Sermon St. Dunstan’s February 10, 2019
Prophets were not popular people, they weren’t known for being sensitive to our feelings or their negotiating skills when it came to God’s word. They never achieved celebrity status and were not welcomed, especially in the kings’ courts…they didn’t use “politically correct language”- and were avoided OR CHASED OFF more than welcomed by most folks when they arrived on the scene.
They repeatedly reminded and rebuked, cajoled and shouted- using words with power and imagination-words so badly needed by us to stay alert and aware of what really counts in life- to live faithful and obedient lives before God.
In fact, in all the social circles the prophets found themselves in, God, if considered at all, was refashioned to fit their (and our) convenience– smaller and smaller… downsized to human proportions-contained in a space- easy to handle… SAFE.
But God the Holy Spirit, kept raising up prophets in the most unlikely places and circumstances, and sent them right smack-dab in the middle of those social circles to deliver God’s commands and promises –and God’s larger -than- life Presence to them… In today’s scripture, we join Isaiah early in his life,…he was probably 18 – smart, wellborn and well connected with the King’s court, he was well on his way to becoming a landowner or politician and then, The Holy One of Israel, God himself shows up.
What Isaiah experiences causes him to put aside his worldly, secular-life-expectations and step into the immense, astounding reality— that is GOD…to plunge into the mystery, the unexplainable, the uncontrollable, the staggering life of GOD- no questions asked- simply,
“Here am I, send me”.
Let’s take a little closer look at this passage in the beginning-
The first thing that happens to Isaiah when he is confronted by the hugeness, the astounding immensity of God’s presence, he sees himself as small, as living his life-outside of GOD’s life…-surrounded by people outside of GOD’S presence-
We could suspect Isaiah, the young mover and shaker of wealth and prosperity– well connected to those in the “know” of Jerusalem- realized God wasn’t what Isaiah had imagined…GOD couldn’t possibly be contained in the temple- when just the hem of his robe filled it and then some!
By the sheer immensity of what he sees, he realizes GOD refuses to be re-fashioned into a controllable, safe, predictable God of Isaiah’s convenience. Because he immediately cries out, “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!!”
And what happens? God sends the seraphs to purge his lips of sin. GOD immediately redeems Isaiah. Because GOD is good (remember not safe- but good) and loves Isaiah and all of his people- that’s why he wants to send Isaiah to his people – to bring them GOD’s love and salvation-
This encounter changes Isaiah forever. He leaves his worldly life without looking back- without regard to what he is losing (according to the world’s assumptions) – and is obedient to GOD.
And Paul, in his letter to his church in Corinth is describing, (in the background), how his shocking encounter with Christ- at a time in his life, you may recall, he was also a mover and shaker– on the fast track in the circles of the religious elite of Jerusalem...brilliant, well-schooled, well born, righteous in the Law- he was destined to soar high and far in the circles of power he moved in. He had GOD figured out-he had his list of dos and don’ts – what he needed to do, to keep on the right side of the Laws- to keep his power and the powers of his superiors intact- until, one day, he was stopped dead in his tracks by the blinding power and voice of Christ. The immensity of GOD-
And much like Isaiah, Paul came to the realization of how far he was from GOD- how he was a man with unclean lips. How GOD, the GOD he’d spent his lifetime containing in the temple, boxed in by laws and rituals- wasn’t containable OR controllable at all-
It took him 3 days of inward purging and searching of himself- he was blinded by the world – And then, Christ redeemed him too and Paul could see the loving presence, the immeasurable, uncontainable, unconditional love of GOD. At once, he put down forever his old life, and followed Jesus Christ in obedience. Teaching and preaching the Good News to everyone he came into contact with- bringing the love and salvation message to anyone who would listen. Possibly, the greatest conversion story of all time. And Peter- When Jesus asks him to use his boat, and to be rowed out a little way from the shore so he could continue to teach the crowds, Peter, dead tired from fishing all night, obeyed. After Jesus finished teaching, he told Peter to put his nets down in the deep water. Peter, knowing they hadn’t caught anything all night in the same spot, humors Jesus and rows out farther, throws the nets out.
We know what happened- there were so many fish, even when Peter called for backup, both boats almost sank under the weight of so many fish…Peter sees the limitless power of GOD, he sees the Messiah he’s been waiting for is right there in front of him – and is so much more than he could imagine. Peter, just like Isaiah and Paul, falls down before GOD, and admits to being a man “of unclean lips” before GOD- a sinner. And once again, GOD redeems and loves Peter– gives him a new identity to be something bigger and larger than anything he’d ever imagined: catching people up in the unimaginable and life-changing grace of God. Once on shore, Peter and crew left everything behind, including their old life, and obediently followed Jesus. Never looking back.
So dear friends, do you see a pattern here? It wasn’t all that much different thousands of years ago as it is now-we go about our lives, entrenched in the world’s way of separating things and people in our lives into secular and sacred–
The secular is everything in the world that we (CONVENIENTLY) are in charge of-
Everything else: worship, Scripture, heaven and hell, church and prayers -we assign GOD to be in charge- Sacred. Fitting GOD into our lives, or commonly called, “making room for GOD.”
In the Scriptures today, we saw through the eyes of Isaiah, Paul and Peter how GOD is far too large to fit into our lives. It is impossible to contain GOD in ANY SPACE, much less a small portion of our lives.
If we want anything to do with GOD, WE have TO FIT into GOD’S LIFE. We have to give up our smallness, our perceived control over every facet of our life…instead of insisting on control, insist on receiving GOD into every corner and cranny of our lives.
That’s what the prophets do for us…they help us to first recognize and then enter the new life GOD has for us…they set us on our feet in wonder and obedience and worship-IF WE’LL GIVE IT UP.
They give us the courage to say without hesitation, Here am I LORD. Send me.