2021 MAY 30 “Here I Am, Send me”

Scripture   Isaiah 6:1-8  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on his throne, high and exalted, and his robe filled the whole Temple. Around him flaming creatures were standing, each of which had six wings. Each creature covered its face with two wings, and its body with two, and used the other two for flying.  They were calling out to each other: “Holy, holy, holy! The Lord Almighty is holy! His glory fills the world.” The sound of their voices made the foundation of the Temple shake, and the Temple itself became filled with smoke. I said, “There is no hope for me! I am doomed because every word that passes my lips is sinful, and I live among a people whose every word is sinful. And yet, with my own eyes I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, “This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.” Then I heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?” I answered, “I will go! Send me!”

Message   Do you have dreams?  Sometimes my dreams happen while I’m wide awake.  I begin to imagine how the world could be very different, more loving, more tolerant, more peaceful, and more just.  Something like Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  What I most love about our church is that we listen carefully to each other’s dreams, we learn from each other’s dreams, and we commit to bringing our dreams to life together.

Or maybe your dreams are far simpler, dreaming of the frosting on your next birthday cake, or dreaming of your next hike in the woods.  But that’s also why I love this church. Even the simple dreams that we share bring us together, build a more confident faith, and have the capacity to move the world.

Our story from the Bible this morning is the kind of dream that happens when you are asleep.  When you wake up, you remember some of it, but it quickly fades as you begin your day.  Usually these dreams have only a tenuous connection with reality.  Dreaming of relatives or friends long deceased.  Or involving impossible adventures, flying like Superman through the sky!  But Isaiah woke up from a dream, and he never forgot it.  He never forgot it, and fortunately for us, he wrote it down.

Isaiah dreams of a visit to the heavenly temple of God, God sitting on a lofty throne and wearing a robe that stretches everywhere in the Temple. Flaming angelic creatures swarm around the throne, and they were singing an unforgettable hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, that echoes through all creation. Their songs makes the Temple shake to the foundations, and the Temple becomes filled with smoke.  The dream of the Temple is so astounding, so awesome, so beyond description, that Isaiah panics.  “I should not be here. This is the holiest place in the universe, the holy of holies, the dwelling place of God.  If God sees me trespassing here I’ll be in big trouble.  Because God knows exactly who I am, a sinner, a man who’s every word is dripping with dishonesty and deceit. I’m doomed!”

Let me pause for a moment and comment on what Isaiah saw.  Here we have a Temple so incredible that attempting to describe it, or draw a picture of it, or to write a song about it is impossible. We would run out of words, crayons and musical notes. Even so, I believe that behind the design of every Christian Church is this vision of Isaiah. The heart of each church, from the greatest cathedral to the smallest chapel, in some way tries to reflect what Isaiah saw, that, in this building created with human hands, we look to find ourselves in the presence of God. Sure, God can be everywhere, but people like ourselves find our church spaces especially intimate. And even in a small, simple worship space, those with the yearnings of faith can imagine that lofty throne, with a foundation here on earth and stretching all the way to heaven.  Yes, right here in Byron there is a connection to heaven, our tall steeple something like Jacob’s ladder stretching up to heaven.  And you are seeing it this morning

The loftiness of God’s throne might stretch all of the way to heaven above, but the worship space is right here is also filled with divine intimacy.  Whether you sit in the back row or the front row, God is aware of you, your needs, and what you can become.  Whether you have some here every Sunday of your entire life, or this is the first time you have set foot in this place, God reaches out with love and hope.  Whether you are one of the greatest of saints or the worst of sinners, in a place like this we find spiritual encouragement to approach God. Not one of us is unimportant to God. Not one of us is blocked from reaching to God.

Isaiah considered himself to be one of the worst of sinners, and he felt like he was a trespasser in heaven.  To sin is to hurt God, to hurt others, even to hurt ourselves.  Sometimes we absolutely know we are sinners, but most of the time we are barely aware of how we hurt others.

Isaiah, though, knew exactly how he hurt God, hurt others, and hurt himself.  It was his mouth that kept getting him into trouble.  Anyone here ever get in trouble for something you said? Keep in mind that Isaiah was probably a Temple worker when he had this dream, he knew all about God, he served God every day.  But in the direct presence of God Isaiah knew the truth about himself.  He said to himself, “Every word I speak creates damage.  I have nothing to offer God. When God turns to look at me, a trespasser in the Temple, I’m DOOMED!”

God knew all about Isaiah, knew all of his faults and mistakes, but God is never done with any of us.  So one of the flaming angels flits over with tongs holding that hot burning coal, reaches out and touches  Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal.  Ouch!  Now imagine the angel bringing that hot coal to you.  What part of you will that coal touch, to heal it, to transform it, to enliven it? Your mouth after terrible things you might have said? Your ears after you refuse to listen to Jesus? Your eyes that avert their gaze from the needs of the world? Your hands which seek only to get and not give. Your mind that may be stuck in selfishness or hatred?  Your heart that too easily turns to stone.

In that huge, lofty Temple, in the vast crowd of humanity God sees you, and brings that burning coal right to you to touch you where the need is greatest.   Just dwell on that moment, the moment when God sees you, knows your need, and responds so directly that you feel it.

And the result?  Just imagine what you could become, will become, are becoming!  Dedicated to kindness, more generous, a bridge builder, a peacemaker.

In the Viral Congregations Initiative, we value empowered servant leadership, one of the marks of a vital church. How about you, are you empowered by your faith, or are you feeling powerless these days?  As he gazed upon that lofty throne, heard the angelic choir, felt the Temple shake, and saw it  fill with smoke, Isaiah felt no power at all, only shame and defeat for how he had fallen short.  Then that hot burning coal touched his lips, and Isaiah felt empowered.  “Here am I!  Send me!”  What I love about this church is when the hot burning coal touches us, we respond!

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