Isaiah 50- the struggles of vocation
(fuller) Audio here
It’s said that there are two important days in a persons life, the day they were born, and the day they discover why.
Vocation & calling are funny animals – hearing God’s call for your life is both massively affirming and hugely scary all at the same time, finding out what you are supposed to do with your life makes so much sense, whether it’s your job, your innate talent, ministry in any capacity, whatever it is
Vocation in the widest possible sense. -expand…
But as we see in tonight’s OT reading – following your call, is not plain sailing, if standing up for what you believe is often not an easy thing to do, then standing up for who you are is often even harder.
In this passage, as in so much of the prophetic writings, the prophet speaks of himself, and through a sort of spiral of interpretations here also speaks about us and about Jesus – who of course is our model and inspiration in the manner of following his own calling and vocation as our Saviour.
The prophet begins by stating his own vocation as a teacher, an inspirer of others, knowing “how to sustain the weary with a word” He’s clear about his vocation, what he’s called to do, and he’s not in doubt about his ability in God to carry it out,
He’s sustained and renewed by God –morning by morning, able to listen to God’s voice as one who is taught, open and willing to learn, in order that he might then teach & inspire others.
For those of us called to a preaching or teaching ministry this is something to remember and hold very close to our hearts!
For all of us, we need to remember that whatever our roles & callings in life it is God who sustains and renews us, that’s just the basic!
Having had the positive recall of vocation and where it has come from, the narrative turns less appealing.
We see here the prophet talking of standing firm against all kinds of insults and attacks,
Listening to God still all the while, the writer hold firm to his sense of calling
He’s not rebellious, nor does he buckle under these attacks and onslaughts.
Following what God is calling us to do is never easy,
While attacks at least in this country are thankfully rarely physical as described here, we do encounter opposition,
- Ø In the opinions of others
It might be that we have friends & family who simply don’t like what we’ve chosen to do,
We’re opposed on practical levels
On levels of logistics or taste or dislike!
Eg children or parents not liking a move
- Ø Sometimes the opposition is more ideological,
Perhaps a theological disagreement, an objection to women in ministry, or a political divergence,
- Ø The worst attacks often come from deep within ourselves however -our own sense of self doubt
Our lack of confidence, our lack of faith in the God who has called us
All of these cause us pain, and pause for thought
Some of them might also be described as spiritual attack, the assaults of the enemy to set us off course when we’re trying to hear God’s voice and do what he’s asking us to do
Personal examples –
When we’re attacked and beaten up, its so easy to falter,
When our very identity is questioned, it hurts and we examine our pain and wonder if its worth it
When people question my own vocation” I don’t believe in women priests” it’s not something I can walk away from or have detachment – a disagreement about some other aspect of theology perhaps could be undertaken with less pain, but I can’t ever walk away from being a woman –or for that matter a priest.
However when we stand firm, with our ear open to God as the prophet says, we hear His affirmation and vindication in many and surprising places,
A single smile or a word,
A child not being mortally embarrassed by you
A call from a friend with the right words
The bits of the jigsaw coming together.
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
8 he who vindicates me is near.
We ALL have vocations, and we’re all needed.
Its very easy to think that the small thing we think we’re doing doesn’t matter, but it does -it’s a team effort!
We’re all parts of the same body, all just as important
Harvest service example! Enormous turnip –mouse
And as God calls us all for different jobs and different roles, what we need to remember above all that these vocations are never our primary role in life.
We’re not called first to be teachers or nurses or lawyers, mothers fathers preachers farmers..
First of all, each & everyone of us is called to be a disciple of Jesus, a learner in his footsteps.
This is our primary vocation.
And the same hard road will apply
Those who disagree, those who hurt us and argue, those who oppose us, and our own doubts and insecurities that plague us.
But in this we stand firm, holding fast, and knowing that it is God who sustains us
And vindicates us.
In tonights Gospel reading we hear –the first shall be last and the last first.
When we feel we have little to offer, or when we feel we have loads to give,
We need to remember that in all of life, God calls, and big or small, great or least, he will sustain us, and use us for his glory