Isaiah 6:1-8; Canticle 13; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
The Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis
The church season after Pentecost is long and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Lent lasts forty days. Easter season lasts fifty days. The season between Pentecost and Advent this year lasts twenty-seven weeks. That is 189 days, many of which will reach temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit here in Houston. The season after Pentecost for us can feel long, hot and boring.
An often untold secret is that the season after Pentecost is the season of the life and labor of the church. We have celebrated Easter and the cycle of death that is rebirthed into new life. Without saying so, we simultaneously tip our hats to spring. By now flowers have bloomed and summer crops have been planted. Cucumber and tomatoes are already maturing in our backyards. Hatchlings have emerged in our trees, and some have been pushed from their nests. Now begins the season when we steward what has sprouted and take care of what has been born.
The season after Pentecost includes at the end of which crops will be brought to table. The season after Pentecost also includes fall when even more food will be taken to market and brought into homes. The season after Pentecost is the season when worship is not fancy, and we are left to labor in the vineyards with permission to enjoy their produce. The season after Pentecost need not be boring, if we are up for the work of our Father in Heaven that needs to be done here on Earth.
The call to Isaiah read aloud today is often heard as his first call by God into service. But is it not. Isaiah is already prophesying. He is already a poet and a servant of YHWY. He is, however, disoriented in his vocation. “Woe is me for I am lost!” He does not know the know the likes of his own people anymore. He does not recognize the immoral character of his own kingdom. Isaiah in chapter 6 of the book of the Bible named for him is an overwhelmed prophet.
God responds to Isaiah’s cry of disorientation with a new mission. The kingdom built of the Israelites is likely to fall to foreign powers. It’s leaders are being coerced, and they are making poor strategic decisions. God wants to send Isaiah into this confusion as a clarifier and light post. So, God asks, “Whom shall I send [into this mess]? Who will go for us?”
Isaiah responds, “Here am I; send me!”
I was already a swimmer the summer my mother played a trick on me. I knew how to swim, but I was a young simmer. I could dive off the board, swim to the side, and do it all again. I could float, hold my breath, sink, spring from the bottom and do flips in the pool. What I had never done was swim the pool’s full length.
My mother delighted me one day by swimming into the deep end just before I jumped off the board. I was thrilled by her interest in what I was doing. After I leapt into the depths and rose again to the surface, she called me to swim to her. So, rather than go the ladder on side of the pool, I sawm toward her. “Come on! Swim to me!” she said with a bit of a laugh. So, I did. As soon as I reached the location from which she had called me, she was no longer in that location. She had moved away from me and then beckoned again, “Come here! Swim to me!” Again, she spoke with a wry chuckle that I did not appreciate any more than her betraying backward movement. This happened over and over until I had reached the far end and shallow water of the pool.
This is not exactly a positive memory for me. Therefore, the story is not a perfect analogy for the call of God. But it was a moment in which I, already a swimmer, was lured past the pool tricks I had mastered into a much more challenging swim. When it was all over, I was alive and had the proven ability to swim the full length of the pool.
There are seasons in which we are called past, lured past, or carried past our original vocational call. For example, we remember on Memorial Day that a person becomes a soldier once but is likely called into service many times. The same is true for saints. Perhaps you have been serving as a Christian, accountant, parent, married person or whatever you were called to be for a while already. It sometimes happens that God circles back around to call us to a deeper thing or harder thing or the same thing in new location.
In Easter we are lured by resurrection not into hope for an afterlife but into the life of the world. God may say, “There is sugar cane to the north. There is rice to the south. Who will harvest?” God may say, “There is loneliness to the east. There is violence to the west. Who will go for us?” Or in the hot, boring, season of Pentecost, God may say nothing at all and assume that we know we are expected to go out, to harvest and to heal.
As with Isaiah, God calls upon the church in abundant times and in confusing times. God will point to the complexities of the world and say, “Who will go for us?”
Someone has to speak up.