May 27 2018 “Come Holy Spirit, Come: Send Us” *Isaiah 6.1-8, Romans 8.12-17 Jacqueline Hines
The prophet Isaiah records in the 6th chapter that the King of Judah who reigned 700 years before Jesus was born in Judah, had died. The year that King Uzziah died was like any other time when a prominent leader dies. The whole world knew that things were about to change, and everyone was watching and waiting and wondering what was going to happen next.
Uzziah had reigned for over 50 years and things had gone very well. The military was stronger, food was plentiful, and there was a good measure of peace and security in most communities. King Uzziah made his mistakes along the way, but they were nothing compared to the great things that had been accomplished by the grace of God.
Today, if we flip through all the editions of the 2018 Mercury, we would see obituaries of the lives of well-known persons whose deaths have changed our world. There are names such as scientist Stephen Hawking, who studied the black hole and relativity [slide # 1 Hawking], Dorothy Malone [slide # 2 Malone] an Oscar-winning actress, Barbara Bush [slide # 3 Bush] former first lady, and Winnie Mandela [slide # 4 Mandela] anti-apartheid activist. We take notice of important people in our lives who die, and for years, we remember how their lives mattered to us.
On the day that King Uzziah died, Isaiah, the prophet took a special note of what a blessing he was, and he knew life could change drastically. Isaiah was the king’s prophet. Now that Uzziah was gone, Isaiah must have wondered if the next king would pay attention to his spiritual guidance.
Every king had a prophet, just like every U.S. president has a Godly adviser like a Billy Graham, [slide # 5 Graham] like every U.S. senate has a chaplain like the current chaplain Barry Black [slide # 6 Chaplain Black] a retired Navy Rear Admiral and former Chief of Navy Chaplains.
Isaiah was God’s messenger of wisdom and comfort for king Uzziah and on the day that the king died, Isaiah says he saw the Lord. The king was gone, but with his spiritual eyes, Isaiah saw that the Lord was still on the throne. Certainly, we take comfort in a loving God ruling and reigning over our lives. We do not like everything that happens in this world, but the idea that God’s ultimate purpose and plan is love and justice gives us a reason to keep the faith. The idea that love never fails gives us strength to continue our journey.
Isaiah saw three things in chapter 6 that we all must see if we are going to survive when it seems that all is lost and terrible things are about to happen. First, verse 1 says that Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, sitting on a throne. We all need to see God for ourselves. We all need to be aware of God’s presence. We may never have a dramatic or mystical experience in our life, but we should all see God constantly in the scriptures, or in the situations in our lives, or in the lifestyle of someone who lets their little light shine.
If we cannot see God, we cannot follow. Without a vision, the bible says we cannot live. Jesus also said, we cannot live by bread alone, we need God’s word, through scripture or example or testimony. Otherwise, we wither on the vine, that is, we bear no spiritual fruit - no love, no joy, no peace, little patience, barely any kindness, hardly any goodness (generosity), we lack faithfulness, and self-control is not in our vocabulary. We need to see God’s word through scripture or example.
Isaiah, not only saw God on the day that King Uzziah died, Isaiah says he saw the hem of God’s robe, and it filled the temple. I like the New International Version that says “…and the train of his robe filled the temple.” [slide # 7 the train of his robe….]. We have seen trains worn by royalty and those with status and power. The world just witnessed the very public wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Meghan’s train was 16 feet long. [slide # 8 Markle’s wedding gown].
In this season of graduations, we see robes worn by those who have earned positions of power that come with certain academic degrees. [slide # 9 putting on academic hood] Their dress is also a version of a royal train. [slide # 10 gathered with academic hoods ]
Bishops, priests, preachers, and those in religious orders wear capes, long and short to symbolize the wide reach of God’s presence and power. [slide # 11 cardinal robe] There have been linen, wools, furs, [slide # 12 fur stole] and silks that drape around, and down and long and wide, signifying a certain position with God and with God’s people. [slide # 13 group of clerics]
St. Martin of Tours, is known as the military saint. [slide # 14 St. Martin of Tours] He looked past the expense and luxury of his cape, that draped like a train to represent his high status. St. Martin cut his cape with his military sword and shared it with a beggar who had little to wear in the dead of winter. It is good in our moments of celebration and luxury that we find a way to remember those who are suffering.
Isaiah’s saw God as a ruler with status and power and we need to see God in that way as well.
The second thing Isaiah sees that all of us need to see on our faith journey is in verse 5. He sees where he falls short and he can admit it. “I am a man of unclean lips, [ slide # 15 I am a man…] and I dwell with a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah understands that there is at least one place in his life where he needs God to help him and strengthen him if he is going to go to the next spiritual level. Then he will be able to witness to God’s power and love in at least that one area – whether it is great or small.
Thirdly, Isaiah sees the altar of God. Isaiah is so close to the throne of God that he can feel the warmth of fire from the altar. In order to get close to the throne of God, one must be able to take some heat, the heat of confession and repentance, the heat of trials and tribulations. Isaiah is also close enough to the altar to hear the angels known as cherubs. They are God’s front line security guards, and they are singing praises to God, for praising God protects us from many enemies. They cry “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Isaiah can even see the second round of God’s security force, the seraphim. The word “Seraphim” means “burning ones.” Seraphim are on fire for God. The seraphim remind me of a story of a preacher who was on fire for God. People would fill arenas and fields to listen his sermons. He was heard to say, “I set myself on fire, and people come from miles around to watch me burn with my passion for God.”
A seraph can be considered God’s closest source of security, the highest order of angels. They were very close to the altar. They had access to the fires of Heaven and, no doubt, the fires of hell. Bishop Tutu in his fight against apartheid, would thank the world for their prayers and he reminded everyone that their prayers were not in vain. He knew their prayers created a wall of fire against the enemy. Prayer brings us as close to God as we can get.
Isaiah saw the seraphim flying down from that high and lofty place, bringing a hot coal from God’s altar. They placed it on his lips. [slide # 16 seraphim with coal] The coal was so hot it had to be carried with tongs, yet it was not too hot for his lips. Whatever work God has to do in us may seem like it could damage or destroy us, but God has the right amount of fire, the right timing and the right touch that can free us of our sin and guilt.
Isaiah was able to see God for the great God that God is, admit his weaknesses, and stand in the divine presence of God long enough to become free of his sin and guilt. After all of that, Isaiah hears the voice of the lord asking, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Isaiah was not hiding. He spoke out, ‘Here am I; send me!’
It is not easy to listen to God’s voice, especially when you know God wants something. After all, we are not really trying to listen to the God who wants to intoxicate us so we will be forever under the influence and control of the spirit of love, yielding what author Richard Foster names as the places we find hardest to surrender to God: money, sex, and power!
We cannot answer God’s call us unless we see what Isaiah saw: A Holy God who is high and lifted up, a God who loves us with a passionate fire, [slide # 17 fire of God’s love] and a God whose altars are secured with many angels to serve us as we serve God. [slide 18 …don’t grow cold.] Amen. [slide # 19 William Penn]