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Send Me…

May 30, 2015

Sacred Heart Cullman

In the year that King Uzziah died… thus starts the incredible story of the calling of Isaiah the Prophet. I find it interesting that this calling is placed not at the beginning of the book, but rather after we have already heard five chapters worth of Isaiah’s prophetic utterances. The thing about these utterances was, they weren’t exactly warm fuzzies for the people of Israel! “Ah, you who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood, who drag sin along with cart ropes… Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:18, 20) Yes, Isaiah was calling the people to task in the name of the Lord and warning them of their impending exile.

So where did this strong voice of the prophet come from? It is almost as if Isaiah was pausing to remember where it had all begun and what had brought him to that point in his life. Was this firebrand preacher really the man who almost cowered  in the presence of the Lord and who felt completely unworthy? Yes indeed it was and Isaiah was remembering why he was doing what he was doing. Believe me, it isn’t easy for a prophet to tell people what they don’t necessarily want to hear. People would rather have a “yes” person who tells them the old, old stories without challenging them to grow deeper in their faith. What the people of Israel needed at that moment was a “Gibbs slap” (reference from the TV show NCIS) on the back of their head to wake them up!

Finding himself increasingly alienated and not exactly welcome by those in power, Isaiah likely needed to refresh his memory and remember just why he was doing what he was doing. More important than that though, was the fact that he needed to remember who gave him the authority to say what he was saying. He needed to remember that day when he stood in the temple in a vision before the Lord.

The man who stood trembling in the temple was petrified I would imagine. At least I know I would have been! The Lord was sitting on a throne in the temple and yet all Isaiah could see was the hem of his garment. The overwhelming majesty of God was coupled with the Seraphs calling back and forth, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3) All of this caused the very threshold of the temple to shake and smoke filled the house. Is it no wonder that Isaiah was overwhelmed?

“Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah knew full well that to see God was to die as Moses had been warned long ago on the mountain when he asked God to reveal God’s self to him (Exodus 33:20). Isaiah hadn’t even been called yet and he felt completely overwhelmed. Just being in the Lord’s presence was too much for him to comprehend.

Just then, one of the Seraph flew to Isaiah with a live coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s mouth with it. How on earth Isaiah was able to maintain any sort of composure at that point is a miracle in and of itself. You think your lips are unclean, Isaiah? You think your lips are unclean? Yes, you do live in the midst of a people who have unclean lips. With a single touch from the live coal the Seraph proclaimed, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” (Isaiah 6:7)

Still in a daze I am sure, Isaiah next heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Instead of looking around and wondering who God could possibly be talking to (Surely not me, Lord) Isaiah found his voice and said, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Isaiah may have worried and wondered from time to time about just what he had gotten himself into with this whole prophet thing. Each time, he would remember both the overwhelming presence of God AND his bold words, “Send me!” Not only did God send Isaiah forth to do the work of a prophet, God equipped Isaiah for the job. The live coal cleansed him and God blotted  out his sin. God would again and again, give Isaiah the strength, courage, wisdom, and stamina he needed as he followed the call of the Lord.

While I may not have had as overwhelming an experience of being called as Isaiah did, I do remember my own call to serve as a Chaplain and my second call to serve as a Pastor following retirement from the Air Force. There are plenty of times when either I feel the doubts creeping into my own heart or when I feel embattled. What I do in those cases is recall who I was called to serve and how God has always equipped me to do God’s work, no matter how overwhelmed or embattled I may be. God is faithful and God always strengthens me for the work I have been called to do.

Dear reader, God has called you to serve as well. Perhaps not in as mighty a way as the prophet, but God has called you and promises to equip you to serve. Will you join with me in responding to God’s call, trusting that God will provide all that we need to serve? Will you join with me in saying, like Isaiah, “Here am I; send me!”

The picture above is a statue of Jesus (the Sacred Heart of Jesus) form St. Bernard’s Monastery in Cullman, Alabama where I have gone on retreat and visited… each time, being re-affirmed in my calling to serve the Lord.

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