Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 19 January 2014
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1 Cor 1:1-3; John 1:29-34 (Find the readings here.)
Psalm 40 is a thanksgiving psalm, one which celebrates God’s intervention in the worshipper’s life. God heard the cry of the psalmist and brought them out of a muddy, desolate place. Now the pray-er is overflowing with gratitude and looking for a way to give expression to that new song bubbling up inside. Joy must out. Religious rituals just don’t seem adequate. No response other than a total giving of oneself to God will do justice to such exuberant joy and gratitude. And telling everyone else about God’s goodness. The psalmist wants to do God’s will, not out of a stoic sense of duty, but from a heart on fire with love and gratitude.
Isaiah announces that God’s will is to restore and reconcile people, not only those who are part of the insider group, but the whole world. This is what God’s servant is called to do. The servant of God has been lovingly formed and shaped by God. The servant has seen God’s glory and radiates it to others. Christian ears have been trained to hear in Isaiah’s words about the servant of the Lord references to Jesus Christ, and Jesus truly is that servant par excellence. But Jesus is the forerunner, setting the path that all his disciples are to follow. It isn’t just the St Pauls of the world who are called to announce the good news. We too are called and equipped as God’s servants. I love that image of being formed by God from the womb. As we emerge into consciousness, God’s loving shaping hands are already enfolding us. And as we catch glimpses of God’s glory, it shapes us and shines through us. We can bring to the world some of the divine light that shone out through Jesus.
It isn’t our own light and glory that the world needs. John the Baptist came announcing the One that was to come. He pointed toward God’s coming in Jesus, even before he knew quite what that would look like. The same Spirit which empowered Jesus has been graciously given to us. That is why, for all our weaknesses, we have a new song to sing, good news to share. Our calling as followers of Jesus, servants of God, is to live in such a way that others can catch a glimpse of the glory and grace of God shining through us.