Isaiah 6 Costly Calling
I was worshiping at that immaculate of conception Catholic Church in Bethlehem when I strongly felt the Lord calling me to the ministry of word and sacrament. The moment the priest concentrated the Holy Communion was the moment God called me. My journey to fulfill God’s call was tough and challenging. It took me almost 16 years to become a pastor. My Palestinian and Egyptian friends and professors did not believe that God calls a woman to be a pastor. Coming to the United States was not easier. I am still following God’s call, and I learned no matter what God’s call is, it will always be challenging.
After the death of King Uzziah, the Judeans were under kingship transition and experienced a military crisis. The Assyrian Empire threatened to invade Judea. At the time of Isaiah 6, the Assyrians were militarily advanced and had a strong economy. “In contrast, Jerusalem was a city with hastily erected defenses filled with refugees from the countryside and other captured cities.
God called Isaiah in a very critical moment in the life of Juda. The Judeans were afraid of the Assyrians. They expected invasion at any moment. Unlike my call, Isaiah’s call was dramatic. He saw the heavenly court and heard the seraphim singing in Hebrew:
קָדֹ֛ושׁ קָדֹ֖ושׁ יְהוָ֣ה צְבָאֹ֑ות מְלֹ֥א כָל־הָאָ֖רֶץ כְּבֹודֹֽו קָדֹ֛ושׁ
“Kadosh kadosh kadosh adonai tseva'ot. Melo kol ha'aretz k'vodo.”
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
We sing this hymn when we celebrate the Holy Communion. We declare that God is holy and powerful and mighty. The Hebrew text describes God as God of צְבָאֹ֑ות , hosts. Have you ever thought of the meaning of hosts or Sabaoth? It means army forces. God is the God of army forces. The Judeans were afraid of Assyrian army forces, but Isaiah's vision emphasizes that God is the God of the heavenly army forces that will defend Judah.
Isaiah accepted God’s call by saying “here I am, send me.” The seraphim purified his mouth with a goal. Who were the Seraphim? We usually think that Seraphim have a human face and six wings.
The seraphim are snakes (Num. 21:6) with wings. They are also fiery.
Isaiah followed God’s call by preaching the message of judgment on Judah if the Judeans do not repent. Isaiah struggled with his people who rejected his message. He is often called the naked prophet because God asked him to walk naked and barefoot for three years as a symbol of the victory of the Assyrians over Egypt and Ethiopia, and make all prisoners march into captivity naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:3 - 4)!
Isaiah was persecuted, but the Bible does not report his death. However, “The Talmud [Yevamot 49b] says that he suffered martyrdom by being sawn in two under the orders of Manasseh”  To follow God’s call for your life is difficult. God calls each person for a special vocation: religious or nonreligious vocation. God calls you to be a teacher or nurse or plumber. Jesus still calling us to follow him. To follow Jesus Christ means to suffer. Suffering is not limited to persecution or martyrdom for the sake of Christ or have physical pain. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains how suffering accompanies Christ call to you:
I have no doubt that when Christ calls a man [or a woman], he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. 
The apostle Peter in his letter teaches that God calls us to suffer for doing good.
If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:20-21.
A staff accountant who refuses to commit fraud because of her/ his faith in Christ might suffer the consequences of losing his/her job. A lawyer who wants to be faithful despite facing professional and governmental regulations that may conflict with the requirements of his or her faith may struggle and suffering for the sake of Christ. Christian parents and grandparents are fearful and concerned that they cannot properly rear their children to trust Christ in this lawless and wicked age. Their fear and concern can make them suffer. They are suffering for Christ. Resisting evil and doing good for Christ can make you suffer.
Many people in the world believe in Jesus Christ, The Son of God, but not all Christians are his disciples. Not all Christians are willing to follow God’s call for their lives. Not every Christian response to God as Isaiah did by saying “here I am, send me,” or like Peter, James and John who left everything and followed Jesus. Discipleship is difficult and tough. Many Christians are not willing to pay the price of discipleship. Being the disciple of Christ means you are called to suffer. I will end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“Salvation is free, but discipleship can cost you your life.”