Sunday, October 21, 2012

Second Cup—Sunday


• Isaiah 53:4-12
• Psalm 91:9-16
• Hebrews 5:1-10
• Mark 10:35-45

The theme of suffering runs pretty much throughout the readings for this 21st Sunday after Pentecost—a theme I’d just as soon not have to think about. Psalm 91 seems to be in contrast to the other three; however, the other three are pretty much undeniably about the redemptive power of suffering.

The Isaiah passage is more often than not connected to Jesus; I get that—it is easy to read Jesus back into this text. (Well, most of the text; there are a few passages that have to be ignored. I understand why the church read Jesus back into the text and concluded that this is Messianic prophecy.) I think, however, that we do that at some risk to ourselves. That reading allows me not to think about what it means for me, my life, and the redemption of the world.

I think that this reading is really about Israel and, by extension, the church. Another way to say that is this passage is about the people of God in the world for the world. The heading reads “a light to the nations.” That’s one of the themes that Israel—and, again, by extension, the church—is uncomfortable with. We like the chosen part; we do not like the light on the hill bit, unless it means that the world can see how wonderful we are, how right we are, and how powerful we are.
The suffering of Jesus can be redemptive—“Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) and "... the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). OK. We get that: there is benefit to that. But us? But me? Suffering servants?! Suffering servant?! Getting a bit uncomfortable now.

Yet, Jesus says to his disciples who ask for positions of power and authority in the kingdom, “Can you drink from the cup from which I will drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I will be baptized?” Whew! Hard questions: always hard questions. I think I have grown soft. I think I am cowardly. I think I am afraid of suffering—suffering for me, let alone for anyone else. But Jesus suffered for me—his great sacred heart was broken for me. His love for me—and all humankind—was so wide and deep and high and full and rich that he died rather than give me—give us—up. Can I drink from the cup from which he drank? Can I be baptized with his baptism? It is certainly my question and one I will live with and into. It is also the question for the church.

If the church is the body of Christ, where are the wounds?

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