Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"How long, O Lord?" Or, Why do I put myself through such stuff?

"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. Seraphs were in attendence above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.'

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 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!'

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a paior of tongs. 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.'

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here I am; send me!'

And he said, 'Go and say this to the people:
Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.'

Then I said, 'How long, O Lord?'

And he said,
'Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
until the Lord sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst
of the land.
Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.'

The holy seed is its stump."

Isaiah 6:1-13 (NRSV)

Commentary from The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible
"I saw the Lord sitting on a throne. This chapter offers a report of Isaiah's 'call' describing how he was commissioned into prophetic ministry. Isaiah's vision of God, articulated in a great panorama of the heavenly court where God is ministered to by angels, is summed up in 'Holy, holy, holy,' the song sung by the angels (v 3). Isaiah's response to that vision of God's holiness is his awareness of his uncleanness, lack of qualification, and inadequacy. Before the awesome holiness of God, we all stand incompetent and unqualified to serve. In Isaiah's vision, the Lord asks the assembly of the heavenly court whom to send; the prophet answers immediately, 'Here am I; send me!' (v 8). God is Isaiah's competence. And here he models now men and women of faith are called into ministry. This is spiritual formation in action."

OK people, first off, I do want to give credit where credit is due. My thoughts first began to germinate about a week or so ago when my great friend Rick composed this thought-provoking post (Of course, most of his posts make me think. I like that about him.).

Recently, I've been reading a work of fiction entitled The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. In this work, a Mexican priest weaves a tale of self-inflicted betrayal & bitterness as he attempts to evade the state police who are seeking to eliminate all of the priests from their region of Mexico. This "whiskey priest" endures more punishment at his own mental & spiritual hand than he does from the state, all because he knows/feels that he has failed, cannot be redeemed, and is too guilty to ever be of any worth again.

Thus, in the context of the prophet Isaiah, whose book I've been reading through an studying recently, I find myself wondering how adequate I am or could ever be. Yes, I do realize that God does make me competent, since I am a fallen sinful creature. However, that really doesn't help me with my guilt and grief about how "little" I do for God compared to how "much" I feel that He's leading me to do. How do I reconcile such self-effacing thoughts and actions with the promises, injunctions, and instructions given by the loving God of whom I read throughout the words of the Bible?? What do I do when I really don't feel that capable, though I know that God has typically used people who didn't feel capable themselves? What do I do when I feel like I'm failing God through my inaction, though I have learned that I can't do anything to earn God's love, grace & mercy? What do I do when I know that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, yet I don't have the faith in God enough to do those things?



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