“Ready to Listen” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
I hope you had a wonderful Pentecost. The birth of the church is such an incredible celebration and that spirit lives on in this coming week’s worship as well.
This week I watched from afar as several of my friends graduated. My feeds were flooded with pictures of smiling families and caps and gowns. This made me remember my own graduations. In true theater-kid fashion my high school cap had a quote from RENT. “Measure your life in love.” It was perfect for the carefree and off to college life I was about to embark on. Four years later my cap from the University of Redlands had a quote from my final show in the theater department, “What do you want from my life?” from Three Penny Opera. That phrase perfectly summed up the chaos I was feeling of graduating from college with no job, big dreams, and bigger debt. Cut to twelve years later as I graduate with my masters and I chose to leave my cap blank.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have something to say, but my point was that I was open to listening.
This week’s scripture from Isaiah, has one of my favorite quotes about listening. Most people focus on the response “Here I am,” which inspired one of my favorite hymns. But my favorite part of this conversation is actually the part where we as readers of this text, we as children of God, we as conversation partners with God, are open enough to deeply listen for God’s call.
1 In the year of the death of Uzziah, ruler of Judah, I saw YHWH seated on a high and lofty judgment seat, in a robe whose train filled the Temple. 2 Seraphs were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.”
“3 They would cry out to one another, “Holy! Holy! Holy is YHWH Omnipotent! All the earth is filled with God’s glory!” 4 The doorposts and thresholds quaked at the sound of their shouting, and the Temple kept filling with smoke.
5 Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! I have unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips! And my eyes have seen the Ruler, YHWH Omnipotent! 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding an ember which it had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with the ember. “See,” it said, “now that this has touched your lips, your corruption is removed, and your sin is pardoned.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Holy One saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said, “send me!” (Isaiah 6: 1-8)
“Here I am,” and, “send me,” are wonderfully brave phrases that take a lot of courage to stand up and say, but they aren’t useful, and you can’t say them, if you don’t know that there is a call and a need. However, most of my life has been spent doing more speaking than listening. Only when I learned to stop, and listen did I hear God’s call and with the courage to say, “here I am,” did my life’s work take on deeper meaning. Being able to listen, especially this week after Pentecost, is the crux of justice in our faith lives. God is reaching out to us. Asking us to love deeply no matter what the cost. Pulling us towards justice and peace in every corner of our life. But what practices do we have in our lives to make sure we are listening?
The sayings on the graduation caps that we have worn, the phrases that we have carried with us every day, often inspire us to go after our hopes and dreams, but they are only achievable if we first listen to God’s call within us. It is hard. It takes practice to get out of our own way and put aside the visions of our lives that we have come up with. However, the life we have when we listen and respond to the call of God in the world, opens us up to a life beyond our wildest dreams. Wonder, curiosity, love, and peace are all made possible when we listen to God’s call….and then say here I am!
Church, may this week offer you space for prayerful reflection. To figure out what is getting in the way of hearing God’s call. To listen to the needs before putting ourselves first. To let the call come before the “Here I am.” Because life is a conversation with God and with each other. A divine call and a human response. A holy “who will I send?” and the human “here I am,” making our lives truly special.