There are certain topics that allow the listener to get a peek into how the minister views ministry, life, and how the minister views the listener’s life. The topic of “calling” or “following your calling” is a topic that does just that.

When Change Startles Us

The passage starts off with a bang: “In the year King Uzziah died. . .” Let’s frame that with equivalents. In the year of the diagnosis; in the year I was unemployed; in the year I was incarcerated; in the year I needed to change or I risked losing it all; in the year I cried more than I ever have, is like saying, “In the year King Uzziah died.” In the year of this life-altering event, I saw something of God I never expected to see and I decided to respond.

Often, dramatic events open our eyes to what matters. Through them, we develop (or it is developed within us) a persistent inner desire to take a course of action and to respond to God by giving ourselves back to God in the world. Paul called it being a living sacrifice (Romans 12), a living, breathing offering. It is as if the world is the altar and upon it you offer yourself to God by the way you live your life.

Though our experiences may differ, this passage puts forth a model of a call narrative. This is Isaiah’s call to be a preacher, prophet, and poet.

Common Call Pattern

From what I can tell, the call narrative runs like this: first, there is a disturbing encounter that is followed by a sense we have heard a message from the Divine. This message is so prescient that is simultaneously feels like it is deep within us, a part of our makeup and it also feels like it is external, something given to us.

We become awakened by the disturbing events and the message and then we are invited to act, to take a course of action. What typically happens in Scripture is that this is when the person objects. I’m not worthy. I don’t know how to do this. I’m not qualified. Then, the person is assured of God’s presence. To recap:

  1. A disturbing, eye-opening encounter.
  2. We understand a message of deep meaning.
  3. We are called to act. We feel called to do something.
  4. We object and doubt our ability.
  5. God reassures us of our call and our capacity.

This is when I will disarm listeners by explaining that our calling may not be Isaiah-esque. Instead, we may not be called to something new or something big. We may be simply called to re-frame our current commitments where we understand all that we are, all that we have, all we do is given to God for the good of others. This pertains to work, home, community, and church. Isaiah is disturbed both by Uzziah’s death and the revelation of the seraphs (flying, fiery snakes, anyone?). He claims he is doomed! After all, he is in the temple and that is not the place for the prophet; that’s the place for the priest. In other words, I’m caught totally off guard and unprepared. Ain’t that life! He then objects: I’m unclean. And the seraph takes coal and touches his lips, thus signifying God’s forgiveness. By the way, God also removes Isaiah’s excuse by doing this!

This is what I think is happening. King Uzziah was a stabilizing force that has pushed down the worse instincts of the people. He has died and Isaiah fears his country is going to fall apart. So, for me, God knows this reality and Isaiah’s concern and says, “Who will go?” Who will go to the broken places and plead for reconciliation? Isaiah finds that what he was been given (gifts, passions, skills as a speaker, preacher, pleader, and poet) is needed by the world. He responds, “Send me.”

Our calling is usually found at the cross-section of our GPS (gifts, passion, and skills) and a need in the world. This is where I will openly ask people to consider this truth: the world needs what God has given to them. They now have the opportunity to respond to God by giving those gifts back to God for the sake of all. Isn’t this just beautiful?

Over the past two years, over 4 million people have resigned from their jobs. They have resigned for several reasons, but one reason for many is that they realized that what they were doing was just working out. “Something has to change,” just maybe the echo within them. The pandemic has shaken them and disturbed them. How might the world be changed for the better if 4 million people find that persistent inner desire to serve the world with the better and fuller parts of themselves?

Christ Faithfully Fulfilled His Calling

I will end thusly: We worship and serve a Lord, Jesus Christ, who had a calling in this world. He was called to teach and to fully live out God’s will for him. He was obedient to his call, even giving himself to God and the world fully on the altar of the cross. Who will go to earth and show them their need for my willingness to reconcile them? And Jesus, excelling Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, and all others said, “Me. Send me.”

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