Especially in Luke's gospel, Jesus has been flummoxing preachers and pious theologians
for centuries with his wild, unpredictable images of God.
There's the shepherd who endangers the whole flock to chase one wayward sheep, paired
with the woman frantically sweeping house to find a coin.
There's the shameless old man running out to greet his sorry excuse for a son.
There's the boss who fires his business manager on a rumor and then praises him
for cheating him so cleverly.
There's the judge with no respect for anyone who is browbeaten into helping a widow.
Bible libraries are full of commentators twisting themselves into knots trying to
explain what Jesus really meant because it can't possibly be what it sounds like;
those images don't fit God at all.
Which, of course, is the point.
Jesus is at it again today, answering his disciple who looked over his shoulder at what the
other kids were doing with their teacher and asked, Lord, teach us to pray.
Jesus gives them a very brief, surprising prayer to say:
Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, give us tomorrow's bread,
forgive us because we forgive others, don't sue us.
Christians have since come along to edit, expand, and sanitize this into something that
sounds much more pious and prayerlike.
Jesus, however, keeps moving to more jarring analogies.
Suppose your friend shows up unannounced and hungry in the middle of the
night and you have nothing to feed him and Denny's is closed.
You go next door and bang on the window.
"Hey, I need some bread for my friend who just arrived!"
Your neighbor, groggy and trapped under children and pets in his bed, suggests
somewhere else you should go.
Yet because of his shamelessness (questionably translated persistence), he will get up and
give him whatever he needs.
Yours for banging on his window and waking up the house?
Or his shamelessness, avoiding the certain shame that would come upon him when the
story got out that he did not show hospitality in a crisis?