1. Isaiah 53, 10-11
- The Lord was pleased to crush him… Crush whom?
Yes, the suffering servant. The passage takes me immediately to the conclusion of that central defining
prophecy. I should convey a full sense of the conclusion, or else today’s reading will be over before
the assembly can take it in. Though I do not read the preceding verses in chapter 53, they will be on my
- Why was ‘the Lord pleased?’
Well, why do we say ‘God’s will’ and ‘insh’Allah’? Many may
call it a dishonest cop-out, but through the ages people have been paying tribute to the unknowable designs of the Creator.
How I say this makes all the difference. I opt for paying tribute here and later on when I read
The will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him.
- And now I bring the theme forward to our time, to the time of those who believe in the saving
power of God through Jesus. What did Jesus’ shameful death mean to his disciples and followers?
We have their interpretation in today’s Gospel. How is it foreshadowed here? Let
me not read it with cold detachment!
he gives his life as an offering for sin… It is translated in a conditional
‘if,’ but we believe that the servant (Jesus) did give his life and so the prophecy has been fulfilled.
For that reason I downplay the condition in my voice. And for that reason I have no doubt whose
‘sin’ is being expiated: the primary sources are in every newspaper, every history book, every soul.
It is my sin, your sin, the sin of all our churches throughout time. His one life, so cruelly given,
- He shall see
his descendants… Here I put a touch of triumph in my voice. We
believe we are the descendants along with Israel. So much the more reason for me to raise my eyes to the
congregation. Just as we see each other now, we will certainly see the Servant. The
words long life should remind me of the very long reach of this expiation.
The children who hear me will carry it forward.
- He shall see the light in fullness of days. How
can this be, if he is tortured and killed and sent to the underworld? My faith can tell me how.
These prophecies teach us to reach beyond appearances. I will speak them with the voice of faith.
- Through his suffering, my servant shall justify
many. This last verse of today’s passage may be the easiest to understand,
since we have learned the lesson of Jesus’ death for us. I will read ‘many’ expansively,
in the sense of ‘everyone,’ just as we have been translating the phrase in the Eucharistic prayer.
- Central point: Our destiny is united now with that
of the Servant.
- Message for our
assembly: We are not individuals, even though we may pray for personal intentions. Our despairs and our
straying are all assumed by Jesus. He is making us one family today. What will we do
- I will challenge myself:
To evoke with my voice the unity that we believe Jesus has achieved among us by his death.
2. Hebrews 4, 14-16
- I’m going to pinch myself. It sounds like Good Friday and here we are
in October! We have a great high priest… That makes two readings
today that are also used in the Passion and Death liturgy. Let me take advantage, since these verses from
Hebrews deserve frequent repeating.
- We continue
in the age of the Christ we have kept at a distance. Whole traditions have a special place for the icon
of Christ Pantocrator. That image does not remind us of the Christ who welcomes the children and leads the sheep.
Hebrews was written a few generations after Jesus died and was raised, and we can hear the writer pleading with his
first listeners to remember Jesus as he truly was.
author of Hebrews uses poetic images that are as old as Israel. “True God and true man” comes
from catechisms and has a certain comforting precision, but here is an experience that goes beyond definitions and touches
the heart. We talk about an incarnation in which heaven embraces earth, while he shows us a great
high priest who has passed through the heavens. I will use an uplifting voice to show the elevation
- One who has similarly been
tested in every way, yet without sin. That word ‘similarly’ used to be rendered ‘like
us’ and deserves the same emphasis.
us confidently approach the throne of grace. The Greeks and Latins used more adverbs like ‘similarly’
and ‘confidently’ than we do, so I need to rehearse with more insight and place myself in the situation.
This time I would give lesser emphasis to ‘confidently.’ Do I make this kind of prayer
for mercy and grace? It would help my reading if I do.
- Central point: The Jesus we follow has “been there.”
- The message for our assembly: The churches that first received
this letter were enduring severe testing. Can we identify with this?
- I will challenge myself: To walk the tightrope of faith as I read this passage,
between the Son of God and the man who has shared our condition.
Mark 10, 35-45
- The memories of Good Friday are echoing in my ears as I begin to read. But we are not proclaiming
the Passion of Jesus today. The Gospel begins with James and John, the sons of Zebedee.
I think it is about our Passion, our calling.
that in your glory we may sit… Obviously Peter was not the only one who expected a glorious
Messiah. They are making their request out of earshot, and I will lower my voice also.
- It seems that Jesus answered them so that the others could at
least see his facial expression, so I will speak his words with more affirmation. You do not know…
Can you drink? He treats the disciples seriously, but as untried youths who don’t
know the consequences of their acts. That is the way I would like to read it.
- Can you drink the cup… or
be baptized? I think the whole exchange seems out of place because Jesus himself is not concerned
with heavenly honors of any kind. I think that he is just as indignant as the other disciples.
- It shall not be so among you.
This message is authentic and had to come in some way from the Master himself. I need to look for
the same measure of insistence and firmness that Jesus would have shown.
- Climax: The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.
- Message for our assembly: How far would we go in our service
- I will challenge myself: To pay tribute
with my words to the servant church.