Vicar Noah Herren
July 27/28, 2019
Kids are so funny. Especially at that age where they haven’t quite figured out social etiquette
and they will say or do anything. You might call them...shameless. When my son, Will, was a
toddler, our family made friends with a widow who lived in the apartment across from us. She
was always warm and accommodating, and she loved little boys. One evening I woke up in the
middle of the night and, to my horror, Will was missing from his bed and the front door was wide
open. It was clear he had pulled up a kitchen chair and climbed his little body up to unlock the
deadbolt. After the immediate panic subsided, I thought to knock on my neighbor’s door. I hated
to wake her but this was an emergency. She immediately answered the door and with a
reassuring smile said, “He’s in here with me. He came over and asked for some toast.” And
there he was, on her couch, shamelessly eating toast and watching Spongebob.
In the gospel reading today, we hear a similar story of a neighbor who wakes his friend at
midnight asking for bread. Our translation tells us “because of the neighbor’s persistence the
friend will get up and provide whatever is needed.” Other versions translate the word
persistence as importunity, impudence, shameless audacity, improbity, hutzpah, brashness,
boldness. Many scholars agree that the best translation is shamelessness ….
If I were a prosperity gospel preacher, I would probably proclaim that Jesus’ parable suggests
that shameless persistence before God will bring you everything you want, anything you ask for.
But I’m not, and I don’t think that’s what’s happening here...
Culturally, we have a broad understanding of what it means to be shameless. Billy Joel’s song
Shameless (made popular by Garth Brooks in the early 90s) speaks of a complete loss of
composure while falling in love. The TV show Shameless , set in the southside of Chicago,
presents shamelessness in another light, as a poverty-stricken family pushes against any social
convention in their attempts at survival. And then, Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber recently
released a book titled Shameless: A Sexual Reformation , in which she challenges the church’s
history of shaming people’s bodies and sexuality. With all these suggestions of what it means to
be shameless, it can be difficult to determine what Jesus is getting at in this discursion on
prayer. Is it about vulnerability like we hear in love songs? Is it about protesting and resisting
established cultural norms? Or is it about reclaiming our worth as those created in the image of
I’m gonna take a short detour. For better or worse, I’m a person who loves easily and freely.
You might even say shamelessly . And it hasn’t been hard to fall in love with all of you and this
church. Before I even arrived in Chicago, you had prepared a place for me in your hearts, on
your staff, in a bell tower apartment. You have invited me into your homes and lives, showed me
your favorite sites and scenes around town, and supported and encouraged me as your vicar.
Internship is supposed to be a time for formation and growth. In fighting my own internal
struggles with shame, I put internship off for a while because I wasn’t sure there was a
congregation for me. But the Holy Spirit knows what's up, and she pulled all the strings to put us
together for this time. You have been my perfect fit this year on the last leg of my journey toward
ordination. I will carry the love, wisdom, memories, and care you have given wherever I go from
here...and of course, I’ll come back and visit! Thank you all for the part you have played in
helping me release some of the shame and reservations I had about my place in the church.
We all struggle with shame wrongfully imposed on us by others...for who we are, what we look
like, who we love, our work, our lifestyle. We pick at the specks in each others eyes while the
logs of racism, wealth inequality, environmental degradation, and xenophobia remain firmly
lodged in place. Yet...our infinitely compassionate God hears our cries, receives our
brokenness, and provides us with something greater than we ever could have imagined.
Jesus teaches us that shamelessness in prayer looks like calling out to God in an intimate
address... Father ...laying ourselves bare before the One who created us. Jesus teaches us that
shamelessness in prayer looks like persisting in the face of others’ judgement and forgiving
them still. Jesus teaches us that shamelessness in prayer is full faith in our identity as children
of a good and giving God. In confidence, we bring all of ourselves, everything we carry, to the
throne of grace as God covers and restores us to wholeness.
As we gather at the table, we acknowledge the power of Christ’s death and resurrection that
perpetually moves us to reconciliation. We receive the power of the Holy Spirit promised to all
those who ask, seek, and knock. We rest in the arms of our loving God who created us to be...