30 March 2015

On With The New

A Meditation for Monday in Holy Week

In Holy Week the pattern of the liturgy is broken: on Palm Sunday we are not dismissed at the end of the service. We are invited into a week that is one single liturgical act, culminating in the Easter acclamation of the Resurrection. During this week we walk with Jesus in his last week of life, from the adulation of the palm-bearing crowd to the suffering of Friday to the new creation of Sunday.

How do we walk with Jesus this week? We could follow the Holy Week Gospels, which construct a series of key events for each day. We could follow the Holy Week Epistles as Paul and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews try to wrap their heads (and help us wrap ours) around what it all means.

Or we could meditate on the Servant Songs of Isaiah, which make up most of the Old Testament readings this week. We can't be sure whom the prophet was referring to in the first instance by the figure of the Servant: some suppose the prophet was speaking of himself, others think he was referring to another individual, and yet others think the Servant refers collectively to God's people. But from very early days the followers of Jesus saw in these Songs a prophetic forerunner of Jesus. So if we want to walk with Jesus this week, we could do a lot worse than to look at the Servant to whom we are introduced in today's passage.

God both calls and commissions God's Servant in this passage. The Servant is upheld, called, and given; he has strength and endurance enough not to grow faint nor be crushed until he has established justice and yet he is gentle and peaceful enough not to break a bruised reed nor quench a burning wick. He is a covenant to the people and a light to the nations. This Servant is God's gift to all to bring about God's righteousness all over the earth.

In calling this extraordinary Servant, God emphasises the newness of what God is doing. All this resonates with Jesus' final journey: in his obedience to the Father's will Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem with strength and endurance and also gentleness and peace. We will see all of this exhibited in his last days. And why? So that he can show himself to be God's chosen, establishing justice, bringing life, releasing all of us who are captives to this world and its injustices.

This week, as he fulfils the promise of his ministry of healing and proclamation, Jesus will establish a new covenant, sealed in his own blood, by his obedience even in the face of death, his submission to brutality and judicial murder rather than to betray his relationship with the God who loves and chooses and delights in him. We celebrate that new covenant and our part in it at every Eucharist, but especially on the Thursday of every Holy Week.

We are not here on this journey with Jesus to be observers only. We are here to learn from Jesus, to imitate him, to become servants ourselves. We are here to learn Jesus' strength and endurance, his gentleness and peace, so that we can become God's instruments of righteousness, embracing the new convenant and our resurrection life in the Lord.

Let us pray that the Lord will make us instruments of his redeeming peace. Amen.