By Rev. Katherine Todd
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,-
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
Notice this truth – that when we are excellent at something, it is because GOD has given it, God has fashioned us with gifts and abilities, and God teaches us.
Of course we are also responsible.
We can follow God, or we can turn aside, away from God – much as the prophet here acknowledges his capacity to either follow God or turn backwards, away from God.
In this scripture, we hear the prophet explaining how he hears God. God wakens him, morning my morning, wakens his ear “to listen as those being taught.”
The prophet does not claim to be the master. The prophet does not claim exclusive knowledge or even wisdom. The prophet is renowned and yet he does not claim the knowledge and words he imparts, as being his own.
No, he simply listens, as one being taught.
…as one being taught.
How many students do you know who are well-known? It isn’t usually the student whose words are remembered. Isn’t it rather the master, the teacher, the guru who gets the glory?
And yet, the prophet describes himself as listening as one being taught.
He is nothing, apart from God’s instruction.
He is only a teacher, insofar as he is taught by God.
And isn’t that the truth of things? Wisdom and truth, strength and joy, freedom and redemption…they all come from God. They originate with God. And we only begin to grasp and receive them when we humble ourselves before God, again and again, allowing God to be our teacher, our comfort, our Lord, our Savior!
We only teach well, insofar as we are taught.
We only lead well, insofar as we are led.
We only comfort well, insofar as we receive God’s comfort.
We only love well, insofar as we experience and receive the steadfast love of the Lord for us.
Christ humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. Isaiah humbled himself, opening himself to God’s instruction and becoming as a student before God, morning by morning.
If Christ and Isaiah humbled themselves, shall we not also humble ourselves?
Shall we not also open ourselves before God in prayer and listening?
Shall we not also become as a student of God, listening as one being taught?
Our God knows exactly what we need.
Our God already sees solutions to our problems.
And our God loves us more infinitely than our minds can begin to grasp.
So won’t we too humble ourselves, morning by morning,
Listening for God’s Words to us, morning by morning,
Becoming a student of God, opening ourselves to God’s instruction,
And not being rebellious, not turning backward,
But like Isaiah, pressing forward,
Our faces as flint,
Confident in our Provider,
Confident in our Vindicator,
Confident in our Helper, Redeemer, our Friend.
And let us be loved!
Let us be comforted!
Let us know God’s sweet and timely provision!
Let us see God’s mercies and surprising grace!
Let us be taught by the Creator of Heaven and Earth,
And may we be led by the One who made the stars and the ladybug and who cares for you and me.
Beloved, let us open ourselves to the Almighty.