Monday Scripture - Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
Isaiah is serving in the temple when an amazing and terrifying vision interrupts. A vision of God sitting on his throne and angels attending. Isaiah hears a voice. Jeremiah does not describe what he is doing when the word of the Lord interrupts him, just that the word of the Lord came to him when he was a boy. The word is a vision that contains a message for Israel. Moses is living the life of a simple shepherd when a bush bursts into flame. Ezekiel is sitting on the banks of a river in a deportation camp. He is with a group of Israelites being sent to Babylon. The heaven's open up. He sees a vision, hears a voice, and is grabbed by the Spirit of God. Mother Teresa was a teacher in Eastern Calcutta but was deeply disturbed she saw in the surrounding neighborhood. Dr. King heard the voice of God after receiving a phone threatening the lives of him and his family, 'I will be with you always,' God said. Thomas Merton read a book on Gerard Manly Hopkins and suddenly felt the call to follow Hopkins on the path to priesthood. Dorothy Day's call was a long ongoing process with engagement in some form of faith all of her life. It was in prayer at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. that she began to put together her faith, writing ability and passion for social justice.
In my own experience, God's call comes in mysterious, frightening and beautiful diversity. I was called to ministry by 'the voice' of God when my thoughts took an unexpected turn. I've felt the warm embrace of God's call when feeding a baby, the exciting urge to action at a rock concert, danced before the Lord when I listen to Carlos Santana, and a sick feeling in my stomach when hearing the news of the shooting at the nightclub in Orlando. All, the call of God. All different emotional reactions. And most intimately, I hear the voice of God when some call me to come sit and pray with their dying loved one, or their sick infant or when they invite me to celebrate a dedication or baptism or birthday. God's call is usually for me at least, unexpected and beyond reason and nestled in the every day. Sometimes it is unusual in response to a particular event, like Orlando, and sometimes it is interwoven in the everyday, like when my daughter takes my hand as I walk her to school.
This past Sunday's story about God's call shows that the message is not always easily received or accepted. Jonah is deeply troubled by the call to offer the possibility of reconciliation to the enemies of his people. Moses is afraid because God's call will send him to confront the most powerful man in the known world, the Pharaoh of Egypt. Elijah is called to confront King Ahab, Nathan with confronting King David in his infidelity. Dr. King to call to America to realize the great unfulfilled promise 'all men are created equal,' and Dorothy Day to advocate for the poor. But then again, the voice of God came to Jesus and called him 'Beloved.' So the call of God is both message of love and invitation as well as the unsettling insistence that the one called accept the risk of advocating for the unloved. The call both affirms and challenges, heals and disturbs.
Allow the story of Isaiah's call, and all these other calls to shape us by beginning with the affirmation. Regardless of the imperfection and even unworthiness of these people God trusts and believes that they can carry out the vital task God has chosen them for. So begin by watching and listening for the many ways that God reveals God's great love for you. Sit in stillness and be loved by God. Prayerfully reflect on the gifts and strengths that you were created by God with. But then, also allow these stories to shape you in their risk. God is calling us to respond in some way to the pain of the world, to the plea of the vulnerable, the exploited and the expendable. So listen to be healed and then to be an agent of healing in the world, no matter the risk.