May I speak in the name of a creative God. Amen.

 

In any difficult time,

election season, say,

Or pledge season, for that matter –

Perhaps our biggest sin is our failure of imagination.

 

Why is it as humans

That we hear a limit – or a law, or a choice between two options –

And we immediately become incapable of thinking about anything else?

 

It’s easiest to see with toddlers:

Once they’ve been told what they can’t have,

They won’t settle for anything else.

They become not only persistent, but petulant.

In our two-party system,

It’s a difficult choice often derided to support a third party.

When a speaker reminds you that Scripture exhorts you to pledge 10%,

All of a sudden you only want to give 5.

 

The unnamed woman in today’s passage

Is an example in holy, imaginative persistence.

Day after day she seeks out the judge,

Pounding the pavement and stalking him through the streets to

Get justice.

 

I think it’s helpful, for a minute, to talk about what this passage is not,

And to try to lift the misogynistic lenses with which we might view this woman:

This is not a woman who is whining the loudest until she gets her way.

This is not a woman living in privilege

But still with the gall to complain about her first-world problems.

This woman is not a shrew whose chief skill is to shout down her opponent,

Wearing the judge down with her nagging,

Or by use of some set of “weaker” emotions,

As though any emotions should be considered weaker or feminine at all.

This woman is NOT an object lesson in how to complain the loudest and whine the longest to get the most attention until

No one can imagine anyone else’s problems but hers.

 

No, the text is clear in its simplicity:

She sought him day after day and made her case.

This is a woman of persistent imagination,

With a fire in her belly that won’t let her stay at home bemoaning her fate.

The woman who knows that what some call anger

Is actually the passion of love,

A longing for the shalom of a rightly ordered creation.

The anger she feels is in fact the slow burn for justice

That gives her the creativity and the strength

To go out and find this judge –

This man who fears neither God nor man –

And by her persistence force him to submit to the rightness of justice

 

This woman is deeply centered in what she knows to be right,

And from her centered-ness she seeks not her own advantage,

But Justice.

 

How different is Jacob!

His centered-ness is self-centered,

Always taking advantage of his brother Esau or his father Isaac or his uncle Laban.

Rather than go out to seek justice,

He sends his family on before,

Seeking to placate his brother Esau –

Esau who is himself a victim of Jacob’s own scheming and injustice,

And who is now his judge.

Jacob’s actions treat his wives and livestock and children as disposable,

Mere tools used to find out whether his brother will receive him favorably or not.

Left finally all alone to wrestle with the inner demons

And the unjust choices of his past,

He encounters instead a man,

A shadowy vision of God,

And begs not for justice

But a personal blessing to guard him against whatever may come.

 

 

Sitting around the table at an Episcopal youth camp in North Carolina,

One of the other youth leaders asked a group of us who was our favorite celebrity.

The teens’ answers were mostly who you’d expect:

LeBron James, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Barack Obama.

I ended up saying that my favorite “celebrity,”

Is a man named Bob Goff.

And when they all just stared at me, I had to explain:

Bob Goff wrote this book called Love Does,

And he’s the best kind of crazy.

My favorite story about him is how he got into law school:

In college, his grades were not, shall we say, his primary concern.

But as he came to graduation,

He decided he wanted to go to law school.

So he signed up and showed up to take the LSAT,

And realized that maybe he was in for more than he had bargained for:

Listening to other people recount their hours of studying

And all they money they spent on test prep,

He tried not to panic… since he hadn’t done any of it.

But he took the test anyway…

And got a terrible score.

So: poor grades, awful LSAT score… and yet he still got into law school.

 

This is what he did:

Starting about a month before classes started,

Every day he drove to the law school he wanted to attend

And sat outside the Dean’s office.

And when the Dean came in for the day,

Bob would say to him:

“You know, I really want to go to this law school.

And you’re the one who controls whether I get in or not.

So all you have to do is tell me to go buy my books

And then I’ll be a law student.”

Every day for a month he was there,

Asking the dean to send him to buy his books.

The first week of classes went by,

And still Bob was there.

The second week of classes went by,

And still Bob sat outside the Dean’s office, every day.

Some time in the third week of classes, the Dean looked at him and finally said:

“OK. Go buy your books.”

Led by a holy imagination to embrace persistence,

Bob Goff became a lawyer, an innovative school founder,

A diplomat, and the honorary UN Consul to Uganda

 

 

Today I proclaim to you this good news:

Each person in this room has an imagination.

And today I ask – and even urge you – to let it run wild:

 

What holy mischief can you imagine

To ease the political fear around us,

And within us?

What talent or treasure can you make use of at St. John’s,

To aid all of us to become a stronger voice,

A more centered force for justice?

 

May we all be like this unnamed woman,

And find within our center

The anger at the way things are

That is really a love

And a longing

For the shalom of a rightly ordered creation.

And may we ask the Holy Spirit of our Creative God

To work through our persistence

To create

Justice.         Amen.