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Commitment to service
by Rev. Howard Ray Carey


In His Messages the Christ leaves no doubt that He is calling us to a thorough-going commitment to Soul-level service ---- service to the Plan and thus to humanity. We may think of this as something new. And indeed it may be a new and much needed emphasis on something too long neglected. But this need for commitment to service is really ancient. It is clearly voiced by many of the Old Testament prophets. And none spells it out better than Isaiah. Let us look at his graphic description of the process.

  • ''In the year that king Isaiah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.' And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woe is me for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.'
  • ''Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.' And I heard the voice of the Lord saying: 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said: 'Here am I!   Send me.'''

Here we find spelled out for us the essential steps for a classical transformation of character. (In religion some would call it a conversion experience.) The initial step, in the prophet's quest for 'something more' (is this all there is?), is implied rather than being spelled out. He and his nation had reached a time of crisis: the head of the government had just died. So Isaiah's search for meaning had led him to the temple and into deep meditation or contemplation. Out of this deep probing the spiritual vision unfolded with its powerful symbolism.

Isaiah became both clairvoyant and clairaudient. After 'seeing' the Lord on a throne high and lifted up, he hears the seraph's song. As is typical in such experiences, the individual is struck with a sense of his own unworthiness. In his confession, true to his calling as a prophet, he speaks not only for himself but for his people: not only does he feel lost, because of being a man of unclean lips, but he confesses the lostness and uncleanness of his people. He feels overwhelmed, ''For I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.''

Similarly, when the apostle Peter came face to face with Jesus' 'miracle-working' power, he cried out, ''Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'' But the representative of God does not depart. Instead, in Isaiah's case, after his confession, he has the powerful experience of cleansing through fire from the altar. (Don't we all have to experience cleansing by fire, in one way or another?) After all this he is able to hear the comforting assurance, ''Your guilt is taken away and your sin forgiven.''

There is much misunderstanding among theologians about the meaning of forgiveness. Some interpret it as a means of  'getting off scot free', so to speak, by a supposed setting aside of the law of cause and effect. What a travesty. Fortunately there is no possibility of setting aside the law of cause and effect. If that were to happen we would become only pawns or puppets ---- if indeed it were even possible for us to live outside this law. But forgiveness is nonetheless important. As Isaiah understood, it lifts from our shoulders the heavy burden of guilt,  freeing us from fear of 'the wrath of an angry God'. A realization of forgiveness thus frees us because it enables us to stand aside as the observer, viewing our life, with its ups and downs, objectively, and seeing other lives objectively also.

Note that it is only after all these steps ---- the search, the vision, the sense of unworthiness, the confession, and the cleansing by fire ---- that the prophet is able to hear the clear call of the Lord to service. Ready at last he responds, ''Here I am. Send me.''

When we honestly take the steps Isaiah took we too will discover what our mission is, and will have the courage to do it. Are we listening to Christ's call as He urges:

  • ''Make bright your lamp and let it shine forth and show the way.  All are needed, every one... How to start?  Begin by dedicating yourself and all that you are and have been to the service of the world...  This, the Path of Service, is the only path for true men, for it is the path which leads them to God.'' (Message No. 13)

Let us joyously renew our dedication of ourselves and all that we have to the service of the world, the service of our brothers and sisters everywhere.


This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright Share International Foundation.  Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated. 


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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005