by Rev. Lenny Duncan
What does it mean to be a servant? I mean really. We have reduced this in the Christian church to a series of actions surrounding worship. But what does it mean really. Our reading from Isaiah points to the servant to come but also speaks a word over the people.
It means to suffer, or to join others in their suffering. So, this week I invite you into suffering.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
Or more likely in the last few weeks “She was oppressed, and She was afflicted.”
The truth is that we all know this prophecy of the messiah, or at least through a New Testament lens can be read like one. But what if we took the time to actually incarnate this piece of scripture in 2018. Dr. Ford certainly fits the bill. Unable to return home, her career on halt, and her entire family led like sheep to slaughter of patriarchy. What about Black people (me) in this country? As corner store Caroline has shown us again, like I have known since I watch police drop C4 on my childhood neighborhood.
Black bodies are oppressed, afflicted, and like lambs led to slaughter.
Honestly you could just focus on the Gospel reading this week, or the high Christology of Hebrews these last few. You could just talk about the sons of thunder and their almost insane need for power and their inability to perceive true power. The power of pouring your very lifeblood out for the people you love. I mean that will preach. Just like using the gospel reading to talk about true humility or even be careful what you ask God for because you just might get it. They had no idea they were asking to be publicly lynched with Jesus. They had no idea the suffering and degradation they were begging for. You could talk about being good stewards and servants of the church. How we are called to serve and “you can start right here with XYZ ministry…”
You can do all that and it would be worthy and damn good Gospel. Full Stop. But I invite you back into the Isaiah text.
11Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Church queer folks have come to bear your iniquities for so long now. So, have immigrants and the so called undocumented, even though we know their names are written in the book of life. Woman/femmes have come to bear them for so long. Out of our anguish we have found light not because that is the way God has intended us to be but because the church’s silence has left us no choice. Because that was all we were left to work with was anguish, oppression, pain and we took it and weaved into the grand story of the Messiah and in turn weaved that into our lives. We the historically and theologically disenfranchised are staring at you blankly from the Isaiah text. We are looking in your eye like some of us have for 400 years or longer searching for some semblance of recognition.
The real question is would you recognize your siblings if they looked you in the eye? If they sat right in front of you? The answer has been no.
So, I invite you dear preacher to find me in the Isaiah text, or yourself. I invite you to find the margins and run for them.
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.