I was thinking about the concept of trust. What do you trust? If you think about it, we go through our life trusting a lot of things. We trust that the architects did a good job in designing this building. We trust that the materials used to make the ceiling will hold up and not come crashing down upon us. We trust that our car breaks will work and we trust that the other guy’s brakes will also work. We trust a lot of things will happen to keep us safe.
To go through live we HAVE to trust in a lot of things. But what about people? Can we get through life without trusting people? And if we do trust people, who are the people that we trust? Now this is no little question! We may say we trust our spouse. We may say we trust our coworkers. We may say we trust our children or our parents. We may say we trust our fellow congregants. We may say this, but do we really trust these people? We may be willing to trust people with little thing, but are we willing to trust others with the things we consider to be important? Are we willing to trust, or do we want to do it ourselves to make sure it is done the way WE want it to be done.
I think we are willing to trust up to a point, but when things get really serious, we want to do things ourselves. We want to make sure that it gets done the way we want it done. Small things, we are ok with letting others do, but the big things we want to control; we don’t want to be at the mercy of the faults and foibles of others. Although we may say we trust people, I find we usually want to make sure that things are done our way. This is the way of our world. We live in the world of the Lone Ranger. But God did not put us in the world to go it alone; God put us here to be part of community. God put us here to be among believers. God put us here to trust in God.
Do we really trust God?
In our first reading this morning, we have the story of Jacob. We may remember some things about Jacob: He was the second born of twins. He traded a bowl of stew to receive the birthright from his older brother Esau. And finally, he tricked his dying father, Isaac, into giving the blessing to him,, the younger brother, instead of giving it to Esau, the one to whom it rightly belonged.
Jacob didn’t trust that God would be with him. He wanted to make sure he got the blessing, he wanted to make sure he got the birthright. He would scheme and trick to make sure he got the best.
As you could guess, all of this trickery caused problems in Jacob’s life. Matter of fact, Jacob’s name was a constant reminder of his treachery. You see, the name Jacob means “The Supplanter;” he supplanted his brother’s birthright and he supplanted his brother’s blessing. And as we begin the Genesis reading for today, Jacob is returning home after fleeing twenty years earlier after securing Esau’s birthright.
In the reading, Jacob has prayed that God would give him deliverance from Esau after Jacob heard that Esau was going to meet him along with 400 men. I find it interesting that it is only when faced with an almost impossible problem does Jacob finally reach out to God. When Jacob has no way of tricking his way out of something, then he goes to God. In response to Jacob’s prayer, God sends an angel.
Why doesn’t God just make things better for Jacob? Why all of thise wrestling? Jacob had to struggle with God. Jacob had to hold God to God’s word. Jacob had to rely on God instead of relying on his own trickery. And when Jacob relied on God, when Jacob struggled with God, well, first off, his name was changed. It was changed from Jacob, “The Supplanter,” to Israel, which means “One Who Strives With God.” And then Israel receives a blessing. We are not told exactly what the blessing was, but we know that Israel’s meeting with Esau ends in reconciliation and we also know that Israel will become the father of nations. So Israel is blessed, not through trickery or deception, but through holding God to God’s promise.
In our gospel reading, we learn more of what it means to trust in God.
It would be easy to just write this parable off as a call to nag God. We could see the widow as someone who just keeps nagging until those around become so tired that they give in. But that would be to forget about the judge.
The judges of Biblical times were to defend widows. Widows had no power in the community so it was the mandate of the judges to see that they were cared for. But this judge did not care. He had no fear of what would happen to him so he couldn’t have cared less if he defended the widow or not. It was only when the widow had annoyed the judge enough that the judge finally gives the widow justice.
However, God is not some unjust judge. God cares deeply about the widow and the orphan. God cares deeply about the poor and the homeless. God cares deeply about you and about me. And because God cares, we do not need to badger God.
We are to remain faithful. We are to put our trust into God. We need to remember that Jesus tells us that this parable shows us that we are to pray and not give up. When God seems slow in responding, we are to remember that it is not that God is unjust or God is slow. When God seems to be far away, we are to wait faithfully and prayerfully. We can wrestle with God, but in the end, we need to maintain our persistence in faith.
Often people will twist the parable of the widow and the unjust judge to point the finger when prayers do not seem to be answered. People will say that the man dies of the heart attack because he did not pray enough. Or they might say that the woman has not found a job because she is not faithful enough. But that is not what the parable is saying. The parable is giving us insight into a loving God, not a petty god.
Jacob had something to learn as he wrestled with the angel. He had to learn that what he could grasp for himself through trickery and deceit were so much less than God had planned for him. He had to learn that in relying solely on God was the way to be truly blessed. And it was through the struggle that the blessing came.
We may not know what we have to learn. We may not know what blessings may come. But we are invited to struggle with our feelings of being abandoned. We are invited to wrestle with God and hold God accountable to God’s promise of love and forgiveness. We are to struggle but we are also to remain faithful. This struggle is not easy. My own personal experience tells me that there will be times when God seems distant and faithfulness is difficult. But even when God seems far we are to still remain faithful. We are to remain prayerful. We are to trust.
God wants to give us blessing. God wants us to rely on him. God wants us to remain faithful even when times are difficult. It is not easy to continue when the world looks like it is against us, but we need to remember that the widow, in the face of injustice, continued to plead her case and ask for justice. When times are difficult, we need to remain faithful and it is when we struggle through the difficulties that God shows us the blessings.