For January 15, 2017. Isaiah 49:1-7, Ps 40:1-11, 1 Cor. 1:1-9, John 1:29-42
Can you imagine a professional sports team called the "Lambs?" Big, burly football players running onto the field to the pounding of drums and shouts of "GO FLUFFIES!"
Nope. It just doesn't work. We expect a team name to reflect some power, dominance, or toughness. (Toughness is the only way I can understand 'Penguins' as name. 'Ducks?' That still makes me laugh.) Predators are understandably popular for team names. Lions, Panthers, Sharks, Coyotes, Knights, Devils, Kings...those names all imply some threat or dominance.
But Lambs? It would never work. We don't expect a lamb to be anything but cute, or needy, or dinner.
Last week the Isaiah passage presented a gentle leader who wouldn't even break a reed, yet he is tough enough to bring about justice for the nations. A hard concept to wrap our heads around.
This week, Isaiah 49 continues the description of the leader God sends to change the world, and it is still hard to understand. It speaks of a leader shaped and called and poured into a mission to gather God's people. He is to be a light to nations and kings will bow to him. However, that leader also will feel they have laboured in vain (v 4), and will be despised and abhorred (v. 7). It's not a happy bandwagon, the servant leader is not an easy answer to the world's problems.
It is so hard to understand the kind of leader God invites us to follow, it goes against our 'common sense." We want our leaders to be strong, courageous (in certain ways that agree with us), and to take no crap from outsiders. In short, we want confident, powerful, ethical people who defend our interests. A lamb doesn't fit the bill. (However, it is important to remember that a lion doesn't fit it either when it turns around and eats it's followers.)
Followers of a lamb are at risk of being misunderstood. Yielding, gracefulness, putting others first, refusal to hurt others, and being willing to be sacrificed...these things should not be mistaken for weakness. It takes more courage for a lamb to speak into a roomful of other beasts than it does for a lion. Lamb leadership is a very different kind of leadership that expects a lot from it's followers.
In John 1:29-39, John the Baptist introduces Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The people of that time were used to lambs being sacrificed as sin offerings in the temple. Who would want to follow this leader? Apparently quite a few of John's disciples, and Andrew, and Peter, and Philip and Nathanael. They were ready to pitch in; "GO FLUFFY!" Did they know how very different from other leaders Jesus was?
I don't think we understand how bizarre this is. If are to be disciples, to follow Jesus the lamb of God, it means being a lamb too. It means sometimes being sacrificed for others, it means we believe in the power of love even when, in the short term, violence and hate seem stronger and more efficient. It means having patience beyond our short lives. It means believing that God is in charge. It does not mean giving in to the lions, but it might mean getting eaten by them.
It means working toward a very different understanding of society, an upside-down kingdom. And somehow, even with my confusion about how this works, it feels like very good news. We so desperately need something different to rule our world.