EDITORIAL: The seraph's touch

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 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. 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 pair 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 am I; send me!” Isaiah 6:1-8 ( NRSV)

Few observant Christians can read the famous “send me” passage from Isaiah without thinking of the contemporary hymn, Here I am, Lord.”

Isaiah's mystical encounter with the presence of God, the calling from God and his response resonates across thousands of years as an authentic spiritual experience. It is a powerful, sanctified image of a God who never hesitates to intrude in helpful and awe-inspiring ways in the affairs of people, affirming that God is a God of relationships and a Lord of action.

God is calling Isaiah to a journey, a prescient reference for a month of journeys and new beginnings in colleges, universities and high schools across Mississippi.

Many people, young and old, feel that God is journey-starting with them, callings as diverse as every person.

No one knows what God has in store next, or when, or where we will be called to respond.

One of the congregational meditations this week at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago said this: “What this passage also means to us is that we can be scared, but we realize that when we are forgiven, we can then be free to take a chance and choose to follow God even though we may have doubts about our abilities. We know that God made us who we are and that God values us and speaks to us. This calling tells us that we can do our part and that each person can make a difference. When the seraph touches Isaiah's lips, it is like one journey ending and God is calling Isaiah to a new journey. We know that the Spirit has touched us in the past and has looked after us. Now we are choosing to respond to the Spirit being with us in the past, knowing the Spirit will be with us in the future and forevermore.”

As with Isaiah, we can humbly claim the call and find the strength to follow.

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