He will not break off a bent reed, nor put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph.
Isaiah prophesies about a ‘bruised reed.’ and a ‘smoldering wick.’ In fulfillment Jesus came, not to destroy the reed or put out the wick, but to take brokenness and smoldering away. Jesus has healed and re-ignited us, has brought us into the Kingdom, into lives vastly differently.
Through this Lent we reflected and acted on our call to be vastly different. We looked at our inward selves and our outward actions and have worked to reform them through more ardent prayer, sacrifice, study, worship, and giving. We came to realize that those in the Kingdom live like this year-round, not just during Lent.
Today, St. Paul speaks of that change in him. Paul accomplished much in his youth; he was at the top of his profession. He contrasts his life in Christ to that prior life, not in exaggerated detail, but in broad strokes.
Paul tells us that everything he was before, all that he had, is loss – i.e., nothing, worthless, even a waste. Everything before his encounter with Jesus, and his acceptance of Christ in faith, Paul says with more than a little hyperbole, is rubbish compared to where he is and where he is going.
That seems extreme until we realize how much more excellent life in Christ is. Paul got that! Paul came to realize, very clearly, what he was before Jesus. Indeed, Paul was, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick giving neither light nor warmth. Now all things are different. Jesus has changed him, and he now presses forward, as in a race, to attain, to possess the fullness of life in Christ we will know in heaven.
Paul challenges us to go forward in faith with eyes on the heavenly prize of eternal companionship with Christ. Faith is not backward-looking, nor does it rest on its laurels. We must constantly continue our pursuit of excellence in the Kingdom life, in walking the gospel path.
We see, brothers and sisters, the realization of God’s promises in Isaiah, the new thing He is doing, that is our Kingdom life today begun in Christ Jesus. That new thing is the removal of the bruise in us. It is the re-ignition of the fire within us. His doing is not at all reliant on our past, for it is out of complete mercy that He gives us that same new life Paul lived.
Illustrating all this in such a poignant way is Jesus in the confrontation over the sinful woman. In this confrontation the scribes and Pharisees remain steadfast in their past, they live so completely in the past that they fail to see the Messiah standing before them, they walk away. On the other hand, the woman recognizes the new thing God present is doing in her life, she goes forward, like Paul, changed – the past bruise is gone, she is reignited.
We are healed and made on fire for the Kingdom of God. We are made whole. Our Lenten journey has revealed what God has done for us. Then let us let go, forget the past as God has, and press on to fulness of life here and forever with Christ.