One of my sustainable sermons (that’s the preacher term for ones we can recycle at a later date) is on Matthew 7:7-8. The lectionary passage is surely longer, but that’s the portion I preached on. To save you Googling or grabbing your bible, here it is:
Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened.
While not the point of the sermon, a point of the sermon is to call bullshit. Well, actually, it’s to call horse feathers. Because church. With little kids. I’m guessing most people who read that text would agree that most things don’t really work that way. Ask, and you’re turned down. Search, and you get lost. Knock, and no one’s home. It doesn’t make for a very promising Gospel, mostly because it’s too close to reality.
Less often than I probably should, I check on the legislative nightmares going on in Congress right now. The newest distracting or incendiary tweets receive just as much news, with Trump by far the most popular Tweeter. “Compassion fatigue” comes to mind as a possibility for the constant barrage; how much more can we manage to care when assaulted day in and day out?
This week, the fight to repeal and (not actually) replace the Affordable Care Act continues, along with political attacks on rights of trans people. I care about both deeply. The collective anxiety becomes a lot to bear, though. We’re only a few months deep, but we’re a few months deep in overwhelming collective anxiety. I keep pondering the story we tell.
Right now, we’re living in the parable of the persistent widow. In the story Jesus told, she receives justice because she keeps nagging the judge until he gives her what she deserved. Presumably, he gives justice begrudgingly. It’s pretty close to how we live. The other day, a friend and colleague called; we hadn’t talked in a while and she said, “Yes, I normally call my senators during my commute, but their offices are all closed right now.” It’s funny, but the standard expectation for many of us right now. We are the people of #neverthelessshepersisted
Some of my friends are the widow, the one who is asking, searching and knocking. Most, though, have mostly had what they needed given to them fairly easily. They haven’t had to ask or search or knock, hoping to rouse someone.
This ask, seek, knock text is from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus teaches us what the Reign of God should be. Rather than a command about we should be doing, what if it were a command about how we should respond? What if we started with the assumption that someone should be given what they ask for? Or find what they are searching for? Or have their knocks on doors answered?
That widow should never have needed to go to the judge more than once. Similarly, people should not have to ask for healthcare more than once. No one should knock on elected official’s doors and have it remain firmly locked. That’s the Reign of God. We need that reality in front of us if we are going to persist alongside the widow. We need that worldview as we continue to seek justice.