It does not make sense, or at least it seems contradictory to the possibilities presented by divine invitation and the human acceptance. Isaiah seems to have been given a message that will work against accomplishing his divine task. Why take a message if it will not be heard? But is that really what this report from the prophet portrays? Or is it that the text, written after the fact, is in actuality a reflection of events that have already happened? Perhaps the most we can say is that the final line—”The holy seed is its stump”—hints at growth and rebirth.
This text speaks to the reality of many preachers. So many who come with great excitement in response to their call to the ministry of proclamation are disheartened by the response of those to whom they have been sent. One of my homiletics colleagues has written a book titled I Refuse to Preach a Boring Sermon. But this message from Isaiah—if taken at face value—is calling the preacher to preach a message that will not find an audience, a boring sermon. It may well be an invitation to those who are called to the ministry of proclamation to recognize that even the best developed and delivered message may not take root—immediately or later.
To those who are called to other areas of ministry it seems a similarly depressing prospect: to offer oneself as a witness of Christ’s light, only to see oppression and injustice prevail in society and the world. But if “the holy seed is its stump,” if the core of the message is divine grace, then, by God’s grace, growth is always possible.
God of all life, move us beyond our failures, and give us courage to live out the message of love and life. Amen.
The theme of calling is continued in this week’s readings. Isaiah has a vision of God on the throne and is terrified because he knows that he is unworthy; yet he is being called by God. The psalmist, traditionally David, praises God for having a purpose for his life and bringing it to completion. Paul echoes Isaiah’s sentiments of his own unworthiness to the Corinthians. While assuring his readers of the reality of Christ’s bodily resurrection, Paul recognizes that he preaches only by the grace of God. When Jesus is calling his disciples, Simon Peter recognizes him as the Lord and cowers because he feels unworthy—much like the prophet Isaiah had done. These readings teach us that God’s call is based not on our worthiness but on our willingness.
Read Isaiah 6:1-13. When have you heard a difficult call from God? How did you come to finally say, “Here I am; send me”?
Read Psalm 138. How have you seen God uplift the lowly and the humble? How have these experiences changed the way you live out your faith?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. How does your life witness to Christ’s resurrection?
Read Luke 5:1-11. How has Christ called you? Whether or not you feel worthy to the call, Christ wants you to follow.
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