Friday, April 06, 2007

"He is despised and rejected of men..." Good Friday, April 6



When I was a kid and well into my teens I attended a small white framed church, somewhat like one sees on calendars surrounded by autumn leaves in New England. The church wasn't quite as quaint as the calendar and post card pictures, but it had its charm and it was small and everyone there seemed to be related, but a few, I was among the few. It amazes me really when I look back on those days in that church, but they had a great deal of respect for the youth in the church, and for a church of its size, (we broke 100 a few times a year and then near 120 on C & E as the pastor called it.) there were a lot of kids and we were very active.

It was the custom in that Independent Christian Church that on Good Friday the youth of the church held a candlelight communion. It was well rehearsed, at many youth group meetings before hand, assignments were made, readings were rehearsed over and over with one on one mentoring on what was being read meant and it was done in hopes that the reader would take the words to heart and would read their part or say their part with passion and heartfelt meaning. Because it was an Independent Christian church there were elders and deacons that served the communion. Older teens were put in the places of the two elders who served the table and then there were four younger teens that served the congregation. This was a plate passing church with real unleavened bread cut into tiny squares and the, “wine” was served in teeny shot glasses, though they were never called that.

In 1975 I was one of the older teens who was passed over for serving the table, though the other guys were the same age. The person who gave me my assignment said, “I want you to read this,” handing me her black, well worn, King James Version, (the only real Bible they thought at the time,). “I want you to read this right here,” she said pointing to Isaiah 53:3-8, and I was taken off to the pastor's study for my first reading of the Old Testament lesson for Good Friday.

When I saw that today's Lectionary readings for Good Friday included this passage if flooded my mind with memories of that Friday night, dressed in my better than Sunday clothes I stood behind a blond wooden pulpit that was right behind the communion stable, set with white lines, staked trays of the bread and grape juice, (Welch's, no other!) After several weeks of reading the passage over and over for one of the youth leaders I was ready to read it to the full house of the Lord. To this day, while I cannot recite the entire thing, I get a chill when I hear the 2nd verse because I know the following words better than the Pledge of Allegiance.

“He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities...”

Between Helen and Marilyn these words were all translated to me, though many of them I was already familiar with. Come to think of it, it wasn't so much that the words were translated as much as the words were taught to me in phrases, making them very real to me.

Good Friday night with those white candelabra behind me dripping wax from purple candles, windows of the church open because it was warm outside, the dogwood tree just outside the window where I could see it from the pulpit, I began to read the words of Isaiah 53. I was told to read it slowly, so that everyone could understand and to remember what it meant. In those better than Sunday clothes I began to read the words, “He was despised and rejected of men, A man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief.”

It was there that I choked. A tear welled in my eye, just as it is doing know as I think of that time, and those words. I could see the picture of Jesus painted by El Greco that I had seen the Indianapolis Museum of Art just a few weeks earlier. The elongated figure, hands nailed to the cross, pulling because of the weight of his body. “He was despised and rejected of men...”

I remember that I was disappointed in the beginning that I was not selected to read the New Testament lesson, but I realize now, looking back that this passage has become so meaningful for me in the Holy Week liturgy that I think that in April of 1975 God was preparing me for this Holy Week, that he is reminding me that, “..He was wounded for my transgressions, He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by His stripes, I am healed.”

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Don,

Thank you, thank you for this week's worth of spiritual thought. As I was an hour away from home 2 weeks ago, I remembered I forgot my readings for this week. Iam in Fla. and far away from any organized gathered group to think, ponder, and pray about where we are in this season. I have tried to put it together on my own, and believe me you have given me so much from your writings. Thanks for not only bringing home this Holy week to me, but bringing home Broadway, I miss all you so much. Love, Barb

8:24 AM  
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