Content Warning: transphobia, police violence, racism, queerphobia
by Remy Remmers
Now this will be political which should not be a surprise because the NRSV calls this passage “The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge.” Acknowledgement of a political system is in the name of this passage. Politics determine how people live their lives in an area, what public services they get, who gets certain rights, who can have economic prosperity, and more. At the same time politics can give systems and people easy ways to cause injustice to their neighbors. Everyone’s life is political, but some people feel that more readily because their lives are directly affected by the injustices politics allow and perpetuate. To say you don’t care about politics is to say you don’t care about the injustices done to your neighbor. There are injustices happening to this widow and she is going through the legal system again and again trying to get justice.
It is hard to read this gospel parable of the widow and the unjust judge without thinking of my anxiety levels last week. The Supreme Court heard cases that could determine if LGBTQIA+ are protected in the federal discrimination clause. This terrified me, which is ironic in some ways, because I am in a church that has the authority and power to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ folx. I have seen certain rights be expanded to include queer folx, and I’ve been in places where I could lose my job at any second because the discrimination policy did not fully include me. My disability couldn’t be discriminated against, but my queerness could. Last week I was proud of my siblings that continue to fight for our rights, but I was tired. Tired of all the queerphobia. Tired of “well-meaning” allo cishets trying to tell me it doesn’t matter, you won’t get fired here. Tired of being told that I should just be nice to people and systems that are literally trying to dehumanize me. And this parable Jesus is telling us is to not lose heart? Jesus have you been keeping up to date on what’s happening?
I think about the resilience of this woman. Coming day after day to a man that she knows is an unjust judge. The systems that be do not care for her or the injustice that is being done to her. In fact the system probably profits from the situation this woman is in. I wonder how she felt coming to this unjust judge. How do we prepare ourselves when we go up against injustice? How can we have the resilience the widow shows, because there will be times that we go up against injustice. While this passage is about an individual, communal responses can foster the resilience needed. Now the NRSV states in verse 5 “…so that she may not wear me out…” another accurate translation of that Greek is so she may not hit me under the eyes. This is a boxing metaphor. The anger that she has for the injustice done to her threatens this unjust judge. He feels like he’s coming out of a boxing match the number of times he’s had to deal with her. The widow is given so much power in this metaphor.
This exhaustion has been flipped to the unjust judge. The widow was probably tired because of the injustice done to her. She doesn’t have to change his heart. He doesn’t have to do a 180 flip. All she has to do is make him tired for once. She displaces her exhaustion onto him and he can’t stand it. He is not used to this sort of persistence. The widow has dealt with persistent oppression for quite a while. Somehow she found the resilience to fight knowing that minds and opinions don’t have to be changed for justice to break into this world.
This whole struggle immediately brings to mind the fight for their rights by my different communities, especially LGBTQIA+,because they were in the news last week. This is the easy jump for me. However, I live in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Two trans women of color were killed in Dallas this year. Another trans woman of color in Dallas was shot six times and is recovering in the hospital. Atatiana Jefferson was killed in her house during a welfare check by the Fort Worth Police for the crime of having a light on. The trans community and the family of Atatiana Jefferson are crying out for justice. There is so much injustice against black and brown bodies in this country. There is injustice to our trans sisters of color. Are you listening to them? I need us to focus on them because it is important who gets to identify with the widow. It can’t always be me especially as a white person in this country. It can’t always be your congregation. To identify yourself with the widow can make it so you ignore the other widows in your community.
There’s another character in this parable. It is all the neighbors who hear the cries of the widow and see the injustice and do nothing. No one is speaking up for this widow, but herself. The community is not oblivious to what is happening. They just have other things going on - or maybe are offering thoughts and prayers. Well, Jesus tells us this parable is about prayer. Prayer needs to lead to action. This widow is doing nothing but action. Calling out injustice and begging for justice. God’s justice will turn this world on its head. Don’t give up hope. Even the mighty can fall.
This is the Revised Common Lectionary sermonizing archive.