Liturgy of the Passion: The Old Testament Passage – Being teacher and taught

We are getting close now, close to the end of Lent, and close to Easter. This Sunday coming up is Palm Sunday as well as Passion Sunday. One to indication Jesus coming triumphantly into Jerusalem and one it signal the start of Passion Week. I have chosen to start the week with “passion”. One of the tasks in my life away from the keyboard is to try to find a job. It is hard for me to promote myself, preferring to point beyond myself to other concerns. So I am making it a personal challenge to look at this passage in terms of how it does or does not describe me. Of course, the ideal is for it to describe the Messiah whose journey to the cross is coming close. And while it does a good job – a very good some biblical commentators would say – I am conscious of the fact that the writer of Isaiah might have had a different idea in mind when it was penned.

“The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” (Isaiah 50:4)

Perhaps it is only this time, when I look at this passage that I see the writer is both a teacher and a listener. I do not know if I had seen/realized that before – being in a tizzy about whether I can claim the role of teacher. But if one both teaches and listens, that says something significant; that one does not know everything but needs to remain open to learning and understanding in new and deeper ways. That is something I have no problems claiming.

“The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.” (Verse 5)

It has been hard, beloved reader, to go through this period of time. It has been seven years since I was not employed. My last period of time of unemployment lasted six months, and I am not sure how I made it through. At the two week point I find the inactivity weighs heavy on my hands and mind. Last time I used the days and weeks to write, and I wrote a great deal. This time, however, my writing is so incorporated into my other activities that this extra time is not needed for my current writing schedule. Maybe, maybe, I am being called into writing more. I know that this week being Passion/Palm Sunday and next week leading up to Easter Sunday, I will be writing daily. And it pleases me to know I will have the time. I think though, what about beyond that time?

“I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” (Verse 6)

It is hard too, because I am used to “earning my keep” and having the measure of income to show how my time is spent. I am not one for “domestic” chores; I do not find my challenge and satisfaction in cleaning, polishing, and dusting. And perhaps, if truth to tell, I find that to be my only challenge in a day, I would rather set that aside and find other pursuits. It is also the loss of position and place of my job. I was “somebody” and in my dark times I feel like “nobody”. It is not a far stretch, in these days and weeks, to feel as the writer of Isaiah feels – back struck, cheeks pulled, insulted and spat upon. If I am the “teacher” I would feign to claim to me, you would think that I should not measure myself against worldly measures and agenda.

The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Verses 7 – 9a)

The writer of Isaiah’s words remind me, what was true for that person is (or should be) true for me now. I am not disgraced; no, not because of domestic chores or declining them, but because I have determined to persevere. But to look at my situation straight on and deal with it by opening my ear and listening to the Lord’s comfort and guidance.

This season of Lent has been a different one for me, fair different from other years. And I greatly suspect it will stick out in my memory. And that is not such a bad thing. Growth and new learning is hard, painful, and sometimes embarrassing. But far worse is refusing to grow and learn. A teacher may teach, but a teacher must learn also. So I say to my Lord, let the learning continue. Selah!