“Called by the Spirit”

Posted By Beckie Sweet on May 26, 2024 | 0 comments

May 26, 2024 ~ Trinity Sunday ~ Peace with Justice Sunday

Rev. Beckie Sweet


Once upon a time, there was a woman who set out to discover the meaning of life.  First she read everything she could get her hands on – history, philosophy, psychology, religion.  While she became a very knowledgeable person, nothing she read gave her the answer she was looking for.  She found other smart people and asked them about the meaning of life, but while their discussions were long and lively, no two of them agreed on the same thing.  And still she had no answer.

Finally, she put all her belongings in storage and set off in search of the meaning of life.  She went to South America.  She went to India.  Everywhere she went, people told her they did not know the meaning of life, but they had heard of a man who did.  Only they were not sure where he lived.  She asked about him in every country on earth until finally, deep in the Himalayas, someone told her how to reach his house – a tiny hut perched on the side of a mountain just below the tree line.

She climbed and climbed to reach his front door.  When she finally got there, with knuckles so cold they hardly worked, she knocked.

“Yes?” said the kind-looking old man who opened the door.  She thought she would die of happiness!

“I have come halfway around the world to ask you one question,” she said, gasping for breath.  “What is the meaning of life?”

“Please come in and have some tea,” the old man said.

“NO,” she said.  “I mean, no thank you.  I didn’t come all this way for tea.  I came for an answer.  Won’t you tell me, please, what is the meaning of life?”

“We shall have tea,” the old man said.  So, she gave up and went inside.  While he was brewing the tea she caught her breath and began telling him all about all the books she had read, all the people she had met, all the places she had been.  The old man listened (which was just as well, since his visitor did not leave any room for him to reply), and as she talked, he placed a fragile tea cup in her hand.  Then he began to pour the tea.

She was so busy talking that she did not even notice when the teacup was full, so the old man just kept pouring until the tea ran over the sides of the cup and spilled to the floor in a streaming waterfall.

“What are you doing?!” she yelled when the tea burned her hand.  “It’s full, can’t you see that?  Stop!  There’s no more room!”

“Just so,” the old man said to her.  “You came here wanting something from me, but what am I to do?  There is no more room in your cup.  Come back when it is empty and then we will talk.”


Why are we here?  What difference does my life make?  What’s the meaning of the work I do?  How can I do something about the suffering and needs and injustices in this world?  These are not uncommon questions for persons of any age trying to figure out “What is the meaning of life?”


We heard from the Scriptures this morning the text which includes Isaiah’s “Call Story.”  In the midst of Isaiah’s vision of the enthroned God in the holiest of holies in the Temple, we hear God’s call to Isaiah, and Isaiah’s response.  Isaiah first sets the scene:  The death of King Uzziah placed Judah in a time of national crisis.  During the king’s 52-year reign, the country had experienced strength, prosperity, and peace.  But now that the king was dead, the Assyrians were poised to invade Israel.  Isaiah carried the weight of grief, uncertainty, and fear in his heavy heart as he entered the temple.

While in the temple, Isaiah had a vision ~ an experience of God that was more than words could contain.  God was on the throne which was high and lifted up, and Isaiah described the winged Seraphs as they sang and worshiped God.  As the temple shakes, Isaiah realizes that he is in the presence of the Almighty who is filled with majesty and glory.  Isaiah is suddenly struck by his own sinfulness, unworthiness, and inadequacies.  “Woe is me!” is the confession with which Isaiah begins his discourse with God.  His self-imposed human shame causes him to express withdrawal from any plan that God has for this soon-to-be prophet.

But God provides for Isaiah a means of forgiveness, redemption, grace, atonement.  This newly cleansed human being was then ready to hear God’s request and commissioning.  God asks the now sinless Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  and Isaiah said, without even knowing the details of the mission, “Hear am I; send me!”  It is an expression of Isaiah’s profound trust in God.

Isaiah was about to enter his God-given vocation.  A vocation is not necessarily one’s job or profession.  When God gives a vocation, it is a defining moment concerning the meaning of life!  One may work as an orthodontist, but have a God-given vocation of feeding the hungry.  One may work at McDonald’s, but have a calling to be a literacy volunteer.  One may work as a plumber, but have a vocation as a summer camp counselor, introducing young people to God’s love.  One may be retired, but have a vocation of singing God’s praises in the church choir.  One may be a teacher (which in itself could be a noble vocation), but that one may also serve as a sponsor for others in Alcoholics Anonymous.

God’s call of Isaiah invites us to reflect on our calling and vocation.  To do so, we need to listen and discern how to empty ourselves of what clutters our lives, and then where God is calling us, or sending us.  We need to hear within God’s call the response to that nagging question “What is the meaning of life?”  Understanding that daily we can live into God’s call, gives us purpose and meaning, changing our motivations for what we do, and transforming our co-workers, family, church, or community into a mission-field worthy of God’s grace and redemption.  Does your proverbial teacup have room for the blessings and calling that God will pour out to you today?  What is the meaning of your life?

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