Saturday, January 11, 2014

Isaiah 42:1-9; The Baptism of Our Lord; January 12, 2014;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”” (Isaiah 42:1–9, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

This text is one of the famous “Servant Songs” of Isaiah. They tell us all about God’s servant who he promises for Israel. “Behold,” some translations say, “here is my Servant.” By starting that way God tells us that this Servant is a very important person, actually a ‘chosen one.’ In whom God delights.

But as we read on, we may see some things that make us wonder. It seems that this Servant will actually be a hero. How can that be? How can Servant be a hero? We don’t always see those two things as being compatible.

Children (and adults) often imagine themselves as heroes. It’s great fun to pretend that we are capable of ‘saving the world’ from evil. But somehow, I don’t remember that the heroes that I played were really much of a servant. Being the hero meant being in charge, and taking care of everything. Being the hero meant being the boss.

But, I think this passage gives us a different picture of a hero, a hero who is a servant.

This servant will bring Justice. This bringing justice isn’t necessarily what we think of a justice. It isn’t the kind of justice that is brought someone who commits a crime. It isn’t the kind of justice that’s brought about by human effort. It’s the kind of justice that is brought out by God. Maybe a better translation would be ‘justice-salvation.’ This is the kind of justice that can only be brought about by God himself.

He doesn’t ‘blow his own horn.’ He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. Well, not many heroes don’t want to be recognized for their accomplishments. Yet, this hero doesn’t call attention to himself. He is humble.

And not only that but he is gentle. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. He won’t go around like a bull in a china shop, changing things, doing his work by force. His work will be so careful that he will care for even those who are already hurting, and those who are weak.

And very surprisingly even thought he wont work in the way we expect heroes to work he will accomplish what he has been sent to do. He will not be discouraged. Even though he is humble and tender, he will prevail, because God’s Spirit will be upon him. He will be successful, says the text, because he has been sent and established by the God, the creator of the universe. This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the universe he intends to protect and save it. He will do it through this Servant / Hero.

Even more importantly, this Servant / Hero will succeed; because he, himself, will become the promise that God will save people. He, himself, will be the light to all people everywhere. “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.”

The final verse tells us the results of what this Servant / Hero will do. Blind will see, and prisoners will be freed. To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Apparently, this Servant can be a Hero after all!

By now, we have already seen that the Servant that Isaiah is talking about is none other than Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. His Baptism marks the beginning of his public ministry. It marks the beginning of his time among us as God’s Servant / Hero. He is the one who brings God’s salvation for all people. He walks among the hurting people of the world, healing them and loving, even the unlovable. He serves them humbly, shedding the truth of God into their darkened world. He healed the sick and freed the captives from the prison of their sin. He shows us that he was a Servant / Hero who could live a life without selfishness, unjust anger and sin of any kind. Jesus Christ, our Servant / Hero gives his very life for the sake of others. The life and work of Jesus the Servant / Hero has its greatest point when he sheds his blood for the sins of the whole world.

Isaiah says God calls him in righteousness. What he is saying is that because of Jesus; sinful people are not sinful anymore. Jesus is the true hero, who takes the sins of the whole world on himself, suffers the just punishment for all of them on the cross. He takes the selfishness, the pride and the violence of sinful people on himself. His innocent death removes the punishment for them from us. We instead are given his perfection, his sinless ness. He takes our punishment, and we enjoy the reward for his perfect life.

And all that Jesus did for us is given to us in the promises that God make to us at our baptism. Jesus Baptism was very different from ours. He certainly didn’t need the forgiveness of sins as we do. He was already God’s only Son, he didn’t need to be adopted by God, as we do. But just like his baptism marked the beginning of his work as the Servant / Hero, maybe we can think of our own as the beginning of our work as a Servant, too. Maybe we can think of our baptism as not only our adoption in to God’s family, but also as the beginning of our work.

We can’t be the perfect Servant / Hero that Jesus was but we can be a servant / hero. We can be a servant / hero in the place where God has placed us. Each of us is in a unique situation to serve. We can serve in our work place. There are people there who don’t know the love of Jesus. There are people there who have forgotten about their Savior. There are people there who you can be a hero to by bringing them to the true Servant / Hero. We can serve in our families. There we can live in the forgiveness won for us by our Servant / Hero. Is there any better place to say, “I forgive you in the name of Jesus,” when someone hurts us. We can serve in our Church. There is so much to do. The church is God’s way of reaching out to not only those who occupy space on Sunday morning, but also the unlovable all around us. We can serve by encouraging those among us to take the opportunities offered here to grow in faith, by attending Bible Study, and worship.

Just as Jesus Christ is our Servant / Hero we can be a servant / hero for others. It all begins for us in our baptism, when we receive from God the promises made for us by the work, when we become “… a fellow member of the body of Christ, a child of the same Heavenly Father, to work and grow together in his kingdom.” Amen.

We continue by remembering our own baptism…

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