First Thoughts on the Lectionary: January 19, 2014

Isaiah 49:1-7

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.  He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.  And he said to me,

–                    You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

But I said,

–                    I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.

And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength-he says,

–                    It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers,

–                    Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.

 

 

This is almost a comical scene;  the prophet describing in elaborate detail all of the powers God has given him to do the work of restoring Israel, but as soon as he is called to account he bemoans 

–        I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity. 

Then God ups the ante saying that simply restoring Israel to God is too light a thing.  That the prophet should be a light to the nations – that God’s salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

To which the Prophet refers to himself as one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers.

 

Being called by God is a pretty neat feeling until you have to face actual people and tell them that you have been called by God to bring them around to acting better 

I have had people call me a Prophet  – in public – in my church.

Being called a prophet is a pretty big high until you say what you have to say.  Then you are a destructive egocentric trouble maker.  There may be people who admire someone in their midst who they can call a prophet, but there are others, quite a few others, who resent conferring that title to someone who is critical of the basic way of life of the congregation. 

I said I found the scriptures comical, but that is just to say that they ring so true.  This is the cycle of the prophet: responding to a call, feeling that you have been chosen by God to speak truth to the powers that be, the kings and queens of the earth, the leaders of the church.  Rising to the challenge and pronouncing what you to believe to be the truth of God.  And then crawling into a hole and moaning the fact that nobody likes me.  That is the pattern.  That is the way it works.  

I look at the passage in John; the calling of the first disciples to Jesus.

 

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed,

–                    Look, here is the Lamb of God!

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them,

–                    What are you looking for?

 They said to him,

–                    Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), where are you staying?

He said to them,

–                    Come and see.

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.   One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his brother Simon and said to him,

–                    We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).

He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said,

–                    You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). 

Of course they didn’t have any clue then what they were in for.  But they responded.  That’s all it takes; an openness to respond when called.  The rest will take care of itself – the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said, and then the retreat into isolation and self pity. 

But before that happens, when one hears the call, when one responds to the presence of God in the world, one is truly on fire and believes:

 The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.  He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.  And he said to me,

–        You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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One Response to First Thoughts on the Lectionary: January 19, 2014

  1. Pingback: 1/19/2014 Called to Serve | ForeWords

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