Tomorrows Gospel – Luke 18:1-8
18 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Luther lumps Luke 18:8 with other texts of doom and destruction, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (“the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”). Luther writes: These are terrifying statements. But the smug and ungrateful world, the despiser of all the promises and threats of God, abounds with every kind of iniquity and daily becomes more and more corrupt. Now that the rule of the popes, who have ruled the world solely through the fear of punishment, is over, men, through their contempt of the sound doctrine, all but degenerate into brutes and beasts. The number of holy and godly preachers is on the decline. All men yield to their desires. . . . Furthermore, Christ Himself has foretold these developments, and so it is impossible for us to believe that He has lied. But if the first world, which had so large a number of most excellent patriarchs, became so pitiably depraved, how much more should we fear when the feebleness of our nature is so great? Therefore, may the Lord grant that in faith and in the confession of His Son Jesus Christ we may as quickly as possible be gathered to those fathers and die within twenty years, so that we may not see those terrible woes and afflictions, both spiritual and physical, of the last time. Amen.
Pretty sobering stuff that. Yet Luther could so exuberantly call upon God and see joy even in the midst of terrifying events that he is quite content to pray praise and give thanks. It is not a question of getting him on a bad day. There is in Luther always a paradox. He lives in the now and the not yet. He is at the same time a saint and a sinner. He lives eternal life now and translates present day reality into that reality. In this little citation he really gives meaning to the explanation of the 7th petition of the Lord’s Prayer.