Day 23 Sacred Season 2015
DAY 23. 1st July Flickering flames: Matthew 12:18-21 Jill Tabart.
Past President of the Uniting Church
Matthew 12:18-21 (GNT)
18 âHere is my servant, whom I have chosen,
the one I love, and with whom I am pleased.
I will send my Spirit upon him,
and he will announce my judgment to the nations.
19 He will not argue or shout,
or make loud speeches in the streets.
20 He will not break off a bent reed,
nor put out a flickering lamp.
He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,
21 and on him all peoples will put their hope.â
Basis of Union Paragraph 3: Jesus of Nazareth announced the sovereign grace of God whereby the poor in spirit could receive Godâs love.
I remember camp-fire times with my Dad.
I remember his painstaking efforts to demonstrate the ancient onesâ fire-making technique of friction between 2 sticks, aided by seemingly futile face-reddening blowing.
I remember my wide-eyed wonder when wisps of smoke started to waft up from where the sticks were in contact; definite disbelief when a tiny glow was possibly glimpsed; then [âO frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!â] absolute amazement when a flame burst forth, to be nurtured into a fully-fledged fire by us kids with dry leaves and twigs.
From apparently barren resources, the improbable CAN be encouraged to emerge.
Matthew quotes this passage [12:18-21] from the book of the prophet Isaiah [42:1-4] to show the fledgling Christian community of his time that Jesus fulfils the hopes for a coming Messiah, the suffering servant (not the triumphant warrior) who will usher in the kingdom of God – for all people.
But in the time of the Hebrew people in exile in Babylon, this passage from âSecond Isaiahâ brought glimpses of hope to the hearts of a despairing people who felt God had deserted them. The passage can be read from these displaced peopleâs perspective as describing a person, the one suffering servant, OR as a clarion call to the exiled nation to live out faithfully its understanding of Godâs purposes, even in this foreign land amongst a society with diverse faiths and practices.
Thereâs the image of a battered, bruised and bent reed, useless for commercial purposes like weaving, yet valued for its potential and supported till it can regain its strength; thereâs the image of a flickering or smouldering candle all but snuffed out, being gently coaxed into life again â familiar images from daily life that would have powerfully reminded this community that their God is a powerful God, and that Godâs kingdom of justice and peace for everyone can be achieved by even the weakest being helped to take their part, even in the most unlikely situations.
What does this passage say to us, the Uniting Church in Australia, in 21st century Australian society?
- Where around you in church or society are the battered, bruised and bent reeds needing support?
- How can you show the de-valued, the despondent, that they are precious with potential?
- Where in church or society is the flickering, smouldering candle all but snuffed out?
- What does it take to allow God to trim the spent wick, to apply the friction necessary to re-kindle a strong flame once more â even using the most improbable resources?
Hearts on fire -?
âAbove all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.â [Proverbs 4:23]
Your fire, Lord, thatâs burning deep down in our heart is oft times now flickering â will it go out?!
When challenges, qualms or catastrophes loom, our faith takes a battering, weâre sinking in gloom.
The wickâs black and brittle, perhaps nearly spent; give ear to our heartache, Lord: hear our lament!
Please trim back the used wick and wipe out our shame; nurture potential, Lord: cosset the flame.
Shelter from fierce storms, protect from the gale – show us again that your love will prevail.
Give us the vision to follow your way – till Godâs love and justice bring hope for each day.
Pray for: Unitingworld partner – Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua
Defence Force Chaplaincy