Ask, Ask, and Ask Again

no justice

Pentecost 10C: Ask, Ask, and Ask Again

Genesis 18:17-32

Luke 11:1-13

July 24, 2016

 

Later this morning as she is confirmed,

one of our young people will be asked several questions.

One of them will be:

“Maggie, do you intend …to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”

 

If all goes as planned,

Maggie will respond, “I do and I ask God to help and guide me.”

 

I won’t challenge her then,

but I will challenge us all now…

Maggie, really?

Do you really intend to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

Because it’s hard, hard work.

 

Justice and peace are not the same.

In fact, for justice to come about there is often not peace –

there’s unrest, there’s agitation.

“No justice, no peace!” is the rallying cry of protestors.

 

In the first reading from Genesis,

it seems that even God wearies from the pursuit of justice.

At the beginning of the text,

God debates with Godself…

Do I talk to Abraham about my plans with Sodom and Gomorrah

or do I hide it from him?

Because if I know Abraham, he’s just going to protest.

It’d be easier just to go ahead.

 

In the end God does decide to talk to Abraham,

because after all, Abraham and Sarah are the leaders of a people

who will pursue righteousness and justice.

 

So God tells Abraham that he’s been hearing things…

Things about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah…

 

The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is probably not what you think.

 

Ezekiel 16:49 tells us what Sodom’s sin is:,[i]

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

 

The sin of Sodom was that they failed to care for the poor!

 

God is just and righteous,

so to destroy a city with righteous people in it – presumably with some people who did care for the poor –

would not be just.

 

So when God tells Abraham what he is about to do,

Abraham gives God no peace.

Over and over again he asks God for justice.

Hey God, if there were 50 righteous people in Sodom,

would you destroy it?

Well, no, of course not,” God says.

 

Abraham asks again,

“Well, how about 45 people…

If there were 45 righteous people in Sodom,

would you destroy it?

“No, not if there were 45 righteous people,” God says.

 

Again Abraham presses God…

How about 40?

How about 30?

How about 20?

….How about 10?

 

No justice, no peace.

 

God relents.

“No, for the sake of 10 righteous people who care for the poor,

I will not destroy the city.”

 

Maggie, do you intend to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

If so, it looks something like what Abraham does.

It’s relentless work.

Speaking to power again and again.

Asking the same question, again and again.

 

Which brings us to our gospel reading where Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer.

 

In his story of the friend who harasses his neighbor at midnight,

Jesus says to his disciples,

‘It may be midnight,

and he may be sleeping, but eventually the neighbor is going to get up and answer the door.’

 

Prayer is pounding on the door.

It’s keeping at it  – ask, ask, and ask again.

God will answer your prayer…keep asking.

 

Sometimes in the midst of our struggles,

it feels like God is that sleeping neighbor.

 

Where are you God?

Knock, knock, knock!

 

Racial injustice against black men.

Street violence against police officers.

 

Where are you God?

Knock, knock, knock!

 

If it seems like we’re asking the same question over and over again,

our readings for today remind us…keep at it.

Ask, ask, and ask again.

 

This week, Sojourners Magazine posted an article about burnout in the asking.

When you’ve asked for justice so often and God still seems to be asleep,

the article suggests 3 things:[ii]

 

  1. Tend to your heart –

Justice work flows out of love.

Surround yourself with people who are acting out of love.

 

  1. Remember there is power in resilience –

We fall down and we get back up again.

 

  1. Tell stories that imagine alternative futures….

The message that things are bad and they’re only going to get worse

is not the end of the story.

God has something different planned;

as people of faith we believe in a future with hope;

justice and peace will one day prevail.

 

I am hopeful for our city today.

This week about 20 clergy from faith communities here in Alexandria

met with our mayor.

 

We heard the anger and frustration of our colleagues

especially from primarily black churches.

And then one of the pastors, Rev. Greg King of Russell Temple CME Church,

said something prophetic.

 

He said we need to be on the streets.

Churches – clergy and laypeople need to be out in the community

bearing witness to this hope that we saw in that room –

the hope that is in us,

praying with each other and letting the community know that we are together in this.

 

At 3 o’clock this afternoon we will have our first gathering.

We will meet on the corner of Montgomery and Henry Streets,

where a young black man was shot a few weeks ago.

We will gather – black churches, white churches, Protestant/Catholic/Jewish/Muslim,

We will gather and we will pray.

We will knock.

We will ask.

We will keep striving for justice and peace in all the earth…

and we will start in Alexandria.

 

Join us.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

[i] https://bishopmike.com/

[ii] https://sojo.net/articles/3-ways-avoid-burnout-justice-fight

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