Thirteenth Day of Lent

Luke 11:5-10
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

As I write this piece the house is quiet. I’m sitting on a nice, big comfortable chair with our younger dog stretched beside me, his head resting right beside the laptop. I can move, but only enough to reach the keyboard, and the one or two books I have placed close by on the arm of the chair. It’s actually quite cosy and I’m enjoying having this task to do.

Except here comes our older dog. She’s a bit agitated because, though it’s early morning, and our son is still in bed, his bedroom door is closed and she can’t get access to his room to crawl under the duvet with him (which she does very often). So now she’s sitting right beside the chair I’m in, with a pouty face on, and she’s crying up at me. But I can’t be bothered to move to disturb my comfort and that of my companion.

Boy do I know how that neighbour feels!

The thing is, unlike me, who is willing to let this silly dog ‘suffer,’ there is just no way this parable would happen. No way.

Like many Middle Eastern cultures even today the world functioned on the basis of shame and shame avoidance. This was true at both an individual and a community level. So Jesus tells a story of neighbours in a terrible dilemma late at night. It’s significant that the word ‘friend’ is used four times in just four verses. There are two friends who are neighbours and a third who arrives late at night. It was almost an inconceivable embarrassment for the host to have no food with which to welcome the traveller. But it was also shameful for the village.

So it was only if the friend in bed was completely anti-social and a total layabout that he would refuse to roll out of bed to find food for his neighbour and the guest.  

Everybody listening to Jesus tell this parable would know that no friend would refuse to help a friend in such a crisis, and certainly not because he simply didn’t want to get out of bed. No, the friend in bed would do what he was asked because of shamelessness.

A better translation of the Greek might actually be ‘no-shame’ or ‘not-shame,’ and it’s a little complicated to organise the pronouns at this point in the story. Is it the ‘no-shame’ of the person making the request? Or is it the avoidance of shame on part of the person in bed? It is simply not clear. What we know, however, is that in this culture there is no shame in the friend asking for food, even late at night.

Which leave us with the man in bed. Jesus tells us he will respond, if not because of friendship, then at the very least in order to avoid shame and to uphold the honour of the village. The story seems to be saying that even a lazy person will respond to a request for help if for no other reason that he avoids shame and keeps his honour intact.

How much more then will God respond when God’s people ask for help?

And now I have to respond to this crying hound.

God of all good gifts
You are more willing
To respond to our cries
Than we are to call.

Help me to believe that.