Gerard David, “Baptism of Christ”, 1502 – 1508, Musee Communal, Bruge, Belgium.
Isaiah 42:1-9, Matt. 3:13-17
For Sunday, January 14, 2014
Epiphany, Year A, Baptism of the Lord
When I first read this week’s readings this phrase immediately jumped out: “A bruised reed he will not break” (Isaiah 42:3). The reason it jumped out (and I’m only sharing this with you) is because I know I’m a bruised reed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
How can a reed get a bruise? This is where my wife would say, “You are so literal.” Well, sorry, but that’s what the text says… literally. Anyway, the picture is of a reed that has broken so that the top is dangling down. Have you ever walked passed one of those? There is an almost irresistible urge to snap it off. That thing just shouldn’t sit there dangling! It’s not right. It actually feels good to snap it off, right? Snap. Ahhh…. All is right with the world.
Now, for you fellow literalists, the Prophet Isaiah is using this as a metaphor, which is a future of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not …. wait for it …. literally applicable. Ohhhh…. okay then. So what is the object or action here? It’s weak or oppressed people. Isaiah is saying this: “Even though it might seem the world is a harsh place that would be better off without you, there is a servant of God coming who not only does not concur, but when he comes is going to put you and your world right. In other words, whatever your hurt, don’t despair, because hope is coming.
My hurt is trauma from my childhood due to a mentally ill Mom. Like a soldier who dives in the bushes every time he hears a loud noise, I am prone to similar subconscious emotional reactions. I’ve been working through layers of this trauma my entire adult life. It’s actually become a joy to see how deep this goes, how the Holy Spirit is at work doing healing within me, and how he’s using all of this to enable me to be a blessing to others, as a business consultant no less. In fact, over the holidays I launched my own consulting practice called Quiet Waters Consulting. The big idea is to lead others into the restoration that I’m presently enjoying as a result of the Spirit’s work within me. As Psalm 23 says, “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”
The truth is we are all reeds and we all have our bruises. We are all broken, we are all oppressed, because we live in a world alienated from it’s Creator. Yet hope has come in Jesus, God’s beloved Son, so take heart. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
Point to ponder:
Where have you or are you seeing the Holy Spirit at work within you to strengthen the reed that has been bruised?