Bruised Reeds & Dimly Burning Wicks

Today’s lectionary reading comes from Isaiah 42: 1-9.

I invite you to find a space free of interruptions for a little bit of time to read through this Scripture slowly a few times, listening for what God is saying.

I have read this passage many times in my life, but today the image that jumps out at me and grabs me is the bruised reed and the dimly burning wick.

The servant that God sent, upon whom God’s Spirit rests, comes to bring forth justice to the nations. I am curious what that means to you? Justice to the nations?

To achieve this, God’s servant will not cry out or lift up his voice…he will not cry out and lift up his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a dimly burning wick.

This is not an image of someone bulldozing their way to what they want with loud and careless words. This is a gentle and quiet image of God’s servant ministering to those who are broken and damaged.

I have been through swampy waters and seen reeds. The ones that are bruised are often discolored and thin. Sometimes their stalks are bent preventing them from standing up straight. It is easy to overlook a bruised reed because it is usually surrounded by stout healthy reeds.

We have just gone through the Advent season where every week (in the four weeks leading up to Christmas) we light a candle. Even though there is a lever to lift or lower the wick on the candle lighter to prevent the flame from extinguishing, there was a weekly ritual that would happen with people as they would carry that candle lighter down at the beginning of service to light the candle for the day. As the flame would begin to diminish, rather than lift the wick, the first instinct is to cup our hands around the dying flame to protect it and to keep it alive.

These are the images of the bruised, broken and dying to who the servant of God is sent. Isaiah’s words draw a connection to those imprisoned or captive as the bruised and broken. Can we think of those imprisoned today in the same way? How are they like a bruised reed or a dimly burning wick? Who else in your community and your life fits that description? Do you feel bruised and broken? Do you feel like a dimly burning wick?

A prayer for today: God of the helpless, the easily overlooked, the diminishing and the forgotten, may your mercies reign down on those who are hurting and in need. May compassion and empathy fill our hearts, our words and our actions as we recognized the bruised and broken among us and that which is bruised and broken in ourselves. May that same spirit that gave power and guidance to your servant rest on those in their time of need. Amen.



About the Author
Rochelle Richards is Pastor of Sumner First Christian Church.

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