Isaiah, chapter 6, has always intrigued me. It is a familiar text of Scripture called the Call or Commissioning of Isaiah the prophet. It is dramatic with it's vision of angels, and seraphim and the celestial choir singing, Holy, Holy, Holy. It has inspired hymns and choruses we still sing in churches. Following a formula for prophetic calls, Isaiah confesses his incompetence. It is not only that he feels unqualified, he knows he is inadequate to answer God's call. Already having condemned the community of faith, now he includes himself in the general condemnation. He is one of them. No one is worthy. God sends an angel to purify Isaiah offering hope that he may have a plan for the people, too. But, it is after Isaiah says yes to God's call that we get a clue to what he was called. Verses 9 and 10 are quoted in all four gospels and referred to by Paul. It is because of these verses that the Gentile mission opened up for Paul. The verses speak of resistance to God's message. They have been seen as a kind of explanation for the rejection of Jesus and the Church. It is a harsh message without much hope.
I have pondered Isaiah's message in light of the political season we find ourselves in. I have noted politicians of all stripes making their way to the pulpits of Christian Churches, using Christian language, quoting the Bible, liberally using terms like guaranteeing "our" values. Just vote for me. It is a dangerous seduction to think that one man or woman will do what God has not done yet. That perhaps God has been waiting for this one. Are we looking for a savior in the wrong places? Is it as easy as filling out a ballot, or as simple as choosing the right candidate.
I don't see any saviors on the horizon. I see people manipulating Christians with fear, false promises, and scapegoating others. The problem is them, and if you elect me I can fix it.
Isaiah tells us that it doesn't work like that. "The throne room of God is the policy room of world government," Walter Bruggemann writes. And we have hardly a clue. The will of God is not as easy and simple to grasp as we have been led to believe. Isaiah asks, How Long, LORD? How long before we are given to understand your purposes? How can we notice?
God's word to the prophet is bracing. It says our senses are so blunted by the distractions of our age that it is very hard for his word to get through. The list of problems our world faces has not changed all that much since Isaiah's day: extreme wealth and extreme poverty, wars, refugees, a hostile climate, and self indulgence. It's hard to get a word through. Especially when we think we have the answers. The gospel has never been easy; Bonhoeffer told us there is no cheap grace. Bruggemann says, "there is no good word that gives assurances to those who drop by hoping for a quick and comfortable deal."
There are six words at the end of this passage. We look here for hope. It doesn't look like much. A stump. That stumps us but if we stick with it, and notice, it is the seed of the gospel.