"behold my servant"

Behold 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.

He will not fail or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth... (Is 42.1-4)

I'm supposed to lead the discussion Sunday on the first two "servant songs" in Isaiah. I didn't choose them, but they seem like a good way for me to respond to the reorganization going on the in the community here (which I've decided not to participate in). The idea is that Jesus came as a savior very different from the usual political leaders, very different from what the people expected. And I think we are called to be different in the same way.

The first servant song above provides a good contrast, I think, between political leaders ("saviors") and the more prophetic leadership that Jesus offered. He didn't need to "lift up his voice" to gain the people's support, or demonstrate his strength and authority by breaking a few bruised reeds along the way. And he didn't need to cut deals or compromise his goals in order to keep sufficient public support to get things done. His establishing of justice needs no popular support and is never in danger of failing.

Because, unlike political leaders, the servant (note that he is called God's servant, not the servant of the people) doesn't accomplish his purposes through the power of people. His purposes are accomplished by the power of God. This is more clear in the second servant song (Is 49.1-6). "My God has become my strength." Jesus led prophetically, by speaking God's truth and living the reality of the kingdom that God had established. He didn't need the political power to enforce his own words; God enforced them. So Jesus could be humanly weak, gentle, and even seem to be a complete failure (at the cross), and still "bring forth justice" surely and without compromise. Because God made it happen.

I think we're still caught up here in trying to find political solutions to save ourselves. Trying to reassure people by exerting authority, even to the extent of pushing some past their breaking point, hoping to find support for various different (and conflicting) proposals, which I'm sure will end with the necessary political compromises and no one getting all they hoped for.

The prophetic vision sees that we already have a beautiful structure, given by God, called the body of Christ. And we already have a leader, our perfect Head, Jesus. To whom we are already all committed, I believe, as much as we can be committed to anything—so why do we think some communal membership or mission statement could unite us any better?

Prophetic leadership, in our case, I think, means being able to see and reassure each other about that God-given unity and common purpose, stop struggling over politics and serve God as we are called to, humbly tending to the needs of one another.