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No Cross, No Crown

Luke 18:1-8

The Rev. Jon Roberts

16 October

2022

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; 3 and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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The Unjust Judge and the Importunate Widow, Sir John Everett Millais 1864

Take seriously the matter of prayer and do so without ceasing; for those who are not governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.[1]

Those who hold, or wish to hold, any form of authority over others should take heed to the story of William Penn. In the 17th century, William wanted what most people in England wanted, freedom to worship God in the manner they wished. Penn was an affluent Quaker, who fought hard for such a freedom, believing the relationship between God and man was personal and not to be coerced or disturbed by any earthly ruler. In 1668, he wrote a series of pamphlets titled, “The “Truth exalted: To Princes, Priests and People.” For this, he was charged for publishing without a license. He called the Catholic church, “The whore of Babylon” and referred to all Protestants as hypocrites and “Tithe mongers.” The Church of England was both Catholic and Protestant and therefore Penn defied it. The King of England, Charles II, was of course the head of the State and the Church, and charged him with the higher crime of blasphemy, sending Penn to the London Tower to think about his wrongdoing. Once freed, he learned there was a New World to be settled by those who had the courage and fortitude to take the journey across the Big Pond, and there he founded the state of Pennsylvania. Living a virtuous, with liberty and independence became the requisites of every citizen and thereby became the state motto.

Today, we take for granted that we have religious freedom. Fortunately, we have the 1st Amendment, the most important of all in our constitution allowing for virtue, liberty, and independence but although it is written in stone, does not mean it can disappear. The importance of the one who governs us is extremely important if we are to keep it and therefore Penn wrote those words, “Men must be governed by God or else they will be ruled by tyrants.” He is also known for another famous quote, “No Cross. No Crown.”

When there is enforcement by tyrants, it sets our teeth on edge and tastes like sour grapes. Jeremiah, the prophet knew of such tyranny and questioned how a people, once governed by God could be ruled by tyrants. With a history of Kings and Judges, one would think a people such as the Hebrews would know they difference and keep it in check. How did they allow their Holy Land to fall into tyrannical leaders? The answer is simple. They misused godly language to influence godly people to become slaves. It is a human behavior as old as time. It goes all the way back to the devil’s fall from grace. It lies underneath the creation of all human flesh, where a soul that is determined to be in control at any cost may sell out its freedom along with those they rule over. Therefore, we pray for our leaders, every Sunday in our prayers of the people.
Many may suspect that people who lose their religious freedoms, or any freedom for that matter, are those who are poor and uneducated. They were weak and therefore they required a strong leadership. This is far from the truth. Krause and Clarke, two professors of Psychology at Harvard Medical School did a study on cult behavior in 1978. In their publication they showed that most people who went along with an influential personality were not those who lived in poverty, who were crazy or mentally ill, nor uneducated. They showed that most grew up in democratic, equalitarian homes under upper socioeconomic families. They estimated over 60% were borderline schizophrenic because they were easily swayed by leaders who satisfied their mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Leaders who expressed a profound sense of spirituality, yet who demanded great emotional and personal commitments, veneration almost, were the tyrants. Once they had you, they could manipulate, coerce, and misguide. The other irony is that they proclaimed to be God’s instrument, acting on behalf of the people with great humility. Far from the truth.
We have no better example than the unjust judge and the woman begging for grace and mercy from him, in today’s parable. Why is this man an “unjust” judge? Are they not supposed to be impartial? Does he show partiality to this woman? Jesus said that this judged was not in fear of God, nor did he respect others. In other words, he was a tyrant. He had the power to absolve or condemn. He did not pardon her because of her case, by merit or rights but because she was persistently annoying him by her presence. Because he had neither love of God nor of his neighbor, this is what made him unjust.

What about the woman? We do not know her offense. Maybe she was a woman of opinion and showed dissent towards the king, like William Penn did. What we do know is that she constantly made appeal. In the artwork by Millais, the unjust judge looks away from this despicable creature, while she is on her knees, clutched hands, praying for forgiveness. With unceasing prayers, was she appealing to the judge or praying for him. Perhaps the true slave is the tyrant. The self-absorbed narcissist that they are, completely envelopes their soul. No light can come through. Without validation, they must demand it from others. The devil is manipulative and wants others to become unjust, ungodly with an insatiable need to be hallowed by others. Take into consideration our modern age where we should be concerned about the latest title has emerged: the “Influencer”. As social media becomes the creative source of attention, young people feel validated by how many follows or like, their posts. The more who subscribe to their beliefs and worldviews, the more they see this as a form of justice. Are they using such platforms to pray for the unjust or does this meet their spiritual, mental, and social needs to be rules by others, rather than be governed by God?

Who are the rulers who have influence in our day? Are their crowns fixed on the Cross? From those who have great influence, power can be stockpiled, or it can be shared with all. The innate urge to become a ruler is strong. Just look at our modern day, where so many of our youth strive to be influencers on social media, to gain as many followers as they possibly can. How is this loyalty being rewarded? Who benefits? No cross, no crown. Who has the power to absolve or forgive? No cross, no crown. Who does not fear God nor respect the individual liberties of another human being? No cross, no crown. When we are being treated unjustly, where do we go? To whom do we turn? I recommend that you take seriously the matter of prayer and do so without ceasing; for anyone who is not governed by God, will be ruled by tyrants.

[1] William Penn, “Men must be governed by God or else they will be ruled by tyrants”
[2] Jeremiah 31:29
[3] https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/Cult-Leaders-and-Disciples-A-Study-in-Profiles-as-Paralleled-to-Fight-Club
[4] Luke 18:1-8

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