1. The story is told that one day, Bishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador was approached by the daughter of one of the wealthy families in his country. She was going to give birth soon, and she would be honored if he would celebrate the baptism.
2. Romero had known this family for years, and even socialized with them before he became bishop. He said he would be overjoyed to celebrate the baptism, and that she should register with the parish office at the Cathedral for one of the baptismal services he would be celebrating.
3. The young woman paused, and then added that she was hoping for a . . . private baptism.
4. When Romero explained that he would love to but that his schedule precluded his celebrating private baptisms
5. She erupted with anger, proclaiming that he should do this for her after all her family had done for him and that there was NO WAY her baby was going to be baptized in the same water as those indios.
6. This was just one step in a long journey for Archbishop Romero, from being a favorite of the powerful and wealthy of El Salvador’s ruling class, to becoming one of South America’s most important leaders in the struggle for the rights of the poor indigenous peoples of his country.
7. His words are still quoted and the movement he supported persists to this day.
8. For some he was a prophet honored for his persistent calls for human dignity and justice.
9. For others he was a dangerous revolutionary, reviled for his persistent challenge of the social order.
10. Needless to say, for everyone he was controversial. And it is easy to understand why. For
11. Have you ever met persistent people, who would not rest until justice was done?
a. I am sure you have. For they don’t just live among the poor of central America.
i. They are the ones who block the sidewalk outside of businesses,
1. Protesting their unfair hiring policies,
ii. When we are just trying to walk down the crowded street
iii. They are the ones fighting for immigrants’ rights
1. When so many wish they would all just go back where they came from
iv. They are the ones who stand up at community board meetings
v. Stand in front of churches
vi. Stand in front of clinics and hospitals
1. Fighting for the justice they believed is being denied there
vii. When the rest of us just wish they would give up, shut up and go home.
12. In short they are that woman in the story Jesus tells us today.
a. A widow, a person without rights in Jesus’ society, yet
b. Nonetheless she pesters a judge for justice –
c. a judge who, by his own admission, has no respect for anyone, not even God yet
d. Nevertheless, because she is so persistent, he relents and gives her the justice she insists upon.
13. The Gospel of Luke sees this story as an example of persistence in prayer.
a. And I suppose, that is part of it.
b. But if that is how Jesus originally saw this story, well then,
i. Jesus makes God out to be nothing more than a blasphemous Judge
ii. Makes us out to be nothing more than a bunch of nags
iii. And makes prayer nothing more than a persistent demand for what we think we deserve.
14. No, to see the story of the persistent woman
a. as a lesson in how to pray teaches us only one thing;
i. that if we nag God enough, God will give in!
b. A strange lesson that; because that makes us more powerful than God;
i. not exactly something that Jesus taught.
15. But that is not how JESUS originally saw this story;
a. he did not see God in the blasphemous judge
i. Nor for that matter, in the nagging woman;
b. he did not see successful prayer as persistent nagging
i. Nor for that matter as the power to change God’s mind.
16. he saw God in the whole story;
a. that if even in this world, so filled with injustice and suffering,
i. Justice still can be done,
b. Well then God will certainly see to it that it is.
i. Giving us maybe not everything we want
ii. but certainly what we deserve – the very definition of justice.
17. The thing is, Jesus asks at the end of the Gospel,
18. when justice is finally done for God’s people,
a. will there be anyone around to recognize who it was who actually has brought it to pass?
19. In short will there be any faith?
20. You see for Jesus that is the crucial question.
a. Because he does not doubt that God’s justice will be done;
b. He doubts that we will have the faith to know it when it is.
21. Faith is important.
a. Faith opens up our eyes to see things the way God sees them.
22. To see in that judge not an obstacle but a challenge to work for justice
23. To see in that woman not a nag but a persistent prophet crying out for justice.
24. To see in ourselves that people of faith called by Jesus to work persistently for justice, so that
the world finally becomes a place where all people are valued and respected and are treated as nothing less than children of God.
25. Such change does not come easily. Change never does.
26. Jesus’ persistent calls for the kingdom of God, where justice would be done on earth as it is in heaven, got him killed as a dangerous revolutionary, or as his accusers claimed, a wannabe “King of the Jews”.
27. And Archbishop Romero’s persistent calls for justice on behalf of his people got him assassinated at mass with a group of nuns.
28. There are many who thought then, as now, that that would be it. Kill the leader and you kill the movement.
29. But the crucifixion was not the end of Jesus, and thus that kingdom and the justice it promises is still prayed and fought for. Not the least of which by Archbishop Romero!
a. It is the reason our church built hospitals and schools, supported the poor and fought for workers’ rights, it is why to this day we are persistent in our demand that all human life be valued and protected.
b. IT is the reason that no one remembers the names of those military strong men who had Romero murdered, but the world knows the man they killed; St. Oscar Romero.
30. Such victories take persistence to achieve, of that there is no doubt. But according to Jesus they take something else. They take faith.
31. Faith to see those victories even in the face of defeat as part of something bigger:
32. God working through our persistence, to make the world into the place God would have it be.