For Maundy Thursday we consider the third Suffering Servant poem, found in Isaiah 50:4-9a. Yesterday we heard of the importance of listening. Today, speaking is the focus. These reflections come from J. Philip Wogaman, Professor of Christian Ethics Emeritus, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C., in “Feasting on the Word; Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary” Year B, volume 2, eds. Bartlett and Brown Taylor, Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. The servant speaks in verse 7 of not being disgraced or put to shame. Why would that happen? To use Jesus as the example Wogaman says this:
“Jesus identified himself with outcasts and sinners. He was a friend to and healer of lepers, generally avoided by everybody else. He treated the common peasants, the “peoples of the land,” as the salt of the earth, even though such people were only marginally able to fulfill all of the requirements of the law. He had lunch with the thoroughly despised tax collectors. He used a Samaritan as the central, positive figure in one of his most famous parables, even though Samaritans were also despised by others. He treated women with respect as reasoning human beings. He clearly was not afraid of what such associations might do to his reputation. It is hard to say exactly why Jesus was crucified, but that must have been an important part of the reason.”
Jesus could have been disgraced and shamed by such associations, but, in the spirit of Isaiah 50:7, he was not. I remember working with youth in the church and trying to get them to understand what the equivalent behavior in their world would be, to that as described here about Jesus. I would suggest being more friendly towards disabled, towards the less popular kids, towards the kids who were always getting in trouble. I tried to get these Christian youth to see that following Jesus was more than being a good kid or a popular kid. It might even mean being labeled a loser. It was a tough sell! My hope lay in the seeds that might have been planted in those discussions, so that as the youth grew into mature people of faith, they would be more open to the deeper spiritual issues that might be involved with shame or disgrace. Then they might be able to “sustain the weary with a word.
May your weariness be sustained with a word this day, and may you find a way to pass on a sustaining word.