Nevertheless, she persisted

Nevertheless, she persisted

This devotion was written as part of the requirements in the candidacy process for Deaconess, in my Theology of Mission and Diakonia course through St. Paul School of Theology.

Opening Song: In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful 

In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful
In the Lord I will rejoice
Look to God do not be afraid
Lift up your voices
The Lord is near
Lift up your voices
The Lord is near.

Reading: Luke 18:1-8, CEB

Reflection:

There are many unnamed women in the Bible. Pages and pages of them, if you look at the index in the CEB Women’s Bible. They are widows, daughters, queens, mothers, servants, wives, sisters. They are labeled mysterious, wise, detested, adulterous, foolish, bitter, possessed, and persistent.

We don’t know much about the widow in Luke 18 other than her persistence in asking to receive justice for her situation. The verse reads: there was a widow who kept coming to him [the Judge], asking, ‘Give me justice in this case against my adversary.’ (Luke 18:3, CEB). She was bothersome. A nuisance, one might even say.

Can you imagine this particular widow asking for justice every day? Maybe she’s the woman who you see every morning and night, standing on the street corner pleading her case. Perhaps she is the mother of another young black man who was murdered, and she goes to the local TV station, to the local police precinct, to her church, asking for justice, and every day she is ignored. She nags and badgers; she is relentless. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Who will hear her pleas and respond?

In Becoming a Justice Seeking Congregation, McElvaney quotes Birch’s Let Justice Roll Down, saying:

Justice is a chief attribute of God’s activity in the world…the Mishpat (which is the most frequently used word in Hebrew to mean the restoration situation of harmony or equity in community) of God is experienced by the vulnerable in the community as ‘justice,’ the upholding of their rights and the advocacy of their need…God’s justice and righteousness is especially made manifest in care for the poor, the hungry, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the troubled, the afflicted.

The use of Mishpat reminds us of the long historical attempt of our foreparents in faith to both name and do justice. These instances are typically fraught with struggle and risk and failure as prophets proclaimed “the word of the Lord.” Yet we ignore these examples because we are afraid of what others might think of us, should we advocate for justice in our current context.

Activity:  

Take a moment and find a comfortable position, perhaps you want to close your eyes or focus on a particular word or phrase, as we try and understand the unnamed woman in Luke’s story.

Read Luke 18:1-8 text again

Who is this nameless woman? Does she have a name in your mind? What does she look like? What is this adversity she is seeking justice for?

Imagine you are her friend. Perhaps her neighbor. Or maybe she is the mother of one of your child’s or grandchild’s classmates. Maybe you sit together every Sunday in church. Perhaps she is a mother who was recently detained because of her undocumented status–separated from her family. How will you walk with this woman as she seeks justice for her situation?

Now open your eyes.

Are there named women in your life who are seeking justice? Who have been wronged? How will you join in their pleas for justice?

Today, say a prayer for those named and unnamed women seeking justice. Ask that God make you aware of the ways you can journey with these women near and far.

Benediction 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

—Luke 4.18-19

A Prophet’s Blessing
by Jan Richardson

This blessing
finds its way
behind the bars.
This blessing
works its way
beneath the chains.
This blessing
knows its way
through a broken heart.
This blessing
makes a way
where there is none.

Where there is
no light,
this blessing.
Where there is
no hope,
this blessing.
Where there is
no peace,
this blessing.
Where there is
nothing left,
this blessing.

In the presence
of hate.
In the absence
of love.
In the torment
of pain.
In the grip
of fear.

To the one
in need.
To the one
in the cell.
To the one
in the dark.
To the one
in despair.

Let this blessing come
as bread.
Let this blessing come
as release.
Let this blessing come
as sight.
Let this blessing come
as freedom.

Let this blessing come.