PENTECOST 22 – October 21, 2018
As usual, I have more questions then answers regarding this week's readings. I have found that questions are the best place to begin my preperation for any given Sunday. Hope this is helpful.
One of Isaiah’s Servant Songs describing a “Suffering Servant” character. An individual of the prophet’s time? The prophet himself? The promised Messiah? The returning exiles? All of Israel, God’s chosen light to the nations?
Opinions are varied but of course we who read the description from this side of the cross and immediately think of Jesus. Did Jesus understand himself as this promised “suffering servant” figure?
It is a very daunting job description. Struck down, wounded, crushed, taken away, cut off, stricken and oppressed all because of “the will of God” v.10? Who would sign up for such a role? A parent for a child, a spouse for a suffering loved one, a God for her human creation?
The end result of all this pain and suffering? “through him the will of God shall prosper”, “Out of his anguish he shall see light” and “shall make many righteous”.
Chapter 5 begins with a job description for priests, pastors, congregational leaders, etc. Responsibility, sacrifice, and gentleness are the attributes of one responding to God’s call. Also humility and recognition of one’s own “weakness” and “sin”.
The author then turns to Jesus as a high priest offering up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. This image of Jesus praying a lamenting prayer is a powerful and much needed one. In times of suffering and despair and brokenness it is acceptable to lament; cry out and rage to God the Father.
Who writes a history of a movement in this way? Isn’t the expectation of such an account that the early leaders would be painted as courageous, compassionate, and selfless as they lay the early foundations of a worldwide movement?
Mark’s telling of the beginnings of Christianity is brutally honest. The first twelve followers and eventual leaders are portrayed as dense, cowardly, and self-centered. Jesus has been hammering home his commitment to sacrificial living and servant leadership and yet, here are two members of His inner circle demanding reward and position.
The result is dissension and anger amongst the twelve. The first example of congregational conflict! Jesus in their midst, the master teaching them himself, and still their humanness makes it difficult and seemingly impossible for them to hear Jesus’ invitation to practice servant-leadership. Jesus’ call to the disciples of his time and our time is not to position but to service.
In our Lutheran tribe we begin our worship with prayers of confession and experience Christ’s forgiveness. I believe this reminder of our brokenness and the impossibility of “doing it right” is a necessary prelude to worship, prayer, scripture reading, and songs of praise. The “servant hood” that Jesus calls us to can never be achieved by our will but only through a reliance on God’s Grace.