The Unjust Judge

When you get to my age you forget three things.

The first is your memory…

The second is…

(Norman Wisdom joke)

Anyway, let me tell you one of my husband’s memories. I love hearing this tale, which took place in a little Methodist chapel, not far from here, in Gibson Street, Willington Square, where the netball courts are now.

It was the Sunday School Anniversary, in the evening, and Bob was only about three years old, when he heard the sound of the ice-cream man van outside, right in the middle of the prayer time.

From his place at the front of the church, he made his way to his mam who was busy praying, like you did in those days, with your finger and thumb nipping the bridge of your nose. It was all the fashion then.

As she wasn’t on the end of the row he had to squeeze along to ask his question…

which was, ‘Ice-cream mammy, ice-cream?’

She tried at first to ignore him, but this was much too important, so he asked again,

‘Ice-cream mammy, ice-cream?’

So she tried to explain to him that he should go BACK to his place, as she was busy praying.

But he was not to be deterred…

‘Ice-cream mammy, ice-cream?’ obviously she hadn’t understood his need…

Needless to say at that point she left the church, in a rush, without the congregation having the pleasure of hearing him say his piece:

‘I am a little soldier,

I’m only three years old.

I mean to fight for Jesus

and wear a crown of gold!’

A different sort of fighting went on, as little Bobby was marched home, his bottom very sore; but you’ll be pleased to hear, he was able to say his piece the following week.

Vision, Courage, Skill, Perseverance and Strength of Character, all to found in one little lad who wanted an ice-cream.

Vision: he knew what he wanted to do, and where to go to achieve it.

Courage: He wasn’t afraid to move up and out from the crowd.

Skill: It didn’t matter that he couldn’t easily reach his goal, he manoeuvred his way inch by inch until he got where he needed to be to put his plan into action.

Perseverance: He wasn’t going to accept a ‘No’ answer, he was totally focussed, until his plan was fulfilled and the ice-cream was his.

Strength of Character: He knew the risk he was taking, putting his fear to one side, risking his mother’s wrath, and keeping his eyes on the goal.

Rather like the lady in our gospel reading today.

Today our parable is meant to say something of the character of God, but I rather like the part played by the woman in this story, and I’m going to stick with her for a while.

The judge was unjust, not a reliable man; he was irritated by this woman, and she, like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, she was not going to let go, until justice was hers.

In fact, the translation here is not quite accurate:-

It says that the unjust judge’s comment was :-

‘I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’

eventually wear me out can be better translated, ‘ lest in the end she bruise me!’

He is actually afraid the angry widow might physically attack him,

‘Hypopiaze’ does literally mean ‘strike under the eye’, in other words ‘give him a black eye.’

The judge seemed to be suggesting that rather than meet the widow at every street corner and crying out for justice, it would be better for his reputation and safer, if he granted her request.

In this poor widow we meet someone who takes action, knows what is right and just, keeps focussed and perseveres, until her mission is accomplished.

Is this not a message just for us here today in this church, which has been so hard hit recently…bereft of clergy, no-one in place yet, short staffed, vacancies to fill, funds to raise, illnesses, worries…?

What to do?

Exactly this …Persevere!

For will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? So the gospel goes?I tell you. He will quickly grant them justice.

IF…IF… we have this kind of attitude in prayer and in our commitment.

We’re not to lose heart, but continue praising our God, for His reputation is precious to him, even more so than an unjust judge.

Many people here have accepted the challenge to do that little more, and really stretch themselves, perhaps discover gifts they didn’t think they had. They say interregnums can be a real blessing!

But we must pace ourselves!

A sad sight recently on television, was when Paula Radcliffe came to a standstill in the marathon at the Olympic Games.

We were all willing her on, we realised she wouldn’t win the race, but we so much wanted her to finish the course.

In her we see the dangers of over stretching ourselves, and not working within our own limitations.

First: rather than simply being allowed to be a member of a team, she was given an enormous amount of publicity by the media before the race, so that everyone had great expectations of her. She was billed as the super-star. She had a lot to live up to.

Secondly: When the pressure was on, and she was overtaken, and she realised she wouldn’t be able to come up to people’s expectations of her, her mind started working negatively.

Thirdly: When she began to accept that she would not win, and she felt she would be letting a lot of people down…and she couldn’t cope, she was devastated and began to feel the sheer agony and pain of the effort she was making…

…and gave up.

We mustn’t allow ourselves to get worn out. We too must persevere, but we must be sensible and look after ourselves too, and seek to give support to one another as members of a team, and accept support from others.

The Lord is my Pacesetter…poem read out.

Our readings today urge us on, but rather than be Paula Radcliffes, I suggest we become more like star-fishes!

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A starfish’s favourite food is the oyster, which is exceedingly difficult to open.

So how does a starfish manage this difficult feat?

Well, it spreads itself out and attaches its feet to the top and the under-side of the oyster shell; having done this it exerts a very gentle pull.

The oyster, aware of this attempt to open it, immediately applies all of the power of its hings muscle to keep itself firmly shut.

The star-fish is not deterred; it just keeps on pulling very gently, hour after hour.

Eventually the oyster, just like the unjust judge, has to give in. It cannot keep up such a mighty effort indefinitely; the hinge muscle relaxes and the shell opens and the star-fish gets its reward.

So we too must do as the epistle directs us today…

And we too shall get our reward, like little soldiers, if we fight for Jesus, we’ll get our crowns of gold!

We need to keep up the gentle pressure; (even if we feel like giving up) continuing in what we have learned and in what we firmly believe.

To continue being inspired by scripture.

To keep up the gentle pressure of proclaiming the message, and persevering in our faith; not giving up trying to convince others, rebuking when it is needed, but most importantly of all encouraging one another, with the utmost patience.

And what about that ending to our gospel today?

And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth…

Let me ask a question, which is nearer to home,

When the new team rector comes… what will he find…? * I’m sure he will find a people of great faith and dedication, a real family that he will be proud to work alongside of.