Homily, Generous with Trust
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Four people. Four stories. Four lessons on Generosity.
Today we continue our sermon series on what it means to live a life of generosity. Again, I invite you to use the journals we’ve given out in whatever way you feel led, through sketching, note taking, doodling, but at the end of the homily I’ll offer you two prompts for a journaling exercise this week.
And so we move on to our second story.
When was a time in your life when you felt like giving up? Like you just didn’t have it in you? It was too frustrating. Too hard. Things weren’t happening the way they were supposed to.
Perhaps it was a moment of parenting. Or a health concern. Perhaps it was a relationship with a friend. Or a session of therapy. Perhaps it was a homework assignment. Or something at work. Perhaps it’s a moment you are going through right now. You just want to give up!
You pray. You try. But it’s just so hard.
Jesus’ disciples must have had similar feelings in today’s gospel because Jesus teaches them a parable so that they will pray always and not lose heart.
I imagine it must have been hard for his disciples. Always being on the road, not knowing what to expect next. Being worried all the time about persecutions. Leaving behind families. Having your own beliefs and perspectives stretched and challenged all the time by your teacher. Sometimes it’s easy to want to give up even when you’re walking right next to Jesus.
And so Jesus tells them a story. The story we hear today. Jesus tells them a story about a person with an incredible amount of strength and persistence to inspire them. And who is that person? Not a soldier. Not a voyager. Not a champion of athletics. No, he tells the story of a woman who has experienced incredible loss. He tells the story of a widow.
Now we don’t all the details of this woman’s story. We don’t know how her spouse died. We don’t know if she had children. We don’t know how long she has lived alone. We don’t know her name.
And in the story some wrong has been done to her and she goes to court to defend herself. And there in court the judge keeps pushing her off and ignoring her. We don’t know what wrong was done, or who was her opponent, or why the judge kept pushing her away.
But we know her faith was strong. Despite all that she had gone through, this woman had strength and determination. She persisted. She pursued her need—her desire. She filled herself with a trust that justice would prevail.
We don’t know this woman’s full story, but that’s a strength and a trust we recognize. Because we all know woman in our lives who have experienced such loss, and we’ve seen their strength. Many of them are here among us today. I’ve seen your strength.
Jesus is lifting up the story of a widow today, as an example for the rest of us of what strong faith looks like, and what it looks like to trust God when we want to give up.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know that widows are not invincible. I know the struggle is real. And at times the desire to give up must be overwhelming just like the rest of us and often more. It’s hard. That’s true today, and it was true in Jesus’ day.
In the especially patriarchal time of Jesus’ day, a woman’s survival depended upon being connected to a man. If a woman had no husband or sons, she was often left destitute. And so Scripture speaks about widows more than a hundred times, often demanding for the care and protection of widows. Seeing the pain and vulnerability of widows and walking alongside of them is a Scriptural mandate.
But in this passage, Jesus recognizes that a woman who has experienced loss is so much more than her pain and vulnerability. There is strength in her. There is trust in her. There is someone to listen to and learn from. And so Jesus lifts her up as an example for us all.
So what can we learn from the widow in this story?
We can learn to be generous with our trust in God, just as God is generous to us. We can learn that trust is an active thing. Trust is not a sitting on our hands and waiting for God to make it easy. Trust is an active stepping out in faith, and persistence, and determination, knowing that God has got our back. That God walks with us even when we want to give up. That God is present even when we are pushed away time and time again. That justice will prevail. And God’s will will be done.
Trust means an ordering of all our actions with a confidence that God is actively working for our good, even when we can’t see it. And remembering that when we feel like we don’t have it in us and there’s nothing left to give, it is God that dwells in us, and God has much to give. That’s where strength comes from. That’s where deep trust comes from. God dwelling in us.
Here at Good Shepherd in our Generosity Statement we say that “we commit ourselves to trust in God’s abundant provision.” To trust in God’s abundant provision.
The opposite of that trust is apathy. And that’s the temptation we face. When things get overwhelming we are tempted to respond by just throwing in the towel and giving up. After so many times being rejected by the judge, that’s the response we’d expect from the widow in our story today. It’d be easy to simply give in and let injustice prevail. Let pain prevail. Let loss prevail. There’s nothing to be done about it. That’s apathy. And we all feel it sometimes.
But Jesus is encouraging not to hold on to it for too long. Instead, Jesus is encouraging us to hold on to trust. To keep on praying. To keep moving. To keep on pursuing justice, goodness, and healing.
If even the unjust judge in the story eventually gives the widow what she needs, how much more will God be generous to us. If only we hold on to our trust. Not being stingy with it, but letting it flow into every place of our lives. You are stronger than you realize, if only you put your trust in God.
The message of our gospel today—the message we learn from the story of this widow—is to be generous with our trust in God, just as God is generous with us.
So get your journals out, here come the two prompts. We’ll also send them out in the weekly newsletter if you forgot your journal.
- 1.Where in my life have I shown strength and trust in a difficult time?
- 2.Where is God calling me to be more generous with my trust?
May we be generous with our trust in God, just as God is generous with us. Amen.