Reformation Sunday is two weeks away. We’re starting to think about why we’re Lutherans, why we stand firm on The Bible, on Law and Gospel, why we study Luther’s Catechism and take it to heart. But we also think about all he endured for his confession. It’s a miracle he didn’t get killed for his faith. Many did, like Bohemia’s John Huss 100 years before or the two youths whose martyrdom in Brussels inspired him to write his first hymn, part of which appears as TLH 259, “Flung to the Heedless Winds.” But he did suffer much, whether exile in a mighty fortress or the vile tongues and pens of many throughout Europe.
So how did he survive? How did he manage to pray always? How did he manage to not lose heart and give up The Faith? He’d probably tell us: “Don’t look at me. Philip and I just drank good Lutheran beverages and The Spirit did the work.” Yes, it wasn’t that Martin Luther managed to survive. Christ Crucified gave Him the strength to remain firm in The Faith, to speak of His testimonies before kings and not be ashamed, and finally he received his eternal reward.
Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow to teach us that God wants us to always pray to Him and not lose heart. He doesn’t want us to give up, to stop praying or trusting Him. He wants us to treat Him like the lady in today’s parable treated that judge. Since there was a certain judge in a certain city, let’s imagine it takes place in “Anywhere, USA.” Picture yourself there in her place, before a judge. It’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world. You don’t want to be there. The judge knows you don’t want to be there. You’re at his mercy. And who knows if he wants to have mercy. He may just be there because it’s a way to get a paycheck or he likes to control people.
Yet this woman kept coming to him. She didn’t stop. She was annoying him. He didn’t like it. She was doing it so much he was afraid he’d get worn out. That’s right, he realized she was going to wear him out until he died of exhaustion. Finally he gave in. It was either that or lose everything. He didn’t want to do it because he honestly couldn’t care less. He was his own god, so he didn’t bother to wonder if God might punish him for not doing the right thing. And he was a lone wolf, so he didn’t care if people thought he was doing a bad job because he ignored her – the job was his for life, they couldn’t vote him out. But he finally did what she deserved. He finally vindicated her. He knew she was right the whole time, but just didn’t care. Finally he came through, solely because he was sick of her.
God wants you to be like her. Don’t stop praying to Him. Don’t give up on Him. Don’t ever think He’s not listening to you. Don’t ever think He’s abandoned you. He won’t get sick of you. You can’t annoy Him. So don’t lose heart. Persevere. Don’t give in to the world when it tells you the grass is greener on the other side, the side that despises His Word and refuses to do what He says. Don’t listen to your flesh, which tells you when you’re in trouble that if God loved you this wouldn’t be happening to you. Don’t listen to the devil, who desperately wants you to turn your back on God. Don’t listen to that unholy threesome.
Listen to God instead. Listen to Him Who has given you His Word, Sacred Scripture, to teach you the way to salvation, a way that begins with confession of sin and continues with confession of faith in The Gospel. Listen to Him Who tells you how to live as His own dear child and guides you as well. Listen to Him Who died for you to rescue you from sin and give you eternal life. Why? Because that’s why God must listen to your prayers. What did Jesus say at the end of His parable? “And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily.” Why will He do that?
Because He already has done just that. He promises to hear you because He heard His Christ, His chosen one. For He cried out to Him from The Cross, even when He was completely forsaken by His Father. He didn’t cry out to His killers in an attempt to get them to pry Him off His Cross. Instead He cried out to His Father to save Him. He was killed for sins He did not commit by a wicked people. He went as a lamb silent to the slaughter. But He cried out to His Father for justice, for resurrection from the dead. And His Father did not let Him down. On the third day, He rose again from the dead.
He was put to death for sins He did not commit by a wicked people, but He handed Himself over unto death for the sins you commit. He was innocent of sin, and no guile was found in His mouth, but He bore your sins in His Body on The Cross. He bore you in Him. You have been drowned with Him in His Death and come out of the water with Him in His Resurrection – all because you are baptized in His Name.
You are baptized in His Name. That means you’re branded with His Name. He’s written His Name on you, written it on you with the sign of the cross. Don’t think He doesn’t know this. He’s the true baptizer. The pastor, or whoever baptized you, only did it in Jesus’ stead and at His command. Jesus was speaking. Jesus was dipping His hands in the water and pouring it over you. Jesus was making you a dear child of our heavenly Father. Jesus did it all.
So He knows you belong to Him and He will listen to you. He is your dear Father. You are His dear child. He won’t tune you out. He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. That doesn’t mean He’s really exhausted today. It means He’s paying very close attention to you. He knows whatever’s going wrong in your life right now. He even knows every hair on your head.
He knows those who are His. He knows you are His. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t forget. You may not remember your baptism if you were just a few days old, but He remembers it. You weren’t even around when you were saved, but He remembers it like it was a second ago, because you were saved when He died. And don’t think He doesn’t hear your cries, because He was forsaken by His Father so that His ears would always be open to you. He also knows that soon you will receive justice when He raises you from the dead to live forever with Him, and all your troubles will be gone forever. So how should you respond? (TLH 444:1)
Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you, O Christians, lest the Foe destroy you For Satan has designed your fall. Wield God’s Word, a weapon glorious! Against each foe you’ll be victorious; Our God will set you o’er them all. Is Satan strong and fell? Here is Immanuel. Sing hosanna! The strong ones yield, With Christ our Shield, And we as conqu’rors hold the field.