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Monday, April 15, 2019

Bruised Reed | Monday of Holy Week

Jordan River | Photo by Adam Jones (CC BY-SA 2.0)
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; 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 reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice." (Isaiah 42:1-3 NRSV)

If traditional Christian art around Jesus is to be believed, Jesus is sort of a wuss. If men's Christian t-shirts are telling the truth, he's sort of a bully. In the former he's portrayed as a somewhat frail, lamb-cradling momma's boy. In the latter, he's either a lion or muscle bound jock, and in either case could readily rip a person to shreds. Jesus is sort of a religious Rorschach test, not looking quite the same in the mind's eye to many people. Legends are often like that.

From the earliest days of Christianity believers have seen Jesus in the verses above from Isaiah. So it is with numerous passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, all of which had meanings already in their original contexts, quite separate from Jesus. At first glance this text would seem to reinforce the gentle, lamb-loving depiction of the first century rabbi. After all, he doesn't raise his voice and wouldn't break so much as a reed. It's as if they're saying "the guy wouldn't hurt a fly!"

If we want to envision this as a depiction of a human being, it is not one who is a wimp. Sure, they aren't making a huge scene in public. At the same time, they're described as someone who will 'faithfully bring forth justice.' This isn't passivity or weakness. Rather, it's a description of quiet determination.

Everyone these days seem to believe that the times in which they live are critically important, possibly even 'the end of all things.' This has been accentuated in recent history with the incredibly unfortunate election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency.

Trump is presently causing a great deal of harm to human beings, the environment, and the prestige of the nation around the globe. With his election, the 'Resistance' was born. There have always been progressive activists with their movement, but this is different. The weekend after the election the Unitarian Universalist congregation where I'm a member was packed to the rafters with people. We were all anxious about what the future held, and wanted to do something about it, even if just being together.

It takes noise and fiery emotion to go to protests, and courage to face arrest for civil disobedience in the cause of doing what's right. Those passions won't last, however. Weariness can creep into the bones of even the most outspoken of activists. If we are wise, we take breaks, do 'me time,' and seek to recharge along the way. However, I don't think the only two options are 'on' or 'off,' and I'm certain those with the longest histories in activism know that very well. It's the newer resistors who might not have the idea.

We have jobs, families, and social obligations. We can't ignore those, nor can we set aside our own personal needs constantly for the cause of the greater good. There's a time to scream bloody hell at the White House, and there's a time to curl up with a good book or do a marathon of some who we like. In between and within all of those must be quiet determination. We won't run roughshod over everything, nor will we call attention to ourselves needlessly. Instead, we speak up for human rights and the environment and prepare ourselves for those times when we will have to take steps to faithfully carry out justice, driven by a passion for what's good and true rather than by passion pure and simple.

Lent has given us an opportunity to reset, reevaluate, and recharge. I hope that many have made the most of it, as the journey forward is surely quite long. After all, these really aren't the end times.