Monday, April 8, 2013

The Call of Isaiah

Here I am, send me!
Today's Reading

Welcome to the second week of our "Missional Journey!" Throughout the coming week, we will be exploring the theme of mission as it is expressed in the lives of three great prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Jonah. These three Old Testament prophets each experienced the call of God in a unique and life-transforming way. By reading and reflecting on their call to mission, we can more fully understand the ways in which we are called to go forth as God's missional people.

Isaiah's Vision - The Holiness of God
We begin this morning with the story of the call of the Prophet Isaiah. In this story, Isaiah sees a vision of the presence of God filling the Temple. This vision includes a host of angelic figures who are declaring the utter beauty and holiness of God. In the midst of sheer glory and holiness, Isaiah cries out "Woe is me! I am lost. I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips!" Isaiah is confronted with his own sinfulness and his own sense of unworthiness.

The experience of Isaiah calls to mind to the words of the Rite One confession of sin, in which "we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness" (BCP 331). The profound beauty and holiness of God exposes the darkness of our own hearts; we are confronted with the reality that "we have erred and strayed from [God's] ways like lost sheep, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own heart" (BCP 40). Such was the experience of the Prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah's Commission - The Grace of God
But in the midst of this vision, Isaiah encounters the amazing grace of God. An angel of the Lord takes a burning coal from the altar and touches Isaiah's lips. With this symbolic action, the angel declares, "Your guilt is gone and your sins are wiped away!" This moment of forgiveness and purification is a free gift from God, an act of grace. Isaiah has not done anything to earn or deserve this gift. But rather, he is forgiven and renewed, so that he might be set free to respond to God's call, which is exactly what happens next. Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord calling "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" and Isaiah famously responds "Here I am- send me!"
It is the grace of God that leads Isaiah from "Woe is me!" to "Here I am!" This moment of grace equips and empowers Isaiah to speak to God's people on God's behalf. The message will not always be easy. Isaiah will encounter resistance. But the grace of God compels him to cry out "Here I am - send me!"
As we reflect on the call of Isaiah, think about the ways in which you feel unworthy to be used by God; we all have experiences of sin in our lives that cause us to skrink back from fully answering God's call. But today, be still and receive afresh the grace and forgiveness of God. Hear the words of the Lord to Isaiah, "your guilt is gone and your sins are wiped away." And then listen for the still, small voice of the Lord calling "Whom shall I send?" and let the cry of your heart rise up and declare, "Here I am - send me!"

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