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Responding to the Call

Here I Am, I Will Go

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

In his 1980 series on the Hebrew prophets, Richard introduces the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God and his response to God’s call:

This is Isaiah’s inaugural vision in Isaiah chapter 6. This is where he apparently first experienced his call and his vocation. It’s again worth examining, because we see in this grand experience of God that Isaiah must have come to be able to speak with the authority with which he speaks. He dates it—an important event is always dated: “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord YHWH seated on a high throne” (Isaiah 6:1).

The first experience that Isaiah has before this holiness of God is the experience of unworthiness. “What a wretched state I am in. I am lost” (Isaiah 6:5). I’m sure we’d say the same if we really had this experience that Isaiah did. “I am a man of unclean lips,” Isaiah says (Isaiah 6:5). In other words, nothing I’ve said can be worthwhile. No words that I’ve used to describe God can begin to approach what I’ve just seen. He continues: “And then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’ And I answered, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8). What boldness! There’s the response of the prophet: “Here I am, Lord, I will go.” [1]

Preaching on this same passage, theologian and mystic Howard Thurman (1899–1981) recognizes the painful reality that often accompanies a prophet’s call:

How wonderful! To have a tremendous religious experience, a tremendous experience of illumination and then, while you are under the massive pressure of this fresh orientation, to get a job analysis. Wonderful!.… [So] you can implement the vision now in terms that will be increasingly significant and relevant to your own living. He was a prophet already. And the voice said—his voice said to God, “I’ll go. I’ll take the message.”

And then watch what happens. [Yahweh] said, “Tell the people to listen, but they aren’t going to listen. You will break your heart; you will turn your mind inside out; you will pour upon their indifference the priceless ingredients of your spirit: the only thing that I can offer you,” says Yahweh, “is a deep, profound, ever-circling frustration. That’s all. Tell them that they are going to be destroyed, every town burned up, all the people taken into captivity … ” and on and on and on [God] spells out this doom.

What would you have done? Here is your inspiration, here is your great moment and at last you see clearly the vocational significance of your life. And then as you begin to define that vocational significance it suddenly dawns upon you that you have been sent down a blind alley. Would you go anyway? Or would you say to yourself, “I got my signals mixed?” What would you do? [2]

References:

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Prophets (San Antonio, TX: Catholic Charismatic Bible Institute, 1980), audio recording. No longer available for purchase.

[2] Howard Thurman, “The Message of Isaiah I,” June 15, 1952, in Moral Struggle and the Prophets, ed. Peter Eisenstadt and Walter Earl Fluker (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2020), 152–153.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Untitled Bosque, Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 10, and Untitled 8. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

Just as a bird notices an impulse and takes flight, so we also hear and respond. 

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