Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, sorrow
Isaiah 53: 3-12 (NRSVA)
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
The haunting phrase ‘a man of sorrows’ comes from the King James Version of Isaiah 53: 3. It foreshadows the suffering of Jesus. A man who would become acquainted with grief in his beautiful, vivid and tragically short human life on earth. He knew celebration, adventure and deep, deep sorrow.
Sorrow at what was lost.
Sorrow born of rejection.
Sorrow of the world held in a human frame.
Sorrow that would, through tremendous love, offer seeds of hope.
Sorrow is a deep experience. It’s a trench. There is no way round it. No bridge over it. There is only a way through it. A way sometimes made easier by knowing there are those who have walked this trench before and who can come alongside us.
Sorrow is one of the deep words of reality like pain and joy and terror and delight. To be bound in time in a beautiful and dangerous world is to be a creature who knows sorrow. Knowing what could have been, and what has been, and what might be, and what won’t be, and what couldn’t ever have been, and what certainly must be… how could sorrow not be part of the equation?
But sorrow, in its heartsore heaviness can also be a marker of hope. There’s a dignity in sorrow — an affirmation that you are alive and that you have felt things and that in the absence, and loss and ending are the echoes of presence and restoration and beginning. In sorrow we confront reality as it is — and true hope can only come out of such an encounter.
Jesus was not an ethereal fey figure who gestured at enlightenment — he was and is a profoundly real person who faced reality at its most brutal and its most glorious for our sake — he sojourned among us in the deep trenches of sorrow leading us to hope and reconciliation.
Sorrow is often a place repetition as lament is repeated in waves. So I will close with the beautiful refrain from The Proclaimers’ ‘Sunshine on Leith.’
“My heart was broken
My heart was broken
Our hearts were broken,
our hearts were broken,
Sit quietly and read Isaiah 53: 3-12 out loud. Pause and reflect on the drama and severity of the words. Read it out loud again. Then say a prayer to God with whatever is on your heart.