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Don't Give Up!


Rev. Kristi Denham
Congregational Church of Belmont
October 16, 2016

The story of the widow and the unjust judge is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Luke emphasized the role of women in Jesus’ life and in the life of his followers more than the other gospels. He tells the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. He shares the inner thoughts and feelings of women at his birth and throughout his ministry. He gives us the Magnificat of Mary with its vision for justice in the world.

Luke also is known for his emphasis on shared meals and on justice for the poor. Many stories are told at gatherings of Jesus’ friends and even in the homes of his accusers. Luke reveals Jesus as a man concerned with the poor, the oppressed, the basic needs of all. It may be one of the last gospels to be written but it is definitely a favorite!

The widow is unnamed and may well be an iconic figure, a stand-in, for all the poor and needy and unjustly treated people with no power that filled the world in Jesus’ day and in our own. She is also an archetype of courage and determination. Her children need her to be strong. She needs justice and refuses to be denied. We don’t know her specific circumstances but it is likely that as the lowest of the low in a hierarchical system that existed then, as it does now, she was desperate for the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, safety.

Luke turns the story into an example of how to pray. Although comparing an unjust judge with God is problematic, we are encouraged to never give up in asking for what we truly need.

The Apostle Paul tells us to “Pray without ceasing,” which in Greek is better translated as “Pray with the persistence of a hacking cough!”

It is good to have the courage of this widow even before God. We can say “Thy will be done,” and mean it! But we can also trust that if a desire is deep in our hearts and meets our basic survival needs, we should never give up praying for it.

And sometimes prayers are best expressed by actions! We are reminded elsewhere that it is not enough to pray that the hungry are fed or the needy find shelter, we must act on their behalf. We must act on our own behalf as well. The best prayers have feet!

And as we recover from all our work on Chocolate Fest this “Chocolate Sunday,” we can acknowledge that the work we do at this event gives feet to our prayers for others. The money we raise and the way we work together is prayer in action for our community and those in need that we serve through the funds we raise.

Today, and next Sunday, throughout San Mateo County, faith leaders have pledged to lift up the Housing Crisis as a moral issue in our midst. A County task force has been working for the last several years to find ways to address what has become a huge crisis in our midst. Job opportunities are growing rapidly in our area. From 2010 to 2014, 54,500 new jobs have been created, but only 2100 new housing units. And 75% of San Mateo County is designated as open space. Of the remaining 25%,  2/3 of all the housing is single family dwellings. We need to increase the supply and diversity of housing here.

The cost of homes is now three times the state wide average, $1.25 million is the median value. And the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now $2734, for a two-bedroom apartment it’s $3409.

And there is a unique challenge for San Mateo County in the diversity of cities each with their own priorities and often supported by the wealthy who see no problem and don’t want more traffic in their neighborhoods or more units in exiting homes.

What can we do?

Measure Q for San Mateo City Residence would allow for some control over the huge increases in rents and evictions for no cause that have impacted several in our own community. Rev. Penny Nixon, my colleague at CCSM has signed on in support of this measure and has gotten considerable flack from her church even though she signed not for the church but as an individual. I would have signed if I had been asked. I will vote Yes and I encourage you to do the same. I respect our differences and look forward to conversations on any issues on which we may disagree.

If you have an extra room in your house, consider sharing it. I have a second bedroom that I have now opened to Michele Shirakura to rent while she searches for an apartment closer to her new job at the VA.
Alie Sobczak, a representative from HIP Housing will be available after church to tell us more about this program that matches folks in need of housing with folks with space to share. It is a benefit to those in need. It also provides extra income to those who are able to help.

If you are a homeowner perhaps now is the time to learn about adding an extra unit to your property. Do we want to pursue doing that here at the church?

Our own Steve Chamberlin is a member of the Belmont City Planning Commission and I have asked him to share with us a little of what is happening locally on this issue. Steve? (Briefly Steve reiterated the challenge we face and the steps that Belmont it taking to build more housing, some of it affordable. He encouraged all of us to get involved with our local government. Only a handful of folks regularly express their opinions and their voices have a strong impact. We can too!)

The Widow went before an Unjust Judge and never gave up until she received justice. We need to pray about this issue and ask ourselves how can we give our prayers feet.

Our work with the Home and Hope Homeless Shelter Network has provided emergency housing for families for almost 16 years now. It has been a struggle to find the volunteers we need to bring the meals, staff the evenings and overnights. But this program works. Most families who stay in this rotating shelter find support and eventually move to permanent housing. It is one of the few volunteer opportunities that allows our families with young children to participate, so that they can learn the value of giving and the common humanity we share. The story Kendall shared in our Time with Children about a family in need that eventually thrived could have been a Home and Hope story.

Even though for most of us the widow’s story is not our own, for some of us, it is. And whether it is personal or political, we need to stand with Jesus in support of those in need. We need to never give up! We need to give our prayers feet!