Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
May 31, 2015
“Go into the Community!”
1 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.
2 Seraphs 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.
3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
5 And 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!”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
7 The 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.”
8 Then 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!”
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Today, we begin a sermon series that follows the outline of our Vacation Bible School curriculum. It is all about “Hero’s!’ Hero’s in the Bible and in our community that display: courage, truthfulness, devotion and faith; these are the attributes that prepare individuals to actually become a Hero, when they are called upon to be one. As we begin this multifaceted discussion let us keep a couple questions in mind. Let us ask ourselves: what does it take to be a Hero in the eyes of God? Then let us ask ourselves the deeper and more probing question, are we Heroes? We begin our conversation by looking into the Old Testament lesson from the Book of Isaiah. Here we have the initial ‘call’ by God to the ‘insecure’ figure of Isaiah, just before he enters into the realm of becoming a prophet for God. Whether he became a hero or not we can leave up to historical scholars to debate. Yet, his call itself and his acceptance of and to that call speaks to his willingness to go out into the community, in which he lived, in order to carry the word of God to the people. And this is where we want to start: out in the community!
John van de Laar, a sought after worship leader offers us these thoughts as we enter into our lesson today. “As Isaiah entered the temple in the year that the good king Uzziah died, he received a vision of God that had a significant effect on him. According to our text, it was this dramatic encounter with God that transformed Isaiah into one of the great prophets of God’s people.”
“The God who has been revealed to Isaiah has come to him in three ways, three “languages”. His heart has been touched by God’s language of the heart. His mind has been challenged and comforted by God’s language of meaning, and his body has been called to action by God’s language of action. The miracle is that, as God encounters us in these ways, our entire being is touched and transformed and we become true children of god, communicating God’s wisdom, love and justice through our own languages of mind, heart and body.”
These words of John Laar give us a simple yet meaningful guide to understanding the superlatives of this dramatic piece of scripture from the Book of Isaiah. Verse five is the’ most revealing as Isaiah tells us: “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!” So many of us feel unworthy to do the work of God, and this is the state we find Isaiah in as God calls upon him. Yet, through the stunning words of our scripture we hear our author try to put across how the language of God touched him and utterly changes him! Rick Morley captures the image in this way: “In this reading, the vision of Isaiah isn’t just regal; it’s inspiring. Isaiah isn’t dumbstruck. He’s compelled. He’s inwardly moved to do something for God.” Thus when Isaiah perceived the voice of God’s call he is indeed compelled to respond. In verse eight we hear his reflection: Then 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!” With this new sense of worthiness Isaiah is able to respond “communicating God’s wisdom, love and justice through (his) own language of mind, heart and body”. / John van de Laar/
God calls out to each one of us. The key to hearing the voice of God, as we journey through life, is to open our hearts and open our minds to the language of God that gives meaning to our lives! Once we begin this process of opening ourselves to the ‘still speaking voice of God’ in our midst, we shall be more open to carrying God’s love more fully, out into the community in which we live! In order to do so we will first need to ‘let go’ of any doubts or insecurities that leave us paralyzed and sitting on the sidelines, rather than eagerly and willingly going forth carrying the language of God to others!
Last week we talked about the coming of the Advocate, sent by God, on the day of Pentecost. We know the Advocate as the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comforts us and guides us as we journey through life, thus reassuring us of God’s love and support thereby empowering us to follow more fully the ‘will of God!’ By our very nature we all want to do something meaningful in life; if only to validate our purpose in being here. Empowered by the Spirit, most of us want even more. The British journalist Peter Woods says it this way: “Our spiritual natures demand experiences that are relevant and real. They don’t even have to be rational or traditional.” Sometimes we need to simply trust God and go ahead and do that thing or speak up for that person that our human nature is fearful of doing or speaking. Peter Woods is trying to inspire us to let go and trust God! Trust the voice, trust the Spirit of God in your life!
If you are still with me in this conversation you are beginning to understand that everyone has the opportunity to respond to God’s calling, just as surely as Isaiah did in our scripture lesson today. And we will not all need to have such vivid and dramatic visions as Isaiah has shared with us. Rather, most of us will come to this point of empowerment, to do the will of God, in a much more gradual sense. The process of spiritual awakening comes one moment, one tiny revelation at a time. This is the case, most of the time for most people. Now and then a few do have jolts of inspiration and flashes of a sense of God’s profound presence, yet, even they, typically, awaken to the urgings of ‘God’s will’ slowly and only after much prodding from the Living God.
Cheryl Kirk-Duggan a professor of Theology and Ethics tells us that: “Volunteerism, an expression of stewardship, is a major theological theme in this text. The majestic nature of the liturgical drama that unfolds invokes a sense of praise and makes clear the sacredness of God, the moment, and the call to serve. Just as Isaiah confessed his trepidation and fear, sometimes we may also feel that we are unready, unclean, and unworthy of such responsibility.”
Now let us each and every one, let go of our trepidation and fear! It is time for us to accept that we are worthy, valuable, and we are ready to take on some new responsibilities! As we begin talking about the hero(s) out in our community, let us also consider the hero(s) here in our church. Bear in mind that hero(s) display certain qualities, such as: faithfulness and truthfulness; they are strengthened by their devotion to God whereby they are given the courage needed to step out into the community, where they avail themselves, as needed, in selfless acts.
Our Professor continues her discussion on volunteerism: “Engaging in volunteerism is a holy opportunity, to be entered into with prayer and discernment, so that we avail ourselves to God for the equipping for the task. Ultimately, the foundational question is “Who are we and what is God calling us to do?” /Cheryl Kirk-Duggan/ The professor’s words can lead us into an opportunity to speak to how many of us, here today, can exercise the opportunity to express the language of God – as we accept the opportunity to get involved in our upcoming Vacation Bible School. It is a chance to become more fully involved in this community. I know, many of you are still employed and work Monday thru Friday, but many of you are not so committed in your schedules. Either way, there are opportunities for all of us here gathered this morning. There will be all kinds of prep work needed before we get to Monday June 22nd. There are items that could be donated rather than purchased. Food items, snacks etc. to be gathered. There are all types of opportunities for good folks like yourselves to get involved in. Consider, prayerful, how you can be a part of this meaningful endeavor.
Vacation Bible School is an opportunity for us as a faith community to reach out to the youth, here in our church, and out in the surrounding community. Perhaps we have a neighbor or we have relatives and friends that have young children that might enjoy getting out of the house – five mornings in a row, trying something new. Yes, we know, some parents may send their children to us because it is virtually free and they will be free for a few hours each day. Why not? They probably deserve a little free time. What we focus on is the opportunity to assist them as we reach out to their children. Possibly, the experience here will make a real difference in the lives of the children that come to us. Perhaps, they will cause their parents to come visit us and even come to church once or twice. Either way, this is a tremendous opportunity for us, as a faith fellowship, to reach out in Christian love to the community we are a part of; possibly making a real difference in the lives of those we touch!
In the upcoming weeks I will dedicate our sermon times to talking, in more depth, about the attributes that prepare individuals to being a hero in the sight of God. In so doing we will sample the conversations that we will be having with the children, conversations that shall become part of this year’s Vacation Bible School. As we journey together in this experience, let us open our hearts, as we too need to learn the language of the heart; we ‘too’ need to learn the meaning of courage, truthfulness, devotion and faith; and most certainly, we need to let go – thereby trusting God to lead us into action!
Allow God to touch your heart today, allow God to move you into action! [Then 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!”] /Isaiah 6:8/