Passion Sunday

Face Like Flint

(Liturgy of the Passion A    Isaiah 50:4-9a)

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. (Isaiah 50:7-8)

This is the Hebrew Bible reading for the Liturgy of the Passion, and although I'm preaching the Palm Sunday lesson from the gospel, I think I'm going to use this reading in tandem with it, the shadow of the cross made by crossed palms in the air.

I'm thinking today about shame, how much more a part of the first century culture it was, and how we still try to employ it, but how magnificently we fail. The friends of Eliot Spitzer's prostitute are on the morning news talking about what a good person she is.

This gently-raised Southern girl wants to purse her lips together and say, "Mmm-hmm." And then I wonder why I have to know about this at all? Why is this so fascinating? Soon she will decide where to sell her story, and perhaps that will enable her to leave her line of work and do something else. Even her friends consider this to have been a "mistake," but is anyone actually ashamed by any of this?

For first century people, the road Jesus would walk to crucifixion was a Walk of Shame, but in the face of it, the prophet declares there will be no shame, but rather determination and courage, and in the Easter story, victory not only over death but over humanity's death-dealing.

Being lumped in with people we wouldn't want to know–are we ready for that?