There’s at least one way that religious communities are different from the other ways people gather together. People tend to be drawn those who are like themselves; in tribes and clans, associations of like-minded people. But faith communities are meant to be a “y’all come,” kind of association, a diverse community of all souls who desire to be in community together. That the hope anyway. Martin Luther King observed that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. But that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Our gathering today is meant to be a taste of that time to come, when as the prophet said, “the lion will lay down with the lamb,” when we will see that our difference need not divide us. That we are all in this together.
May I just start by saying that it is such an honor to be here with you today. This is no small thing that we do when we gather together and for at time, try with everything we have, to cultivate a community of meaning. A place where we get to light candles for our sorrows and joys–speak them to each other, even when we are afraid to. I mean, this is what it’s all about, am I right? There is a lot that I love about church, but this really is the burning coal at the center of it all for me: a place for us to gather as our whole selves: broken selves, grieving selves, celebratory selves, anxious, exhausted, ridiculous selves. A place where we get to be all of this, sometimes in the span of a few minutes. I would say that all of this is what makes this place a “sanctuary” and a holy place. Because this is sacred and holy work. Being our whole selves with one another is sacred and holy work. It is a privilege to enter this sanctuary, your sanctuary today and share in this with you.
This month we’ve been reflecting on vocation and calling. And let’s not stop when the month ends! Let’s keep asking questions like “Who am I?, What is my purpose? What brings me joy? Where am I called to stand? And with whom?”
Listening for you call, clearing out the time and space where you can hear the longings of your own soul and the leadings of the Spirit, this can seem like an individual pursuit. To open yourself to these mysteries requires some space for silence and stillness.
But any call worthy of the name does not draw us into isolation, it inevitably calls us out of our individual selves and into wider and deeper experiences, into connection with others
The two texts we heard this morning, both speak about vocation and calling. And the choir just sang “Here I Am, Lord,” an anthem inspired by Isaiah’s call. If you compare Isaiah to other prophets in the Hebrew Bible, you’ll find that his response is different from most. There’s a pattern in these call narratives that goes like this: God appears or speaks, like from the burning bush to Moses. Then God issues the call, as in “Go see Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go.” And the response is, “Who, me? You must be mistaken. I could never…” Moses says he’s a poor choice because he stutters. At the end, he pleads, “Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13).