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Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Today's Scripture Reading | Isaiah 52:13—53:12
See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals—so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (NRSV)
There is a story about the death of Abraham Lincoln that has been passed down since it happened in 1865. After he was assassinated, Lincoln’s body was placed on a train so that all could see the flag-draped casket and taken back to Springfield, Illinois. In one of the towns where the train stopped so people could pay respects to their fallen leader, an African American woman held her daughter up to see Lincoln’s casket and said, “Remember this man: he died so you could be free.”
Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is one of the most famous passages in the entire Old Testament. It has been called the “Suffering Servant Song” because it describes what it means to be a suffering servant. It was written seven hundred years before Jesus lived, but New Testament writers return again and again to this Isaiah passage to describe the actions Jesus took as a suffering servant. To be a suffering servant means sacrificing for others, to be sacrificed for some other greater good. Sacrificing can take on many manifestations; it may mean giving away some or even all of your time, talent, or treasure. For others, sacrificing their life can be literally just that: the love a parent has for a child that would lead a parent to die so that a child could go on living.
In our baptisms we are born into a new life with Jesus and become one with him, his calling, his sacrifice. As Christians we are each called to be suffering servants, sacrificing for the good of others, sacrificing to bring healing and wholeness, beauty and redemption, to a world that is still waiting, still in need of that sacrifice.
Loving God, help me be your suffering servant, even when it is not easy, so that through my time, my talent, my treasure, even my life, I may help others. Amen.
Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music
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