The prophet Jeremiah, was charged to bring good news to the people of God living in exile. He seems to do an amazing job. Jeremiah brings a word of comfort and of challenge. He brings words to encourage people trying hard to maintain their identity, trying to practice all that they had been taught from an early age, all the things that made them distinctive as God’s people. As they worked hard to discern God’s purpose for them— or even as they wrestled with the worry that God had abandoned them— the prophet assures them of God’s faithfulness.
Jeremiah introduces them to a new facet of God. It’s a bit like a “God for Dummies.” A God who is not hard to fathom out. A God whose only desire is to see the people do well, living in harmony, without fear. A God whose ways are easy to follow because those ways make perfect sense. They are not complicated, no twists or tricks but straightforward, down to earth, right living.
No longer, the prophet tells them, will you have to struggle to see God or to learn of God’s ways or to discern God’s purpose— those things will be as instinctive as life itself, as integral as breathing. God’s law will be written on your hearts. The widow who harangues Jesus in the gospel reading had an expectation that justice would prevail because it forms part of God’s law of love that is written on the hearts of God’s people. So she refused to give up demanding justice.
Imagine how different the world would be today if we lived within that reality— the reality of being the people of God, having God’s law written on our hearts, practising justice because that is what the law demands. A God for dummies, indeed. And yet, Christians do not yet instinctively obey God because the teaching has been written in our hearts. We still wait for this time when God will enable us to be in relationship.
The passages this week lend themselves to a treatment of how our circumstances and our inward disposition affect our faith. It would be wise not to pass by the clever humour of the Luke passage in our rush to come up with theology for our time. Have we the ability to mimic the long-suffering look on the face of the judge? Even the use of the callous judge to represent God creates some humour and some surprise. Jesus’ parable uses exaggeration to make its point.
I wonder if the passage from Luke is telling us that we need to pray because God— who may not actually care— might hear and answer just to avoid our annoying requests! God does care, of course, and so we can approach God in prayer. God does care, so we do not have to give up in despair. The parable does not give us license to pray for whatever we want, but for justice, for the right thing. We pray for justice for ourselves and for others. Even with no answer, we continue in prayer because we trust God. A God for dummies, indeed.