe run away from the world, and roll up in a fetal position.

Maybe it was from the death of a loved one.  Or maybe it was some trouble you got yourself into with the law or at work or with your parents or spouse.   Or maybe it was some injustice that was committed against you and you wanted those responsible to pay but were too powerless to do anything about it.

That’s the premise of the parable that Jesus shares today.  A widow was searching for justice and the judge didn’t really care about God or people enough to grant it to her.  Jesus even describes this fictional judge as one who doesn’t care about God or people, the fictional judge himself admits that he doesn’t care about God or people, and so I think it’s pretty safe to say that this judge just doesn’t care about God or people.  Yet because of the woman’s persistence and unrelenting nagging for what she wants, he caves and just gives her justice.

Interestingly enough, we get no other details of this story.  We don’t get who wronged the woman, we don’t get what the justice looked like, we don’t even get the name of the city.  It is very brief and to the point.  And maybe, actually probably, that was intentional.  Jesus was simply contrasting the difference between this unjust judge who doesn’t care about God or people against our just God who does care about God and people.  That if this judge would give in after a lot of nagging, how much quicker would God just give out of love.

You know when I woke up the next morning with my car was still in pieces, I knew I needed help.  But not just any help, but someone who could actually help.  So you guessed it, I called my buddy… Gordon.  Not Ben, because he doesn’t know a lick about cars and he’d probably just make jokes most of the time.  But Gordon, he’s almost as much into cars as I am, and is much more helpful than Ben is funny.  So I gave him a call and he was happy to come out to help me.  He was there within a half hour and after he showed up, honestly everything went really smoothly.  I got to the core, replaced it, and put everything back together.  Aside from that handful of mystery screws left behind, everything was just dandy after he showed up.

So I was very thankful for my buddy Gordon.  I was thankful that he had the knowhow and physical prowess to help me finish the job that was quite honestly killing me a little inside.  And I was thankful that he came all the way out to surrey where I was at my parents’ house to help me.

When we are in those moments of gut-splitting frustration, we often turn to the one who could help us the most.  When we are at the ends of our ropes we want to reach out to the ones who are most reliable and trustworthy.  When we look ahead at our journey and are overwhelmed with the obstacles and mountains and hills in our way, we need to remember as we talked about a few sermons ago that it isn’t the size of our faith, but it is who our faith is in.

I am reminded of a Vineyard worship song entitled “Who is Like Our God” and it lists all the ways that God is unique and our perfect help in times of trouble.  Holy and intimate, tender and strong, patient and powerful, mighty and innocent, jealous and kind, sovereign and merciful, who indeed is like our God?

No one.  No one is exactly like our God, but by God’s grace there are many people out there who share aspects of God.  Some are patient, and others are powerful.  Some are mighty, and others are innocent.  And it’s in those different attributes of different people that we can rely on when the going gets tough, and it’s in those different people together as a community, that we can see God most fully and completely.  For God is our help and our shield, but God is all of that through our community and relationships.

As we look ahead to the end of this liturgical year and forward to the next year, may we continue to rely and put our trust in God found in our community, who is our help, our strength, and our hope.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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