Friday, May 29, 2015

Sunday's Sermon

“Here Am I, Send Me”

May 31, 2015

Our scripture lesson this morning comes from Isaiah 6: 1 -8. It reads like this:

Isaiah 6:1-8

6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’

4The pivots* on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ 

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph* touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ 

This may be a sort of familiar experience for some of us as we consider our own calling experience.  And we are all called. Some are called to special responsibilities in the congregation but we all have a calling, and God intends to use each of us to be a part of the calling to be a part of God’s peaceful empire. 

I ran across this statement a couple of weeks ago and saved it for this theme.  

"Our culture has been hoodwinked by the idea that we’re living in the center of crisis, when actually we’re in the midst of the evolution of hope. ... The stories we tell will heal us, or destroy us.

Catering to (and nurturing) fear and pessimism is a function of one of the most dangerous beliefs: that violence can bring order out of chaos, cleansing the world for the righteous (what Walter Wink called the myth of redemptive violence).

Instead, violence merely generates more fear, pessimism, and conditions from which more violence may grow. Our journalism—and our personal social media use—needs to be resourced to deal in context, compassion, detail, and pause. More important, healing the world requires reframing the story as one in which, while we lament real wounds and work to prevent them, things are getting better, and we can make them better still.

This is as true for the creative arts of television, cinema, literature, and music as much as it is for their nonfiction counterparts. 

But the news does not begin with the flashing red strip across the bottom of the screen. It begins in your mind, and the story you’re telling about yourself. It catalyzes with your loved ones and neighbors to create a bigger story. It connects everywhere you go, on foot or chair or online. It is immensely powerful, although most of us aren’t conscious of this, most of the time. The way we tell the story about our world will actually co-create that world. The myth of redemptive violence needs to be replaced. Imagining a new myth is a privilege. It is also our responsibility."

We are each called to do this as far as it is in our power. But we can do even more. We can be an actual force for change in our area. our communities, neighborhoods, families. I believe this little church community believes in that mission.  That’s the message Jesus brought.

And, as Isaiah said so many years ago, our response should be “Here am I Lord, send me!”

The account in Isaiah 6 is a crisis event in Isaiah’s life which brought him into his prophetic office. His lifelong ministry began at the time of the death of King Uzziah. It appears that Uzziah’s death had a big impact on Isaiah. Uzziah had ruled successfully for 52 years and was not only a good king, but was probably the last great king of the southern kingdom. Under his reign Israel prospered materially, and managed to subdue other kingdoms like the Philistines, Arabians, and Ammonites.

But now Uzziah was dead and things didn’t look very good for the future of Israel’s southern kingdom. Isaiah entered the temple in order to make contact with God concerning this crisis time, and to his surprise he had a vision in which he came face to face with the real king of Israel sitting upon his throne high and lifted up, with his train filling the temple. He had the rare privilege of seeing God’s glory in vision. Good King Uzziah might be dead, but Jehovah, the ruler of heaven and earth was alive and well. Behind the earthly throne was the heavenly throne. 

In the presence of the holy God, Isaiah had a profound sense of his own sinfulness. He became instantly aware that God will not compromise with evil and he was filled with terror.

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" He cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." 

Isaiah was God’s man before this experience, but this vision of God was the pivot point in his life, for this is what propelled him into prophetic ministry. Seeing himself in the presence of God he felt undone. God’s holiness had revealed to him his own unholy condition. In seeing God he was also able to see himself as he really was and he was devastated by his own lack of holiness. 

We may each have this type of experience and it could paralyze us into inaction.  But we cannot let that happen. God needs each of us to realize our sense of mission…as Isaiah finally did.

Bob was pastor when calls became apparent for some of our women in this congregation. He sensed their calls mightily. But he realized that even though he sensed mine too, he couldn’t bring it because I was his wife.  He waited for the Regional Administrator to respond to his applications for the calls. Finally at reunion that year, the Regional Administrator showed up.  He called Bob aside and told him. “All your calls are approved… but Bob, you missed one. Marge also has a call. I realize you are unable to bring it so I have done that. You may tell her when you tell the others.”

I had a strong sense of my call. But under the circumstances, I didn’t believe I would be called.  Imagine my surprise when it came through another. I felt immensely unworthy. But I had my sense of a calling long before women were able to be called. I tried to respond to that feeling of “call” long before my actual call.

I am sure many of us have felt that way whether we are actually called to a priesthood office or not. Bill, for example, and his wife, Carol, have had that sense of call.  They have traveled at their own expense to Alaska and even to South American countries to respond to their sense of call.  

One day Henry Ford was driving in the Michigan countryside when he came upon a man whose Model T had broken down. The guy was bent under the hood trying to figure what was wrong. Mr. Ford stopped and asked if he could take a look. In a few minutes, he had the car running. The grateful owner said, “I’m amazed at your ability; you fixed my car so easily.” Ford replied, “I ought to be able to fix it, because I’m the one who designed it.” The same is true with God—He designed us, and He can help us fix whatever we feel is wrong with us.

Isaiah’s vision demonstrates the ongoing saving work of God through faithful people who respond to the calling. It reminds us that when we approach God and repent of our shortfalls, God will always forgive us.  In fact, God waits for us to recognize our shortcomings and realize we are already forgiven. Then we are ready to hear God’s call and respond.  Our response is not about having all the answers but is about humbly being willing to make ourselves available to go where God needs us. 

Isaiah’s vision also reminds us that worship is an important element of encountering God. …not for God. God does not need our worship. But we need to recognize our need of God. Amid praise for the Lord and worship, Isaiah was humbled and repentant.  Out of Isaiah’s repentance he was able to have a sense of forgiveness. His forgiveness opened him to be able to hear the call to serve and then to respond. This experience of Isaiah in the Temple provides a helpful model of the type of holistic worship that includes praise, confession, proclamation, and commitment. 

And we are all called and each of us can respond with Isaiah with “Here Am I Lord, Send Me!”


Sister--Three said...

I so enjoyed the sermon!

Margie's Musings said...

Thank you Sister--Three.

Margie's Musings said...

Sister Three, I would like to follow your blog but clicking on your name here did not take me there. Can you help me?

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

What a beautiful, moving, and powerful sermon, Margie!!! :)

Margie's Musings said...

Thank you, Deb!

Sister--Three said...

My Blog is really not something a busy woman like yourself would probably want to bother herself with...but this is the url address

I am one of 5 sisters but only 3 are still living. My two sisters and I share our daily lives by blogging. Until Nov. 28, 2014, we had a fourth sister who shared with us. Since mostly we speak of family and things familiar to each other, I am sure it would be boring to you.

I love following your life and how you work so hard to be self sufficient. Don't feel you have to reciprocate the following. You are far to busy to have to do that.

Keep pushing forward and doing all your "good" work. Don't bother yourself with me or feel you should because I have commented. I do so for encouragement to you...not to gain anything from you.

Margie's Musings said...

Everyone's blog is interesting. We use our blogs kind of like a journal. It is interesting to follow the life of someone we get to know this way. I have added your blog to my list. Thanks so much!