And God said, “Go and say to this people: ‘keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ (Isaiah 6:9)
This weekend, thanks to the lectionary, we will return to a familiar “Trinity Sunday” passage that we usually do during the summer. It is one of the most fascinating call stories in all of the scriptures. Though we will not read all of it, it is important to take the passage in its full context.
In this case, when God calls Isaiah to preach, it is not happy news – at least, not yet. God in fact tells the prophet to basically do a combination of goading the people and praying that they will not repent. Happy stuff.
In this passage it is clear that God is quite frustrated with the chosen people, because no matter how many times God says stop or how many prophets are sent, the children of Israel continue to rebel against God’s purposes. Like any normal parent, it would appear that God, in this passage, is throwing God’s hands in the air.
These days there are many people convinced that God’s purposes are being ignored by this group or that group. Frankly, there is evidence all around us – by all groups. The prophet’s words seem to echo our own.
But something almost every prophet, including Isaiah, does is to move from this place of great frustration to a place of remarkable hope. We still have the history of God’s people to teach us what God truly intends – and what God wants us to do.
Remember that sin, in Jesus’ mind, was less about a list of do’s and don’ts and more about relationships. In other words, sin is breaking relationships. Which means that all of the complex issues surrounding us are just that – a grey area.
What is not a grey area is the heart of God’s witness throughout all of history: that love is the point. That means that to be against God’s purposes is to live into what 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us – impatience, unkindness, envy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, insisting on our own way, being irritable or resentful, rejoicing in wrongdoing, ignoring the truth, dropping people, forgetting God’s love, creating despair, or letting hatred endure.
Though this passage seemingly sows despair, the passages following it show that though the world may fall apart, God has never left the people. And to be for God’s purposes is to live into all the wonderful ways we can show love through our words, our actions, our seeking justice, our living hope, and our willingness to bear with one another.
May this be our hope as we seek to fulfill our own callings.