Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 36-April 2

Isaiah 50:4-9a
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

If one were considering the lectionary readings for a Sunday emphasizing the passion of Christ, rather than his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, this passage would certainly focus one’s thinking. This passage leads off the “liturgy of the passion” and it certainly invites us to think about what it means to think about Jesus’ suffering in light of the Old Testament tradition. It makes such a difference to think about the voice of the Servant, 2nd Isaiah, in this passage, not as a disgruntled and weary prophet, but one who is passionately in love with God and God’s people. A prophet who is willing to reaffirm God’s goodness and hesed (steadfast love) and set his face like flint is all about what it means to stand up to hate with love.
So, this is the message here as we move into Holy Week. Love that sustains even in the midst of suffering is a remarkable example. It’s the example of Jesus. To what extent is it the example of our lives?

God, forgive us when we give up easily or meet hatred with hatred. Help us to find the delicate, yet powerful balance between wearing suffering like a crown and being willing to suffer, because love is that deep and true. Amen.

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