Closed Ears and Lazy Tongues: Reflections on Palm Sunday/Liturgy of the Passion

We hear too little of policy and too much of personal attack, too little of what a candidate wants to do to lift up all our people, and too much of what a candidate might do to obliterate our enemies, to "turn the sand of the Middle East into a glowing cauldron," to "build a giant wall on our southern borders" to keep out all those who do not look or sound like us, the "us" being Anglo Americans of a certain class and rank. How I long for a wise tongue who can stand against brutes and bullies, because that tongue is steeped in truth and sustained by open ears, ready to hear, anxious to hear what God is saying to the people. Am I a foolish Pollyanna for longing for such a one?

YHWH promises that the servant is precisely such a figure, one who can stand up, who can speak the truth, who finally will not be "put to shame" (Is. 50:7). Little wonder that those early Christians found in this poem the very image of the one they knew as Christ, that one who endured the rejection of many, the idiocy and fear of his own disciples, and went to a bloody death on a Roman cross because death is too often the end for those who tell too much truth and do not give in to the easy way.

I do not know if Isaiah had any particular Israelite in mind when his pen arched into these magnificent paeans of suffering and service. Surely some of the early prophets, most especially Jeremiah, might fit Isaiah's bill. The Christians were sure it was Jesus, but I think they were equally certain that it was not only Jesus who was asked to be the suffering truth teller in his world. They knew deep down that God was calling them to such open-eared, potent-tongued power as he had shown. And I have no doubt at all that all of us are called in exactly this way, too, to open our ears to YHWH/God and to speak truth to whatever powers that our world presents to us. For we are nothing less than YHWH's great servant, if we only align ourselves to God's ear opening and tongue speaking call. May this Passion/Palm Sunday call you and your people to such a task.

12/2/2022 9:10:31 PM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.