I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry. All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save. I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
Every pastor comes into contact with this hymn sooner or later. Almost all of us have used it for our Ordinations and often Installations – and it comes in handy for Confirmations, too (basically all the -ations).
However, my first contact with this hymn came not in a Presbyterian Church, but in a Roman Catholic one (gasp). In fact, after I experienced the illnesses and deaths of those closest to me as a child, I left the church for a couple of years. I believed in God, but I was so angry. I was a little bit angry at God, but even more angry at everyone else who kept trying to force me to move on – unfortunately, including some well-meaning church folk.
It was not until a year or two later, with the entrance of my Dad (stepdad) into my life (since my father had been one of the ones who died when I was eight), that I came back into the body of faith. It was the same time that youth group was getting ready to start. So my parents, wise ones that they were, took us to both the Presbyterian and the Catholic churches (sometimes even on the same day). They wanted us to get a broader view of God’s family than either one could provide on their own.
In both places I met people of faith who showed love with remarkable reckless abandon. Though I ended up finding the welcome and home I needed at the Presbyterian Church, it was at the Catholic Church that I think perhaps I began to get an early inkling of my calling.
From the moment I heard this hymn – I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain. I have wept for love of them. They turn away. I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone. I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send? – I fell in love. Not just with the beautiful lyrics, but with the God they represented. Even more, as I heard the adaptation of Isaiah’s words, I began to think: send me?
It is a question we all face, whether we enter into formal ministry or not: will we go when God calls? Ours is a God who does love us with a reckless abandon like no other – one that weeps when we weep, rejoices at new life, and serves even those who the world forgets, gives Love’s own life for others. With God, we are welcome. We are loved. We are home.
Then God asks us, will you go and share that message with others? Perhaps with words, as some are gifted to do. But I have always found that actions really do speak louder. Open hands, standing feet, and embracing arms display God’s love in ways that words only fail us. So what will your answer be? Will you serve this God of love who is calling to you?
I, the Lord, of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame, I will set a feast for them. My hand will save. Finest bread I will provide till their hearts be satisfied. I will give my life to them. Whom shall I send? Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.