And I said: “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!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:5-8)
HEALED, CALLED, AND SENT
The five-senses vision that Isaiah had of the Lord in the temple, right before he said “yes” to being a prophet, is absolutely spectacular, and - as far as I am aware - rather rare. But there are aspects of Isaiah’s calling that are quite relevant for our own lives.
First of all, to experience the utter holiness of God can be overwhelming. Like Isaiah, we often come face-to-face with our sin, our smallness, and our sense of inadequacy when we get even a glimpse of the majesty and glory of God. We can cry out with Isaiah, “Woe is me!” When we get a taste of God, we can certainly see how we as human beings have sinned and fallen way short of the glory of God - to paraphrase Paul.
Second, we can also experience the healing touch of God. And when we do, we experience a healing like none other, because it involves the kind of forgiveness that makes our guilt depart. We know that “our sin is blotted out.” We are made right in our bodies, right in our minds, right in our souls, and - yes - right in our relationship with God. And this all happens because of who God is and what God does.
Third, after we have been healed in this way, we often hear - in rather short order - some sort of call from God. And if you keep listening and keep striving to follow Christ, the call from God will persist, and you will hear God calling you to the next thing, and then the next thing.
Isaiah’s call was to be a prophet, and the first words that the Lord told him to speak to the people of Israel were challenging words, but words which also invited the people to “turn and be healed.” (see Isaiah 6:9-11)
You may or may not be called to be God’s prophet, but I am quite confident that God is calling you into something. If nothing else, God is calling you to be an instrument of light, love, and healing for others, or an instrument of light, love, and healing for the planet.
The first time that God calls you, or when you hear the next part of your call, there is always a moment of choice. Will we say yes to the call, or say no, or say “I’m not ready, Lord. This is not a good time!” Isaiah said, “Here am I; send me!” That exclamation point implies that he was enthusiastic about the call, that he was eager to get started.
My leaving St. Ambrose in February has everything to do with hearing and responding to the next part of my call. I will still be a priest, but in a new way. Some people refer to this as “the call within the calling”. I believe that, for us as Christians, we are always to be listening for God’s guidance, we are always in discernment, we are always asking “Is this the Lord asking me to do this?” As we stay in relationship with God, we have another kind of relationship with call - with what we hear God calling us to do. This next part of my call has been ten years in the making. (Evidently I had some more learning to do before I could answer God with an unequivocal “Yes!”)
The final part of this journey around call is that we don’t know what awaits us once we say “yes” to God. We know we are to keep praying. We know we are to keep listening. And what we know, more than anything else, is that God will be faithful… that God will be with us as we step into the call. But as we take the first steps, we don’t know much more than that. God gives us enough guidance, enough light for the first step, and then the next step. God doesn’t give us all of the instructions at once, in my experience.
So… a few questions for you:
When have you experienced the glory and holiness of God?
How has God touched you and healed you?
What do you hear God calling you to do in 2019?
What is your response to God’s call upon your life?
Whatever you are hearing, and however you are responding, may you go, trusting in God’s gracious provision.
My testimony is that God provides for us in ALL the ways that we need it. Thanks be to God!