Finish the Proverb

Todd Weir, blogger over at blooming cactus, has gotten me thinking about how much our American culture values persistence.  Here’s a little experiment.  I’ll bet you can all finish these proverbs with little effort.  Ready?

If at first you don’t succeed…

[try, try again.]  This one came from a teacher’s manual in America, round about the year 1840, authored by T.H. Palmer.  The full poem goes like this:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed, Try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try again.
[1840 T. H. Palmer Teacher’s Manual 223]

Slow and steady…

[wins the race.]  Remember Aesop’s Fables?  This one was the moral of the story from the Tortoise and the Hare.  (Fun Fact:  I learned these fables in cartoon retellings on TV between episodes of Underdog on Saturday mornings!)

Never, never, never, never…

[give up.]  This quote is attributed to Winston Churchill, the famed British Prime Minister during WWII and after.  Though nowadays you are more likely to see this quote on plastic-framed motivational posters in business cubicles around the country.

So please remember your own frame of mind when you read this Sunday, October 17th’s Gospel passage.  Many of us (myself included) are pre-wired to value persistence as an independent moral virtue of its ownnot tied to faith, but to our own inner strength of will.  But the parable seems to be turning all that on its head, telling us that faith IN GOD and persistence are intertwined, not separate…and that faith in God with persistence always bends toward justice in this world, despite the continual resistance of those who look out only for themselves.

Jesus ends the parable by asking, “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” 

Great question, Jesus. 

What do YOU think?  Add your answers in the comments below.

Almighty God, the one and only just judge, may we pray always and not lose heart.  Amen.

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