The Bible verse I want to read today is Ephesians 4:1 - As a prisoner for the Lord then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Worthy of the calling you have received. God uses His children to do his bidding and to convey His message is. In Jeremiah 17:25, we hear God say, “From the day your ancestors left Egypt, until now, I have continued to send my prophets day in and day out.”
And I believe God continues to send forth his prophets and messengers. They may appear as friends, family, and teachers; as a random article that we found in a newspaper or book that falls off the shelf into our laps; as our pets, as the simplicity of creation, a blade of grass, and other multifarious means of getting our attention so that our minds, hearts, and awareness can open to God’s Love and Truth.
In Exodus 3:10 God was having a conversation with Moses. The Israelites were being oppressed and they needed some help. God goes to Moses and says, “So now, go. I'm sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” Now, don't you think that most of us, if we heard God speaking to us that clearly and that directly, would respond with enthusiasm and confidence?
Now hear what Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Moses then presented excuse after excuse as to why he shouldn't go. “Well, suppose they asked me your name? What if they don't believe me? What if they don't listen to me?” Even after God addresses all these concerns Moses continues, “But God, I'm not a good speaker; never have been and I'm not now. I'm clumsy with words and I stutter.”
God explained that He would do the talking through Moses and commanded him to go. However, Moses still stalled. “Please send someone else,” pleaded Moses. God finally agreed to arbitrate a deal: He would send Moses’ brother Aaron along to be the spokesman, the voice of Moses.
Moses could clearly see the value of what God was trying to accomplish. He knew the need, but he just couldn't see himself as the right vessel. He believed the mountain was just too high for him to climb, and his inadequacies justified his obstinance toward God. He thought he knew better than God.
There are times we are like Moses. We respond to God by saying, “Here I am Lord, but send someone else.” We try to rationalize why we are unworthy or too ill-prepared to face the challenges in our lives. Surely God can find someone better suited. We are just not ready to believe or trust God.
Well, eventually Moses warmed up to the idea that even he, as frail and failing as he was, could be useful to God. He finally released his reluctance and put his faith in God's wisdom and strength.
At other times we are re like another character in the Bible, Jonah. We are just flat out frightened. We remember Jonah as that fellow who was swallowed by the whale and then God saved him. But do we remember why he winds up in the belly of the great fish? God needed some help, so he went to his buddy Jonah and said, “Jonah get up and go to the city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked it's people are.”
Now this is pretty clear, isn't it? Pretty direct, right? But, instead of following God's order, what does Jonah do? He heads off by ship in the exact opposite direction God commanded. While on the ship God sent a storm to pummel it, and eventually, after some discussion the crew threw Jonah overboard so that their lives would be spared.
That's not quite the kind of legacy we really want to leave our family, is it? Jonah finally surrendered it all to God and opened his heart to Spirit. God made the great fish spit Jonah out onto land, and then once again asked him to go to Nineveh. This time without question, Jonah salutes and says, “Yes. I'm going.”
Well, I think that there are times when we hear God's words, we feel that nudge, that inner directive, or some kind of sense within us for where God wants us to go, but we're just afraid. We are like a little kid who puts his hands over his ears while wagging his head back and forth, “Bleah, bleah, bleah, I can't hear you.” We are afraid and do not want to do what we're being asked. We say, “Here I am, Lord, but I'm not going.” It's not that we feel unworthy, it’s just because we are afraid.
It's like the climber who fell off a cliff and as he tumbled down, he caught hold of this tiny little branch and was hanging there for a while till his arms started to get tired. He looks up to the skies where the ledge was and shouts, “Help. Help. Is there anybody up there?” Suddenly, the sky opens, thunder rumbles, and a majestic voice booms through the gorge, “I will help you, my son. But first you must have faith in me.”
“Who is this,” the man cries out. “I am the Lord, and I am here to help you.” “Well great. Can you get me out of here?” “Yes, I can. Just let go of the branch and I will catch you.” Well, there's this long pause, and the man shouts up to the sky again, “Hey, is there anyone else up there I could talk to?”
Sometimes we just must let go on faith and be willing to trust that God can use us despite all the flaws and failings and inabilities and fears we see in ourselves. Such was the case of Isaiah. Isaiah relayed a vision; he saw God in a temple, and His robe was long and beautiful. Above God hovered six angels singing such that it shook the entire pillars of the temple.
And Isaiah thought to himself, “Well, I'm basically doomed. I have unclean lips, I live among the unclean people, and now I have seen the Lord. I am not worthy of what I'm experiencing right now.”
One of the angels flies over to him with a white-hot coal that he'd gotten off the altar, presses it against Isaiah's lips, and the Angel tells him, “Your sins are purged.” In other words, he opens his heart to spirit and forgives his failings, just as God looks past them.
Then he heard the voice of God speaking to no one in particular, asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to my people. Who will go for us?” And Isaiah, despite his feelings of inadequacy and fears, with a newfound sense of trust and willingness, responds to God's call, “Here I am Lord. Send me.”
God continues to call us, day in and day out, to be messengers. It is likely though, if you're like me, that in our busy lives we are not still enough to clearly hear God's instruction. It is possible that we simply don't understand correctly what God is saying. It takes ears to hear, but it also takes practice and perseverance and wisdom. But we are being called. We're being called to be the salt of the earth. We're being called to be the light of the world, to be Saints. We are being called to be holy.
And when we are open to Spirit, we feel those urgings within. We hear the whispers of that still small voice. We sense the inner guidance directing us to perform a loving act, to offer helpful service, to share a kind and uplifting word, and to dare to open our hearts to those around us. When we hear that call, do we eagerly and willingly say, “Here I am? Send me.” Or do we back away in fear or remain obstinately immobile in our inadequacies?
Isaiah was uncommon; he volunteered before he even knew what God was asking. God instructed Isaiah to go and tell the people this, “You will hear my words, but you will not understand. You will see what I do, but you will not perceive its meaning.” God then continued speaking to Isaiah, “Harden the hearts of these people. Close their ears and shut their eyes. That way they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts, and then they will turn to me for healing.”
God meant for Isaiah to play a role in cleansing Israel. He didn't want the people turning to God right away; He needed to clean it out. So, he was instructing Isaiah to preach to these people with deaf ears and blind eyes and dull minds. I'm certain that Isaiah knew that he would be ignored, and he would probably feel pretty frustrated, and he asked, “Lord, how long do I do this?”
And God responded, “…until their cities are destroyed with no one left in them; till their houses are deserted and the whole country is an utter waste land. Do not stop until the Lord has sent everyone away to distant lands and the entire land of Israel lies deserted, even if only a tenth of a remnant survives, it will be invaded again, and burned. Israel will remain a stump like a tree that is cut down. But, the stump will be a holy seed that will grow again.”
So, Isaiah was volunteering to preach to an unresponsive audience, which turned out to be about 40 years, until God had renewed Israel.
In addition to our thoughts of inadequacy, fear, and unworthiness, today we battle the thoughts of other people. People at all levels are vying for our loyalty. Politicians are hoping to attract our following; advertisers are after our allegiance to their products. We are being torn between opinions, facts, alternate facts… there is a roar of voices surrounding us competing for space in our hearts and minds, challenging the truth and God’s love.
As we remember those who lost their lives in the Twin towers, our ego challenges us, because it is easy to move from remembering and honoring to blaming and hating. The ego demands that we blame someone and hold resentment and hatred in our hearts. That is not Spirit whispering, but the World shouting. Learning the lessons of the past is productive. Clinging to the pain of the past – not so much. Realizing that we may have been caught unaware is valuable. But if not careful, our ego will direct us to blame and hate those whose spiritual awareness is limited and blunted, and that is counterproductive. The ego works in broad sweeping strokes of generalization.; it would have us hate anyone who even looked like the attackers. The ego would have us hate not just the guilty, but entire religions, skin colors, cultures, and countries.
Christ encourages us to step up and move beyond hatred, resentment, ignorance, obstinance, judgment, and fear. Each of us is uniquely created and have been given distinct qualities for God to use. All God requires is our willingness. Can we overcome our Jonah instincts and set aside our fears and offer all that we are to God? Can we ignore our Moses impulse and accept that despite our faults, failings, unworthiness, and weaknesses, God can use us just as we are, in fact, because of who we are? Can we rise above our judgments, hatred, fear, and prejudices and walk the path of Jesus? Can we move past our ego’s claim to know God’s Will for others and know their path and what’s best for them?
When God calls, when that whisper is heard, and the nudge is felt, my prayer is that will we turn to our Isaiah instincts to draw upon our courage, and embrace the love, willingness, and wisdom of Christ to say, “Here I am Lord. Send me.”