Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

The Pest

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

October 20:

Call:    Luke 18: 1-8
Text:    2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5
Prophet: Jeremiah 31: 27-34

Like James Bond gracefully sliding up to a bar in an elegant hotel
And ordering by saying,
   "I'll have a martini - shaken, not stirred,

This Thursday, we are going to - hopefully, but not necessarily, gracefully -
Slide up to the Bible in this church or at Mayfield rather than in an elegant hotel,
and order by saying
      "I'll have a Parable - with a twist."

Although to be accurate, what we really should be saying is,
   "I'll have a Parable - and I will provide the twist."

For the parables were and are interactive
   Long before computers, smart phones, and smart TVs

And as we read them interactively
   We provide something to them
      From our experiences and from our observations
      From our knowledge and from our character.

That is why the brief - it is only three weeks long - Bible Study
   That begins on Thursday
   Is an experiment in interacting with Christ's parables

      By seeing where we fit in
And   By trying to rewrite them as if they took place
in the 21st century.

This Bible study comes at a good time because
   For the last several weeks we have, in our worship services
examined parabolic texts.

This morning we visit still another parable
   And it is sort of a prelude to the study
Because it provides us with an opportunity to test our reactions

For, as we have noted several times.
   Christ expected his contemporary listeners to react
   And He expects us to react
      With our emotions
      As well as - actually more than - with our minds.

We begin that process, of course, with the text itself
   But when I finish reading it,
   I will pause for roughly five seconds
During which, I want you to take note of what your immediate reaction was.

During those five seconds
I do not want you to try to figure the parable out
I do not want you to try to logically understand
what Christ was saying
I do not want you to defend or alter your immediate reaction
   I do not want you to say to yourselves
      "When I took a Bible study some years ago
      I was told that the parable means such and such."

What I want is for you to identify that reaction for yourselves
What I want is for you to respond with your gut - not your brain.

After that brief respite
   I will read another text to you
   This second text is also a parable

In fact, the second parable is what I call
   A fraternal twin to the first one

And again, I will give you five seconds
   To identify your reaction.

Let's begin:   Luke 18: 1-8         [How did you react?]

Now to the fraternal twin: Luke 11: 5-8   [How did you react?]

I don't know about you,
   But my immediate reaction to both
      Was that I found the two women to be pests
      I found both of them somewhat irritating

But what is really irritating is that Jesus is using those two pests
   As an example for me.

He is telling me that in terms of my relationship with God
   And particularly my prayer relationship with God
I should be like them!     I should be like the pests!

And so the rest of my immediate reaction is
   "They are too annoying.  I don't want to be like them."

After all, like most parents,
   I have gotten irritated with my children
      When they continually pester me

And thus - and again like most parents -
I have exasperatedly uttered those familiar words,
"If you ask me one more time, you will not get what you want!"

And Jesus is telling me that in terms of prayer
   I should be like my pestering children
   And like the irritating women in the parables.

But      that is only my immediate reaction
   I believe, though     that is the reaction Jesus wants us to have.

For it grabs our attention and makes us think about it.

And so as I reflect, my irritation begins to soften.

I begin to recognize that
the woman who pestered the unjust judge is actually
somewhat heroic
Sort of like Jimmy Stewart in
"Mr. Smith goes to Washington."

I begin to recognize that the woman who wakes her neighbor
   Is doing so to be hospitable
to an apparently unexpected guest
- as she was expected to   in her culture.

And then my rational mind takes me one step further

I begin to recognize that what Jesus was doing here
   Was reasoning from the lesser to the greater.
   From the less likely to the more likely.

What he is saying is:
   That if an unjust judge and a sleeping neighbor
      Will give a pest what he/she needs
   How much easier is it to be confident that
God, who loves us dearly
Will give those of us who are persistent in prayer what
we need.

That is logical, rational, reasoning.
But parables are more than logic and reasoning

They involve, as we have noted before,
   Feelings, emotions, and guts

And thus,
to get me to experience - not just intellectually understand -
      The message Jesus is trying to get across to you and me
I needed one more thing.

I had to feel it.
I had to experience it.

For me that meant putting myself in the role of the sleeping neighbor
   (appropriately enough:  on Pillow Sunday)

For despite my awareness of my own imperfections
   I cannot relate to the role of the unjust judge

As I did so,
   I looked back on my own life.

While practicing law,
   Several times a year my phone would ring in the middle of the night with a call from a client who had been arrested.
   One time I heard pounding on the door of my house
      I looked at the clock.
      It was 3:00 in the morning
   I tossed my robe on and went to the door
      There I found two young women
      "Eddie's been arrested" they said

I still get middle of the night phone calls on occasion
   While in Massena, I once got a call.
   "Jim, this is Joan, can you come to the hospital?"

   A couple of years ago, I got a call from an old friend at
about 6:00 AM
   "Jim, my wife died, can you help me out?"

   I helped Eddie out in the middle of the night
   Across the years I helped dozens of others as well
   I went to the hospital for Joan
      And on my way, I realized that I had never asked which of her family members was the patient.
   And I did the funeral for my friend's wife

As I thought about my own experiences
   I began to realize that
despite my sighing "Oh, no!"
when I first heard the phone ring
   I had taken those calls (and that door pounding) seriously.
      And I had responded to them.

The persistence and pleading of those who called or knocked
   Had been rewarded.  Their needs had been met.

And then at last     I understood emotionally and with feeling
what Christ is saying,
as he reasoned from the lesser to the greater
and the less likely to the more likely

What he is saying is:
   That if someone as flawed as Jim Barnes
      Will give a pest what he/she needs
   How much easier is it to be confident that
God, who loves us dearly
Will give those of us who are persistent in prayer what
we need.

Paul understood this.

In the words he wrote to Timothy
   (words that called us to worship today)
he gave this instruction,
   "I solemnly urge you:
proclaim the message;
be persistent
   whether the time is favorable or unfavorable ..."

In words he wrote in the earliest of his preserved letters
   He instructed the Thessalonians
      To "pray without ceasing." [1 Thess 5:17]

In the fraternal twin parables
And in Paul's letters
   We are taught that persistent prayer
      Provides us with both comfort and hope.

Comfort and hope were present many years before Christ.
   Especially in the prophets.

Prophets like Jeremiah through whom God declared
   "The days are surely coming
   when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah

   It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt
a covenant that they broke though I was their husband, says the Lord.

But this is the covenant that I will make ...
   I will put my law within them
   And I will write it on their hearts
      And I will be their God
      And they shall be my people."

That covenant was sealed by the blood of the one who told us through the fraternal twin parables
   To be persistent and pest-like in prayer
   And to not give up hope.

That's a pretty good lesson.

It even makes bearable
my knowing that people all week long have read,
      "The Pest      Rev. Jim Barnes"
as they walked, biked, and drove past our sign.

Although it was not originally planned that way
   Now that I have reflected on what Christ was saying to us
   I hope that in terms of my prayer relationship with God
I can earn that description.