Candidate’s Seminar Devotions: The Story Before… (Part 3)
The death of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26, Isaiah 6)
Isaiah 6 opens with the words “In the year that King Uzziah died.’ In the scope of biblical history, these words tell us specifically when Isaiah had this vision. To some extent, they help us “put it on a calendar.” More than that, though, they reveal something else, something deeper about what it means to begin something in the presence of God.
For something new to begin, something old must end.
For something new to begin, something old must end. We see it all the time. A period of being single ends when a new relationship begins. An old life ends at true repentance and a new one begins. When a wedding takes place, when a child is born, when a house is bought (or sold), when a bible is opened for the first time or for the first time in a long time, something old ends and something new begins.
God bringing Isaiah into his presence in this vision begins with something ending. The beginning of Isaiah’s new life as a prophet is marked by death and mortality. Yet there amidst those words of grief and loss “in the year that King Uzziah died” a new life begins and it begins in the presence of God. God is there in the death and He brings the new life. Right where mortality and temporary and being finite all meet at the word “death”, there, too, is a glimpse of eternity.
Please spend the next few moments reading and meditating on the following excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s The Hungering Dark before spending some time with your journals and in prayer.
IN THE YEAR THAT King Uzziah died, or in the year that John F. Kennedy died, or in the year that somebody you loved died, you go into the temple if that is your taste, or you hide your face in the little padded temple of your hands, and a voice says, “Whom shall I send into the pain of a world where people die?” and if you are not careful, you may find yourself answering, “Send me.” You may hear the voice say, “Go.” Just go.
Like “duty,” “law,” and “religion,” the word “vocation” has a dull ring to it, but in terms of what it means, it is really not dull at all. Vocare, to call, of course, and a person’s vocation is a person’s calling. It is the work that they are called to in this world, the thing that they are summoned to spend their life doing. We can speak of a person choosing their vocation, but perhaps it is at least as accurate to speak of a vocation’s choosing the person, of a call’s being given and a person hearing it, or not hearing it. And maybe that is the place to start: the business of listening and hearing. A person’s life is full of all sorts of voices calling them in all sorts of directions. Some of them are voices from inside and some of them are voices from outside. The more alive and alert we are, the more clamorous our lives are. Which do we listen to? What kind of voice do we listen for?
Buechner, Frederick. The Hungering Dark. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.
Look at the endings and beginnings in your life. Look at what, or who, has died and what, or who has been born. Do you see God in those moments? Think about the voices that Buechner talks about. Consider his questions and answer them.
Pray for those times that you have grieved or those things that you are still grieving and need to grieve for. Pray for God to bring new life. Ask to be made new. Open a conversation with God about “the work that [you] are called to in this world, the thing that [you] are summoned to spend [your] life doing.” Surrender yourself again to the One that calls you.