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“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 ESV)  Epiphany is the season of light. But sometimes the light can be obscured and hidden in the darkness of what appears to be ineffectiveness. Today at International Lutheran Church we celebrate “Servant Sunday.” As we read this second of the Servant Songs of Isaiah, the hidden light of God’s love is revealed in His Son Jesus for you and me and all people. 

If you came early today to ILC, you were treated to “Breakfast with Gordy” by our ILC Sunday School children and parents as part of our “Servant Sunday” celebration. Gordy is a favorite character in our Sunday School program. He plays an important role in helping us share the love of Jesus with each of the children at ILC. He serves as not just an instrument of amusement and interest but also as a reminder to our role as children of God, baptized into Christ and ultimately His servants, His instruments in the hand of God. Maybe I should explain. Gordy is a puppet that became instrumental to us during those dark days of COVID lockdowns and “online” Sunday School. As we have transitioned to in-person Sunday School, Gordy has continued to be an instrument or tool in helping us tell the story of Jesus’ love to all people near and far.

The idea of a servant or tool to tell of God’s love did not arise out of the necessity of COVID, but rather is the very heart of God.  We see this in the words of the prophet Isaiah where here in chapter 49, the LORD speaks of His “tool,” His “instrument” to be the light of His love to the ends of the earth. “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” (Isaiah 49:3) This is no “puppet” but the very Servant of the Lord. Yet, the hiddenness and frustration cannot be missed. As precious as His calling and origins from birth are, His anguish is strikingly obvious. “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity!” (Isaiah 49:4a) It is as if He is feeling like a puppet. While we might muse about who this servant is, and reflect on all the other servants of the Lord that underwent frustration – Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Isaiah, Hosea - His faith is clear: “yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.” (Isaiah 49:4b)

This ultimately reveals the purpose and point of His anguish. God had bigger plans: not just to restore His servant Israel, but to ultimately bring all people back to God. Here we see the Epiphany Light of Our Savior Jesus stand out clear as crystal. His “spent-ness,” His death, would be the clarion call to all the nations that God loves them. This whole chapter begins after all with a call to the coastlands.  Isaiah’s prophecy speaks to us. God’s Servant Jesus was chosen from birth, His majesty hidden from human eyes so that you and I would see God’s glory – that He loves you and me. That in Christ, baptized into His Name, we become precious tools and instruments of the LORD to show His grace and mercy each day in our communities – these coastlands and far off places so that not only Jacob would be saved and Israel restored but so that all people everywhere would know His love for them.  

But just as the Servant of the Lord was not immune to the seemingly ineffectiveness of His calling, we too can only rely on the strength and light of God to shine in and through our hiddenness. That God would choose such a way to reveal His hidden light speaks again to His greater purpose – not just to redeem you and me, but to redeem and bring back all! This is the hidden light of God’s love revealed in Jesus and now in you and me. This is Epiphany! 

Pastor Carl