Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8
Isaiah and the Call
In the beginning of this story filled with visions, incense, and fantastical creatures, the hero, young Isaiah, is quite scared. There is war and conflict all around him. Isaiah retreats to the only place where he can find comfort and a feeling of security—the Temple in the heart of Jerusalem.
When he steps upon that threshold for a time of worship, he finds himself in the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place. A really, super holy place. Isaiah is surrounded by the meeting of heaven and earth. Smoke from incense fills the sanctuary. God’s very presence fills the room like a flowing, white robe. Mysterious six-winged creatures called seraphs begin chanting, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” More smoke billows about the sanctuary.
Isaiah is even more scared. He was just going to find a little refuge, and now he’s being confronted with the very presence of God and God’s messengers. God’s presence doesn’t always feel peaceful and beautiful. No wonder he says, “Woe is me!” He fears for his life. In Jewish thought, most people don’t look upon God and live. He cries. He doesn’t feel prepared for such an encounter. He’s struggling to understand what all this means.
Then a seraph flies to him and places a coal on his lips. Seraphs supposedly looked a little like snakes. A strange winged cobra figure holding a coal to your lips might inspire some fear. Into this fear, God calls him, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
We don’t know how long Isaiah paused before responding. God was inviting him into a new life, a new way of being. That’s not easy. This takes courage. We don’t know if he moved rather quickly. We don’t know how many breaths he took. Before he took a breath to say, “Here am I; send me!”
What courage! Isaiah opened to God’s presence, and from that, he responded to God’s call on his life. His courage in not letting fear stop him from his calling meant that just maybe, instead of destruction—he might be used as a prophet by God to love and save his people. A true act of courage is always an act of love. (Paulo Coehlo)
Courage for our calling
How can we respond like Isaiah? How can we open to God’s presence, even if we are scared? How can we have the courage to accept God’s call on us? Courage in the calling is not the absence of fear—it is our ability to act in the presence of fear toward love. St. Thomas Aquinas of the 11thcentury, working off of ethics of Aristotle, said that courage names the ability to endure all for the sake of what is loved. Courage helps us to persevere through fear and hardship for what we love. We take coals on our lips as we receive our calling, so that we may love others with God’s love. A true act of courage is always an act of love.
Isaiah’s courageous response to his calling helped him to grow into his true self. As Frederick Buechner indicates, our deepest calling, our response to God’s question of “who will go for me”, is to be our true, authentic self. By living into our true self, we find joy and our path of service in the world. Vocation is really about growing into our true self in full participation with the One, which is God. When we have the courage to say “yes” to being our true self so that we might love, we say with Isaiah (often after taking several deep breaths) “here am I, Lord. Send me.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC (HarperSanFrancisco: 1993), 119.
Richard Rohr, “Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation: Who Am I” Center for Action and Contemplation, May 28, 2018.
Such an emphasis on courage requires a courageous practice. We will do a series of sun salutations and standing poses to generate heat and fire to build our courage. The peak pose will be hanumanasana, a pose that resembles courage. This pose of a split invites us to stretch from our already to our not yet, from our past to our future, from our fear to our courage, and from our courage into our true vocation.
(taken from Yoga Journal, https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/monkey-pose)
Kneel on the floor. Step your right foot forward about a foot in front of your left knee, and rotate your right thigh outwardly. Do this by lifting the inner sole away from the floor and resting the foot on the outer heel.
Exhale and lean your torso forward, pressing your fingertips to the floor. Slowly slide your left knee back, straightening the knee and at the same time descending the right thigh toward the floor. Stop straightening the back knee just before you reach the limit of your stretch.
Now begin to push the right heel away from your torso. Because we started with a strong external rotation of the front leg, gradually turn the leg inward as it straightens to bring the kneecap toward the ceiling. As the front leg straightens, resume pressing the left knee back, and carefully descend the front of the left thigh and the back of the right leg (and the base of the pelvis) to the floor. Make sure the center of the right knee points directly up toward the ceiling.
Also check to see that the back leg extends straight out of the hip (and isn’t angled out to the side), and that the center of the back kneecap is pressing directly on the floor. Keep the front leg active by extending through the heel and lifting the ball of the foot toward the ceiling. Bring the hands into Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) or stretch the arms straight up toward the ceiling.
Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out, press your hands to the floor, turn the front leg out slightly, and slowly return the front heel and the back knee to their starting positions. Then reverse the legs and repeat for the same length of time.