In this week’s reading from Woman of Words, Matthew and Mary argue about him gathering stories during her time in Bethlehem for her grandson’s birth. When Mary returned and Matthew proudly shared his accomplishments, Mary dismissed him. She would find someone else to finish writing her Son’s story.
Matthew was shocked and heartbroken, but tried to see his dismissal as a blessing. Mary’s decision freed Matthew to pursue his original desire to preach and teach alongside Peter, James, and John. But the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished with Matthew’s role of helping Mary and tells him to go back to her.
For the next several days, Matthew arrives at Mary’s home early and sits in the courtyard waiting for Mary to invite him in, but with no acknowledgment from Mary. Multiple persons encourage him not to give up. Mary is stubborn but, if it is God’s will that they continue their work together, she will eventually reconcile with Matthew.
One day, Mary brings bread and cheese to Matthew, along with a sincere apology. In response to Mary calling Matthew stubborn, he shares a story her Son once told about a persistent widow and an unjust judge. Jesus explained that if an unjust judge will give in to a persistent widow, God will reward the persistence of a faithful believer.
“I am the unjust judge,” Mary concludes after hearing Matthew’s story. Matthew didn’t disagree with Mary’s revelation, nor did he hesitate to forgive her. Instead, he shared how the Holy Spirit would not let him walk away from the work he was called to do.
The parable of the persistent widow is somewhat baffling. Is God really moved by constant whining? Does it matter what we’re asking for? After all, Matthew hadn’t given up on his desire to preach and teach. Did God insist on him continuing to work with Mary because Matthew gave in too easily instead of hounding God with his desires?
The story of the persistent widow appears in the Gospel of Luke after Jesus talks about the unfolding reign of God and His imminent departure. Perhaps Jesus noticed the disciples needed to hear a “feel good” story. After all, if an unjust judge will give in to a powerless widow, how much more will a just God grant our petitions?
Because of all the trouble this widow is giving me, I will see to it that she gets her rights.
Oh, if it were always so easy!
In the Book of 1 Kings, we read about a time when the Prophet Elijah is at a low point in his career. After a showdown with the close advisors of Queen Jezebel, Elijah was on the run. He was hiding in a cave after saying to God, “Just kill me!”
Elijah desperately wanted to hear words of encouragement. God tells Elijah, “Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain.” While not exactly words of encouragement and certainly no solution to his woes, Elijah chose to be obedient.
The story goes on as Elijah is waiting for the Lord. The writer tells us that a furious wind blew that split the hills and shattered the rocks. Surely, God must be in the wind, Elijah figured. After all, when we’re desperate to make sense of everything falling a part, we look for signs and the more dramatic the higher our hopes may be. “After all, does not God control the wind?” we might think to ourselves. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind.
The writer tells us that after the wind stopped blowing, there was an earthquake. Our earth is a mass of soil and rock hurling through space while spinning, creating fissions in the superstructure that shakes all that is nearby with a deadly force. Surely, God must be the force behind earthquakes.
It makes sense that when our circumstances cause us to question whether we fit at all into God’s plan for good. Again, Elijah looked for God, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake.
It turned out the earthquake was neither a sign nor a message.
And then there was a great fire. Fire cleanses in a destructive way, consuming whatever gets into its path and leaving charred remains in its path. Yet new life eventually comes out of the aftermath.
Similarly, Jesus tells us that spiritual transformation requires a burning away of impurities, leaving that which is Holy. Perhaps we go through fires and they leave us feeling charred and discarded at first, but we grow and new life comes out of us. Perhaps Elijah needed further refining before he was ready to hear from God.
However, the fire was neither a sign nor a message from God.
But after the fire, there was the soft whisper of a voice. Elijah was still hiding in the cave, but he was close enough to God to hear it, although he couldn’t make out the words completely. Elijah covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
We all go through windstorms, earthquakes and fires of our own. Sometimes these events are like train wrecks, leaving parts, pieces, and bodies scattered and destruction in their wake.
Sometimes the windstorms, earthquakes and fires that we go through become distractions that keep us preoccupied and unable to hear God’s whisper? They cause us to take cover in our cave afraid of what may happen next.
What if most of the things that distract us are more easily described as the ebb and flow of life? Some mornings are so still that the leaves barely move, if at all. Other days, we need to hold on to our hat and lean into the wind.
Similarly, some days are calm while other days are full of turmoil. Like the difference between a loud shout and a gentle whisper, it seems easier to hear God’s voice on days when our lives are more calm than on the days of turmoil.
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Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. A Woman of Words. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2021.