Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture Passage: Isaiah 42:1-9
Our lesson this morning comes from the 42nd chapter of the book of Isaiah in your e Jesus readings this week, all of them come from the book of Isaiah. I’ll Explain that a little bit later. hear these words. Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights. I put my spirit upon him, and he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice or make it heard in the street. A bruised read. He will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed Until he has established Justice in the Earth and the coast lands wait for his teaching. Thus says God, the Lord who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it. I am the Lord. I have called you and righteousness. I have taken you by the hand and kept you. I have given you as a covenant to the people. A light, to the nations to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prisons, those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord. that is my name. my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass and the new things I now declare before they spring forth. I tell you of them.
Friends, this is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
I lived in Natchitoches for ten years. It was a joy to be there and pastor that church. And it’s kind of neat to be a Methodist preacher, to stay in a place for that long. You get to know everybody. Across the street was Bob Harling, and that name may be familiar to you. There was a little play which became a movie called Steel Magnolias, written basically across the street. On this side of me was Reverend Tommy Rush. Tommy Rush was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Natchitoches. We thought it was interesting that the two preachers, both from the state of Alabama, both graduates of Sanford University and both diehard Alabama fans, lived right next door to each other. We would gather on Sunday evening, and we would flip coins for church members. He had a list he wanted to send to me, and I had a list I wanted to send to him. And we would negotiate those lists. on this side of the house, was an old gentleman named Mr. Ponder. Mr. Ponder is older than water. I mean, he’s approaching or has exceeded 100 by now. Lloyd should have been in a wheelchair, needed a walker, but thought both of them were an abomination as far as getting around was concerned. He had talents and could fix things and build things, and he’d taken them a smaller adult bicycle, a girl’s bike that didn’t have the bar down the middle. He put a nice basket on it because his little jaunts around the neighborhood or, you know, he might drink, need a drink of water or something. Mr. Potter would get on his bike, and he would walk the bike.
He used the pedals infrequently, but he basically would walk the bike, pull his legs up and let the bike coast. He would go from his driveway down Harling Lane in front of his house, up my driveway, circle the driveway a couple of times and back around. And when I was out working on my rose bushes or my lilies, Mr. Ponder and I would have all these cool conversations. He is, was and is the neatest, quietest, most humble man. He has a sweet spirit in. And when you meet Lloyd Ponder, you know the man loves Jesus and he loves everybody else, too. Mr. Ponder served our country during World War Two. He spent two years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. he was part of something known as the Bataan Death March. And he lived to tell about it. It was about eight years before I asked him, you know, tell me about it. He said, we were overrun, and we were captured. And then, as his words were interesting. he said, they ganged us up and herded us together and started marching us like reeds in the wind. And they marched us to the camp and those who survived the march, they would make us sit in the camp with very little clothing on nothing to cover our heads or our bodies. We had to sit there all day in the sun and people who were asked for a drink of water were shot, and we had to carry them off and bury them. and if you couldn’t do the work that was required of you, you were shot, and we had to bury them.
He said they found out that I knew a little bit about woodworking and woodcraft, so they gave me a job. my job was to collect sticks and then fashion those sticks into chopsticks for the officers holding us captive. He was released, came back to the United States and for years influenced lives of young people, teaching them. a godly man who had been through hell and still had that sweet spirit. But I remember the image. They marched this off, bundled us up and marched us off like reeds and there it is in Isaiah. a bruised reed, He will not break. a dimly burning wick, He will not quench. you all that describes so many people in our fractured, broken, contentious, angry world. There are people that are there are about to break. There are others, their lights are about to go out. There are church people that are just minutes away from giving up on the church, giving up on the Christ, who is the head of the church. They’re broken their bruised, they’re their dimming, they’re facing life’s problems and they’re facing them alone because they have never made that deep spiritual intimate connection with Jesus Christ. It’s in their head, but it’s not in their hearts. And God bless them. some of them invariably run up to that church member that’s determined that God is on their side and their side is right and they pull out your bulldozer and earth mover and their backhoe, and they just plow through a life. and sometimes we preachers get to deal with the casualties, and sometimes people are just gone. and you may think that God is on your side. I don’t care what your argument is. God is on your side. There’s a better question. Are you on God’s side?
So, with our fractured, divisive, broken, hurting, angry world, we come to Isaiah, which the church is called the Fifth Gospel, because clearly a picture of Jesus is portrayed in the book of Isaiah. Matthew says that quotes Isaiah, you know, a child is born, one is given to us, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace and of his kingdom There will be no end. And Jesus himself takes for his picture of ministry the suffering servant passages that you’re going to read this week in your e100 reading. the suffering servant passages are interesting because we don’t know who the servant is. Here’s my servant. Is it Cyrus? Is it Isaiah? Is it somebody that was part of Israel’s history? Is it the nation of Israel? Could it be you? could you be the servant of God? God delights in the servant. God is called the servant. God takes the servant by the hand and keeps the servant; keeps the servant from heartache, from trouble, from failure. All we know for sure is that Jesus read the book of Isaiah. Jesus’ first sermon comes from the book of Isaiah and Jesus took as his plan for ministry, as his model for ministry These passages from Isaiah. a great model. you know, Becky Clarke has to write plans for ministry. Chris Winterton has to write plans for ministry. Doug de Graffenried has right plans for ministry. Mickey Cloud has to write plans for ministry. Or at least we used. every September you had to meet with your district superintendent for the plan for ministry, where you presented the D.S. with what you were going to do that year. Lord, forgive us. I always submitted the Wal-Mart version of it. Mine had bulleted points. Point 1, point 2 point 3. And then next year I’d go in and I’d say, Oh, great, district superintendent. I did number one, I did number three, and I did number five I didn’t get around a two, four and six. I’ve just moved them over to this year’s plan for ministry. And we in our pomposity we thought, oh, if we just do this plan for ministry, church will thrive. Things will happen. And a church thrived, and things happened. And they weren’t all bad, but in 2020, nobody submitted a plan for ministry. Something happened. You remember it. It was a pandemic and kind of all the plans went out the window. All the things you used to know how to do just gone. And I want a dime for every minister who on the first Sunday of the year 2020 preached a sermon about clear vision for ministry. We’re singing that great song I can see clearly now. Thank you, Johnny Nash, for that great theology. boy weren’t we wrong. And then 2021 comes and we think 2021. Yeah, it’s going to be good to go all the football stadiums again. And once football happens everything’s going to be back to normal right. Wrong and then 20 22 came and we thought okay 2022, we can go back and write some plans for ministry because now it’s going to be normal again. Right? Wrong. and the reed breaks and bends and the light grows dimmer and dimmer because we were writing our plans, not God’s plan.
Jesus took as his ministry statement, as his mission statement, as his model for ministry The passages you’re going to read this week from Isaiah about a humble man, a gentle man, a man who would not let the reed break or the wick be quenched. Jesus said in his ministry, which one of you having 100 sheep and losing one will leave the 99 and go after the one. And the answer, of course, is every logical answer you can think of. Nobody would do that. Nobody’s going to walk off and leave 99 perfectly good, valuable sheep to go look for this little lost lamb over here who had no business getting himself lost Anyway. it’s the lamb’s fault and Jesus said, I’m the good shepherd. I’m the one. I’m going to leave the 99. I’m going to go after that one because that one may be a dimly burning lamb or that one may be a reed who’s about to break. And so, Jesus gives us another pattern for what to do with these nearly broken people. how to be in ministry with them, how to be loving toward them, how to point them to Jesus Christ and be for them the hands in the heart of Jesus.
But there’s a great illustration of it in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel. it’s early in the morning. Early in the morning, Jesus again is in the temple and all the people come to him, and he sat down, and he began to teach them. And the scribes and the Pharisees brought to him a woman who had been caught in adultery. She is still in her adultery Outfit. and there they make her stand in front of them all. Picture a circle. she’s in the middle of it. They basically throw her at Jesus and said, Teacher this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Ain’t hearsay. It’s not speculation. We caught her. now, the law of Moses says that one such person should be stoned and look at all the witnesses we have. There are more than two or three witnesses here who will testify. She was committing adultery. The law says what? she should be Stoned. what do you say? And John tells us they did this not because they care about her. But they want to test him and Jesus bends down. The woman standing in front of him, Jesus bends down, supposedly right in front of her, and he starts drawing in the dirt, riding with his finger on the ground. And they kept quizzing him and they kept pushing him and they kept fighting to trip him up. And he’s just writing in the ground. You’ve heard lots of sermons about what he was writing, but he’s writing in the dirt, and he stands up and he says Okay, you’re right. Let any of you without sin cast the first stone. and you can almost imagine it. The sound you hear. Thud. Thud. thud.
You see, if you’re going to stone somebody to death, you need a nice flat good throwable heavy rock, and they were all holding them. Either way, they didn’t care. They were going to trip Jesus up or they were going to get to stone her. And they came armed. and I imagine from the oldest to the youngest, those men just dropped their stones. as Jesus had knelt down again and started drawing in the dirt. John tells us one by one, as they dropped their stones, they just very silently walked away. And Jesus stands up again. And he says, Woman, where are they? Where did your accusers go? Has no one… is there no one here to condemn you? And she said, No one, sir. And the hidden inference of her response is There is one left to condemn her. Jesus. He’s the only one left. And Jesus says, neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on, don’t sin. he’s drawing in the sand. He’s riding in the dirt to take their eyes off of her. She’s standing there in her shame, in her guilt, in her embarrassment, in her humiliation. And he is trying to minister to that dimly burning light and that bruised reed by drawing in the dirt. he could have condemned her, but he forgave her. he offered her hope and grace.
Isaiah calls us to be servants who offer justice and mercy, hope and grace. And we come to this table this morning being reminded of another of the suffering servant passages This is what Isaiah records in the 53rd chapter. He was despised and rejected by others. A man of suffering acquainted with infirmity, and as one from whom others hide their faces, He was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely, he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases. Yet we accounted him stricken. Struck down by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the punishment that made us whole. And by his bruises we are healed. all we like Sheep have gone astray. We’ve all turned our own way. And the Lord is laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted Yet he did not open his mouth. like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before his shearers, is silent. so he did not open his mouth.
Isaiah prophesies. He proclaims that the suffering servant will die to save those bruised reeds and those dimly burning wicks, and you and me. That’s our hope. And that’s our faith.
This morning we invite you all to the Lord’s table. It is the Lord’s table. You are all welcome here and invited here. We serve communion by intinction, by taking a piece of the bread and dipping it in the chalice. We invite you to stay at the altar, if you’d like, after communion, to pray if you’d like to give the communion offering, That’s the second offering, that offering will go to CCA and to help them with their ministry.
This is the body of Christ broken for you. This is the blood of Christ shed for you. Amen.