Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 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!" 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 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." 8 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!"
The King is dead. Uzziah was sixteen when he became king of Judah and reigned to fifty two years. (2 Kings 15:2), and now there is a power vacuum. It is safe to assume that the people of Judah felt uneasy as they buried their king. A lifetime of stable rule had come to an end, and the prospect of a power struggle loomed large in their future. It is at this moment that Isaiah encounters God. This is an encounter that holds all his senses – hearing the voice of God, smelling the smoke of the incense, feeling the building shake, and tasting the heat of the burning coal on his lips – and Isaiah’s life is changed. An encounter with God evokes his response “Send Me”.
We continue to live in uncertainty. Even though we have presidents, and captains of industry, and leaders of people, they prove themselves unable to stabilize our country. The poorest of the poor burn tyres in protest, and the richest of the rich quietly sent their money offshore. And most of us are like the proverbial “jam in the sandwich” as we battle to make ends meet. We might even whisper to ourselves “I wish that the old president / great person / people’s leader was back – because life was stable then.” This is the moment for us to learn from Isaiah: he tells us that this is exactly the moment that God becomes visible: Let us, like Isaiah, pay attention to our senses and discover that God is all around us. As we do so, we too might hear the invitation of to join God in the work of creating a world of justice, love and peace.
Prayer: O Lord: open my eyes that I might see you; open my ears that I might hear your invitation; open my mouth that I might taste how sweet your words are; and open my will, that I might work in partnership with you. Amen.
Third Sunday after Epiphany
9. “The Call to Ministry”
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 65.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.