Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

July 24, 2022


Several years ago when I was in discernment,

I was assigned to a small parish church in north Alabama for a time.

Rob and I began worshipping there and I worked at the church,

leading a bible study, preaching, and going to vestry meetings.

I began a ladies bible study group.

The priest at that church happily supported this group and

Was delighted to hear that one particular woman

began coming to the weekly study,

as she’d be absent from most offerings at the parish for some time now.

This woman was quiet for the most part,

but I noticed that when she did speak up,

it was to question what I had to say

or comment that people didn’t follow what the bible said,

or point out the contradictions between the gospel stories.

I wondered if the priest’s delight came from knowing her propensity to argue, and that I would have a challenge to deal with.


Our goal was to read all the way through Luke’s gospel, no skipping around.

To take on two chapters a week.

I knew this gospel the best, and love it the most.

Luke is an artist with his words,

beginning with the beauty of the nativity story.

Luke tells parts that the other gospels don’t,

Like how Elizabeth and Mary spent time together when they were expecting, conspiring that one day their sons will change the world.


Luke includes the names of many women who followed Jesus.

Wealthy women like Joanna, the wife of Chuza (a steward of Herod),

Susanna, who is named after the strong and enduring Old Testament legend, Susanna, from the book of Daniel,

and of Mary Magdalene from the thriving

synagogue-centered town of Magdala.

Luke includes stories of woman as good examples:

The poor woman who gives her last two coins to the temple,

Martha’s sister Mary who Jesus commends for choosing to sit and listen

Rather than busy herself serving food and cleaning,

And the parable of persistent woman who will not stop argung with the judge until she obtains justice.


These stories are especially significant to tell,

because much of the stories and names of women

who backed the early Christian movement were scrubbed from history. Important not just for men and women in 21st century,

but hugely important for woman in 1st century to hear

Luke proclaim the spreading of the gospel, the good news,

needed everyone, men and women.

This inclusiveness counters the many harmful biblical references to women, such as we heard from the prophet HOSEA today,

comparing faithless Israel to woman of ill repute!


Hosea was a prophet who wrote about

the monarchs in middle of 8th Century BCE.

Of all the Metaphorical language used in the bible

to speak about Israel not being faithful to God,

this one is up there amongst the hardest to hear.


Hosea uses the image of the “unfaithful” woman

to describe Israel’s disloyalty to God.

Charles did an admirable job reading this difficult passage.

I want to be clear here: this text is not about human sex life,

not written to teach about the propensity for men or women

to have affairs on their partners which break up marriages.

Hosea is not speaking about human behavior in any way

to teach that God uses suffering to get his ways.   


The Old Testament reading we heard today is about this prophet

using harsh language (some say, soap opera language)

to say God is unhappy with the brokenness of society,

with the ways humans replace God with money or goods,

and in the end to say God will not abandon, even such as these.

God will restore.  


In the bible study I was teaching that summer, years ago,

I pointed out that Luke’s gospel so lovingly gave women a respectful place.

We read diligently through the first few chapters,

me fumbling a few times through passages when questioned

why Luke’s stories seemed to differ from Matthew or Mark’s story.

When we got to this passage in Luke, the one we read today,

where Jesus’ disciples ask him “teach us to pray,”

the inquiring woman in the class asked,

“Why do we say this prayer out loud, together?

Jesus preached that when you pray go into your bedroom, pray alone.

And there your father in heaven will reward you.”

Huh, I thought quietly to myself, ‘that’s right.’

But I wanted to tell her, that’s not written here in Luke.

That’s Matthew gospel, but I realized I’d be making her point.

How come this story is different?


Some experience later would teach me to ask the whole class the same,

Why do you think the stories are different?

Instead, I embarked upon some reasoning…

That Matthew in constructing his story of the good news,

combines much of Jesus’ teaching and into the sermon on the Mount.

That in John’s gospel we see similar long passages

where Jesus just teaches for chapter after chapter.  

But Luke and Mark keep much of Jesus’ teaching

within the context of traveling

and experiencing different people

and teaching on the road.


That each of the gospel writers

have their own writing style and fascinatingly, they have different audiences.

Matthew remembers Jesus using the Lord’s prayer

to teach against hypocrites who pray on the street corner.

Jesus says prayer that is self-congratulating is not prayer.

Luke tells us that the disciples saw Jesus in prayer so often…

And they sincerely longed to be taught how to pray.


In the end, I’m not sure how well I answered her question.

But I do remember we had a good discussion on prayer—

Which is just what the Lord’s prayer is intended to do.

Straight out of the mouth of Jesus,

this holy prayer

is a prayer that teaches us to pray.


Jesus says, when you pray

begin by Naming God, recall God’s holiness

then we should Ask God, as God’s own children—

Give us….

Forgive us…

(We pray it together, by the way, because Jesus gave it to us in the Plural….)

Lead us…

Deliver us….


Jesus teaches in this prayer, We are all in this together.

We can only be saved together.


Jesus teaches us to pray without fear. To Pray BOLDLY.

I’ve often heard others say

The Lord’s prayer is a dangerous prayer…and I agree.

It is Dangerous, because (1) it names our own responsibility in sin…

“And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.”

We are plainly called to forgive in order to ask forgiveness.

Luke remembers Jesus using money in this prayer

as way to understand how MUCH we must forgive.

We are indebted to God for everything;

that is how much we owe.

Forgive us that amount, God.


This is a Dangerous prayer also,

because it tells us to pray

to upend the kingdom under which we live.

THY kingdom come.

THY will be done.


We are praying for God’s rule to take over on this earth.

For us to let go of the things we hold on to so tightly,

and pray with our lives as well as our lips.

In the Lord’s prayer we are invited to see the world as Jesus sees.


Teach us how to pray, the disciples ask.

Jesus says, pray bravely, boldly, with your words and with your actions.

Teach us how to pray, the disciples ask.

Jesus shows them, pray often, sometimes quietly and alone,

sometimes amongst thousands,

giving thanks and always remembering God as Father of all—

all of us as one.

Teach us how to pray, the disciples ask.

Jesus tells them a story: be persistent in prayer.

Like one who’d wake up a neighbor to save his own honor.

Like the woman in front of a judge shamelessly asking for justice.

God hears your prayers.


Several of you heard me say that the Episcopal chaplain

at general convention in Baltimore was an amazing priest,

from South Africa. Father Lester MacKenzie.

He prayed for us before each day,

before difficult matters we were deciding,

at times of thanksgiving, affirming the joy of being partners with God.


The chaplain always ended his prayers

recognizing not only our need to pray—

to build our relationship with our loving God,

but also,    God’s delight in our prayers.


We bring all this before you God, because,

we know, you love it when we pray. You who taught us to pray,

we know you love it when we pray.