As we go through life, every now and then we have those deﬁning, life-altering moments. Something out of the ordinary happens to us and changes the course of our lives. We see the world in a brand new way. Everything is different. Think about the pandemic we are experiencing right now. How we live and interact with others will not be the same. The reality is, nothing is ever going to be the same again. As we think about those deﬁning, life-changing moments, we ﬁnd some common elements among them.
For instance, often in life-changing moments there is the experience of the Holy. There is an encounter with the Divine or Sacred. That is what happened with the prophet Isaiah. He had one of those “where were you moments.” The event that precipitated Isaiah’s life-changing encounter was the death of King Uzziah. For some reading, it might be when Kennedy was shot or Martin Luther King Jr. When events of this magnitude happen, it leaves a generation reeling. Everything becomes dark as the shock and mourning settle in.
The young man Isaiah, no doubt, had a similar experience when his King Uzziah died. The death of the king led Isaiah to go to the temple. It seems when there is a tragedy of such magnitude, many will go to church. When 9/11 occurred, there was a spike in church attendance as people tried to cope with anger, loss and pain. Seeking higher understanding when we are unable to comprehend what is going on around us and the crisis shakes the foundation of our lives.
There in the temple, Isaiah had an encounter with the Holy—a vision of God’s Spirit hovering over the Ark of the Covenant. As I mentioned earlier, it was a vision that forever changed his life. Indeed, it was a vision that profoundly affected his people and the course of world religion. If truth be told, most of the time we may be going along through life, totally insensitive to God and God’s workings in our lives.
But then something may happen that causes us to experience God or feel that we are in the direct presence of the Divine. The loss of a job, a sudden illness, a near-death experience, the birth of a child—and all of a sudden it seems that God’s Spirit for the ﬁrst time ever—or least in a new and different way—has broken into our world.
It seems that God is speaking to us, trying to tell us something. Perhaps some of us can even cite a day and time when we had such a life-changing encounter or epiphany. I had one many years ago when I had to go to the hospital to visit someone who had attempted suicide. I was afraid and unsure of what I was facing. It was at that moment that God showed up and told me, “This is what I called you to.” Feeling we are in the direct presence of the Holy can be an awesome thing.
So without a doubt, we are humbled by such an encounter. When Isaiah realized that he was in the direct presence of the Almighty, he said in 6:5, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The depth of our shortcomings really begins to haunt us when we feel ourselves to be in the presence of the Holy. It is sort of like the feeling you might get while cruising down the freeway at 150 kilometres an hour in an 80 kilometres per hour zone and you look up in your rear-view mirror and see blue lights ﬂashing. Of course, we would never do anything like that! But I digress… The fact is, it is a humbling feeling to recognize our guilt in the presence of authority or that which is Holy.
And then often there is a sense of being called to service. But the call is not a matter of worthiness. God’s call often comes to the most unlikely candidates: cursing ﬁshermen, cheating tax collectors, former prostitutes, and so on. People are not called because they are the best looking, most talented, or greatest by human standards. And oftentimes people hear a call when they are going about their everyday affairs, perhaps immersed in their daily work. A routine visit to the temple turns into a deﬁning, life-changing moment for Isaiah.
While in the temple, the call goes out, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” I know for many today, this call would be difficult to respond to in the affirmative. We have too many voices in our heads and our lives telling us what to do and I feel even the call of God might get drowned out.
But to someone like Isaiah, he enthusiastically replies in 6:8-9, “Here I am! Send me!” I am reminded of a famous altar in the old country of Czechoslovakia showing Christ without arms. It is a constant reminder that we are Christ’s arms to serve the world. It reminds us that Christians are not only to pray, “Thy will be done,” but we are also to say, “Here I am; what do you want me to do?”
There is so much need in the world and so many service opportunities. What is needed in the Church today is disciples who will say: Here I am! I will follow Jesus, and I will learn all I can learn about being a Christian disciple! Here I am! I will ﬁnd some way to minister to the world’s needs. Here I am! I will teach Sunday school! Here I am! I will serve on that church committee or ministry team! Here I am! I will invite my new neighbours to worship! Here I am! I will help do what needs to be done around the church building and grounds! Here I am! I will give myself to Christian service and begin the necessary preparations!
We have all heard the saying, “Well, you have made a believer out of me,” or something along that line. That is exactly what Christ longs to do—make believers out of us. And as Leonard Sweet says, “There is nothing more exciting in life than to be a disciple of Jesus.” When there is so much need and suffering in the world, how can we do less but offer ourselves, in some small way, willing and obedient service in Christ’s name? May we have the grace to say, “Here I am! I will follow. Make a believer out of me.”