Isaiah 49:1-6
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
January 15, 2023

A woman rushed into a coffee house for her lunch date with a friend.  She apologized for being late, saying, “I’m sorry to keep you waiting.  I was delayed because, as I was walking here, I came upon a car accident that had just occurred.  People were bleeding and moaning; and no ambulance had yet come.”  “How awful, but how fortunate,” her friend exclaimed, “you’d just completed a first aid course!”  “Indeed it was!” she replied.  “I right away did what they’d taught us.  I sat down on the curb, put my head between my knees so as not to faint, and stayed like that until the paramedics arrived.”

Somehow the lady missed the point of first aid.

And sometimes the servants of the Lord miss the point of being the servants of the Lord.  A self-serving congregation is an unfaithful congregation, and a self-serving child of God is an unfaithful one – no matter how “spiritual” they are.

Today’s scripture paints one portrait of “the servant of the Lord” in a series of such in the book of Isaiah.  In many, “the servant of the Lord” refers to the community of the faithful – that is, to Israel.  But some of them speak of “the servant of the Lord” having a mission of service to Israel, the servant of the Lord, which suggests either that the “true” Israel will serve unfaithful Israel, or that a special, more-than-human servant will serve them all – which is what Christians believe Messiah Jesus did.

Be that as it may, it is clear from this and other scriptures that God’s people are blessed in order to be a blessing to others … that God’s people are called, not just to take care of each other, but to reach out even to strangers beyond their present community.  Hear again what God in the culminating verse of this scripture says to His servant community:  “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Judah and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

To live as the people of God is to embrace the purpose of God for them.  God has brought us good news too good to keep to ourselves: that the Supreme Being loves everyone and hence wants everyone to be treated fairly, respectfully, compassionately and graciously.

If we believe that, how could we not do what we can to help others experience God’s love firsthand?  How could we not tell those willing to listen the stories of God and work to make those stories credible by embodying God’s care and concern for them?

How could we not try to make it easier for them to believe the messages God sends: that He both loves us just as we are and loves us too much to leave us that way, that we get to improve in character and conduct though we don’t have to in order to receive His best gifts, and that we can walk through life with the most enthralling and supportive Person we could ever imagine: One who is always there for us, who can’t do too much for us and who has no limits in the wisdom and strength He aches to share with us?

To be a servant of the Lord is to bear in mind that it’s never all about me – or even all about us.  It’s always about everyone, even those different or distant from us.  To be a community of God is to know that we together do not belong to ourselves, but to God – and thereby to this big, wide world full of all kinds of people, each of whom matters mightily to their Maker.  Thus, God’s community doesn’t exist for itself alone, but for other people and communities as well.  To belong to God is to belong to those to whom we might be of some assistance.

Calvin Miller was flying back home after speaking at a student conference up in Ridgecrest.  Though exhilarated by the weekend, he – being an introvert – was looking forward to some time to himself on the three hour flight to Omaha.

Calvin had learned that the best way to be left alone on a plane is to bury your face in a big, black Bible.  Without being rude, you scare away people.  Flight attendants are even afraid to offer you pretzels.

Calvin noticed that the young man seated next to him was weeping silently.  Determined to enjoy his solitude, Calvin tried to convince himself it wasn’t any business of his; but finally his conscience got the better of him.  He turned in his seat and said, “Son, I don’t know what’s wrong; but, if there is anything I can do to help, I’d like to.”  Sam told Calvin that his mother, father and little sister had been killed the day before.  Calvin’s heart grew still and quiet.  He felt Sam’s pain, or tried to.  Eventually, he spoke up and said, “I don’t know what you must be feeling.  I can’t imagine it, but I know Someone who understands it perfectly.”  Then he took the Bible behind which he’d been hiding, read to Sam about God’s love, and gave Sam hope and comfort. When Calvin had to deplane in Omaha, he called a friend in Asheville, Sam’s final destination, and arranged for the two of them to meet at the airport so Sam could continue to experience God’s support through God’s people.

There are no strangers to God. Thus, God’s people are to bring the light of God’s love to them all.

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