5/27/2018 Trinity Sunday The text is Isaiah 6:1-8.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
One rainy Sunday afternoon (much like this one is predicted to be), a little boy was bored and his father was sleepy. The father decided to create an activity to keep the kid busy. So, he found in the morning newspaper a large map of the world. He took scissors and cut it into a good many irregular shapes like a jigsaw puzzle. Then he said to his son, “See if you can put this puzzle together. And don’t disturb me until you’re finished.” He turned over on the couch, thinking this would occupy the boy for at least an hour. To his amazement, the boy was tapping his shoulder ten minutes later telling him that the job was done. The father saw that every piece of the map had been fitted together perfectly. “How did you do that?” he asked. “It was easy, Dad. There was a picture of a man on the other side. When I got him together right, the world was right.” (Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, http://www.Sermons.com)
Oh, how true that is! A person’s world can never be right until the person is right, and for the pieces of the puzzle to fit nicely, it requires the power of God through the gift of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. That is true for each of us. In order for us to see ourselves as gifted children of the Heavenly Father, we need God’s help. We need Jesus to provide the brick and mortar that grafts us onto God’s family tree. We need the Holy Spirit to remind us that we are not alone. We need the love and faithfulness of our heavenly Father to provide for our every need, trusting that God can distinguish between what we want and what is vital for our eternal salvation.
In order to discover and use the gifts God has given us, we also need God’s help. In order to have the courage and faith to look past the present and not restrict God’s gifts to a specific age or place, we need God’s help. To use the gifts God has given us may appear daunting. It may seem impossible and it may be downright scary to step out beyond our comfort zone. But sometimes that is exactly what God is calling us to do.
This is what happened to Isaiah. Considered to be one of the major Old Testament prophets, Isaiah understood himself as one who inherited the covenantal promise of God, but he also knew who he was as a human being – frail, limited, scared and sinful. So when confronted in a vision to take on the prophetic role, he was unprepared.
“Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,” that was Isaiah’s response to the Lord. The seraphs may have been singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts…” but, Isaiah was singing his woes. For like most of us, Isaiah did not believe that he could follow through on the role he had been given. He didn’t see himself as gifted. He only saw himself as a man and a sinner, one not worthy, ready or capable of being God’s prophet. For, Isaiah’s focus was solely upon himself and not on what God can do for, with and through him. So in spite of his glorious vision of the future, Isaiah was held captive by what he understood about himself and his surroundings.
This isn’t unusual. Many things in life hold us hostage. It may be an addiction to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, money, sex, television, work, family or even a hobby out-of-control. In our daily lives we may find ourselves in bondage to pain, health problems, grief, difficult decisions, unruly neighbors, controlling children and spouses, inconsiderate co-workers, and uncompromising bosses. All these problems and others prevent us from seeing beyond the present to what God has in store.
For Isaiah to get out of the trap which held him hostage, the seraphs, which had been singing and praising God, brought a coal from the altar and touch it to his lips. With God’s word forgiving his sins, burning his lips and opening his mouth, the barriers were removed that prevented Isaiah from moving out in faith. For, according to Martin Luther: The glowing coal is the word kindled by the Holy Spirit in love… To touch the mouth is to strike the heart with the Gospel, which is sweet to the bitter heart. Then the heart is a fit vessel for honor, because it will… be His instrument for teaching others… (Luther’s Works, Vol.16, p.77)
With the fire of the spirit forgiving his sin, opening his lips, burning the word of God into his swelling tongue, Isaiah was now free to answer the call. And with this freedom, the hesitancy of the past was gone in a flash and Isaiah was able to respond to God’s call with words of hope and courage, saying, “Here am I; send me!”
“Here am I; send me!” Ah, if we could only say those words with courage and conviction, the world around us would be different. But, like Isaiah, when confronted by the call to do something, we see ourselves as limited, frail, sinful beings – and without God, that is exactly what we are. But God takes away sin and burns the fire of forgiveness and grace within us. God takes the broken and mends. God takes the lost and finds. God takes us, each as we are, and uses us. God gifts us and calls us to share his word and work with the world around us.
On this Memorial Day weekend, as we remember those who stepped out in courage and put themselves in harm’s way in order to save others, may we have the courage to respond to God’s call with the words, “Here am I; send me!” We may not have a vision like Isaiah. We may not have dreamed dreams as was often the case in Old Testament times. But, we have the promise of God’s abiding presence in the Spirit, God’s saving grace in the Son and God’s never-failing love in the Father.
You are his. God has called you by name. God has blessed you with your gifts. And God sends you out into the world as you are, forgiven and empowered by him to share his love with those you encounter. May you go in courage and faith, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.