Isaiah’s Answer

This week’s lectionary readings include the call of the prophet Isaiah. In Christian terms, when God has a special task God wants the person to do, God’s asking is refered to as a call. Isaiah finds himself in the presence of God and is struck by God’s holiness and his own humanness. Seraphs remove Isaiah’s guilt. Isaiah hears God ask “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah immediately answers, “Here am I; send me!”  Now you might expect someone who has just seen almighty God would be hesitant to answer, let alone volunteer, but not Isaiah. He pipes up without a recorded moment of doubt or reflection.

There are several notable moments in this story, but for today, let’s focus on God’s question. God appears to be looking for volunteers. Now God apparently isn’t above stacking the deck a bit by bringing Isaiah into God’s Temple and God’s presence. But God doesn’t say, “OK Isaiah you’re going, I pick you!”. God doesn’t force us to act against our will.  And I don’t think God’s question is rhetorical. I think it is a real question and Isaiah could have not answered or could have said no.  It seems that because he is in God’s presence Isaiah is emboldened. God is worth “going” for.

Sometimes when we read this sort of story in the Bible, we think this is normal. We begin to think our experience is somehow flawed if we haven’t received a clear, dramatic message from God. But Isaiah’s call is just that, Isaiah’s call. Not your call and not my call. When you think about it, there are only a handful of call stories in the Bible. I suspect the stories are there because of their uniqueness, not because they are typical.

The reality is, most of us don’t get this sort of clear dramatic call.  The reality is it can be difficult to discern God’s call for us under the best of circumstances. When we add dramatic expectations we are setting ourselves up for trouble. Most of us aren’t called to a big, showy, or dramatic life. That’s what popular culture tells us. Please, let’s not confuse the siren call of pop culture with God’s call.

God’s call to each of us is to love God and to love our neighbor. How each of us does that is particular to our situations and for most of us not very flashy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it isn’t countercultural, even subversive. It’s just not trendy and fame producing.

When you think you understand, at least in part, God’s call to you. Your answer is verbally the same as Isaiah’s, “Here am I am, Send me.”  And in one sense, your call is like Isaiah’s to be faithful. But how- day by day- answering the call to be faithful by loving God and loving your neighbor looks in your life will be distinctly yours.  You call may look quite different in its particulars at various times in your life.

Often people find thinking about God’s call to them a stressful thing. We worry that we won’t get it right. Or that we will misunderstand or misinterpret God’s desires for us. But, remember, God loves us, God cares for us, and God is very, very creative. We worry about missing the mark, missing God’s call. Perhaps we could start thinking about God’s call as a call to a journey, the journey of our life.

I’d like to know, what do you think?

If you are thinking about God’s call to you and want to read something helpful. I would suggest starting with Quentin Schultze’s book, “Here I Am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing?”

Beginning this month, I’m one of several contributors at “Presbyterian Bloggers”  My focus is on science and religion, others write about a variety of topics. You don’t have to be Presbyterian to read this blog- so please stop by and visit us.

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