Search and you will find

Can you teach a fish to swim?  Can you teach persistence to people who have persisted for years through the winding vicissitudes of Zimbabwean life?

Persistence is the message running through the story of Abraham bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It is also the message running through the description of the friend who comes to his neighbour in the night to borrow three loaves. ‘If the man does not get up for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he needs’.

But there is a difference. Zimbabwean persistence is that resilient type which goes on adapting to new situations; if there is no power, buy a generator; if you cannot afford one, buy a candle and joke about it all the way to the shop.

Jesus’ parable of persistence is about a man who pesters his neighbour until he is given what he wants. The neighbour doesn’t owe the man anything and his first reaction is, ‘Go away and leave me alone’.  But the man doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  Jesus favours that type of persistence – not the passive accepting kind which simply adapts to each new situation. He uses it as a model for prayer: ‘search and you will find, ask and you will get, knock and they will open the door’.

This type of prayer breaks through like a chick bursting through the egg which gave it life but has now become a prison. We know it is through breaking the bonds that contain us that we become a free people.  If we continually adapt without searching, asking questions and knocking on doors, we remain slaves in our own home.

Last week we celebrated SS Joachim and Anne, grandparents of Jesus.  The first reading starts, ‘Let us praise illustrious men’.  The author lists his choice. Who would be on my list? Ghandi, Mandela and Churchill would be near the top but there would be many others known only to me and a few others. Churchill was famous in his time and had ‘the largest funeral in history’ but many today know little about him. I have discovered recently that he had a string of disappointments in his life and suffered from depression which he called his ‘Black Dog’. Even when he became leader of Britain at the age of 65 he had terrible crises to deal with as Britain alone could not defeat Hitler however bravely they fought. He persisted, tackling each challenge as it came with calculation, determination – and humour. He stretched what it is to be human to unimaginable lengths.

28 July 2019                        Sunday 17 C

Genesis 18:20-32              Colossians 2:12-14                           Luke 11:1-13

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