The Lord Will Provide
Grace & Fairview United Methodist Churches
June 26, 2011
Isaiah 6: 1-8 (NIV)
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
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!”
A young preacher had just finished seminary and had taken his first appointment in the hills of Kentucky. Wanting to be effective in his preaching ministry, he walked into the pulpit on his first Sunday and preached on the evils of smoking. When he finished his message, some of the church leaders met him at the door: “We’re a little surprised that you would deal with the subject of smoking because nearly half of the state of Kentucky raises tobacco. You might want to think twice about talking about tobacco from this pulpit.” The preacher thanked them for enlightening him. The next Sunday he came back and preached against liquor and drinking. With great fervor, he preached on the ills of whiskey. The same group met him at the door when he was finished. They said, “We think we need to tell you that you ought to be careful about preaching against alcoholic beverages, especially since nearly a third of our county distills whiskey.”
“I didn’t know that,” the preacher replied. “Thank you for helping me.” He came back the next Sunday to preach a stirring sermon on gambling–in any shape or form, the lotto, racehorses, or any other. The same group met him after the service: “We think we need to tell you that over half of our county raises thoroughbred racehorses, so you want to be real careful about talking about gambling from the pulpit.” Being a quick learner, the next Sunday, the young preacher preached against the evils of scuba diving in international waters!
So here we are; at the start of something new. And I’m sure many of you are wondering what I (your new pastor) will say. You’ve been wondering all week, no doubt. Well, I can assure you that I am not going to preach on all the evils of the world…at least not today. But perhaps there have been other lingering questions as well. We wonder what the future holds. What will it be like to share a minister? Will we have to change? What will this new person be like? How will we work together? What is going to happen now? Where is God in all this transition?
Certainly, we want to know where God is in the midst of this change. Surely, God will work in this new partnership to further his kingdom, but how will that happen? With that question, let us consider now our text for this morning; the call of the prophet Isaiah. Some three thousand years ago, there was a man named Isaiah who heard the voice of the Lord saying to him: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” It is a question that echoes down through the ages. It is a question asked of every believer and every church. Everyday, God wants to know who will be out there working for him, who will go in his name into the world. On this day and beyond, as we come together as the Grace-Fairview two-point charge, we have an opportunity to respond to God’s call in new and exciting ways. The question is, will we?
Isaiah was faced with a mighty call on his life…and it wasn’t easy for him. Just like change and transitions aren’t always easy for us. And Isaiah had to make a decision, an eternal decision. Would he respond to God’s call or not? How many of us have heard God’s call on our lives, but are still unsure of how we will respond? How many of us feel a sense of uncertainty today; wondering where God will lead us now? I know I do! Perhaps we are all feeling a bit overwhelmed today, wondering if we are really up to this new task that God has set before us. Indeed, at times, God calls us to new places, to do new things, to live in a new way, and we proceed with caution, uncertain of what lies ahead.
As we look at our Old Testament lesson for this morning, we see that this is the same kind of thing that Isaiah experienced by being in the presence of God. He is overwhelmed by his sense of unworthiness. He sees himself as he truly is, and he is unsure if he is really up to the task now before him. “Woe to me!” Isaiah cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” But this is where things really take a turn. Because God can do something with people who see what they are and know that God is calling them to something greater. With Isaiah’s admitting his unworthiness before God, we see God do for Isaiah that which no person can do for themselves. God forgives Isaiah and makes him clean; makes him worthy! “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!”
Without warning or explanation, one of the seraphs flies to Isaiah “with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched” Isaiah’s “mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’” Isaiah had been convinced that the holiness of God had been bad news for him. Isaiah was certain that he was not up to the task that God was setting before him. But in fact it was just the opposite. The holiness of God is Good News! It is what makes God so great. And what makes God so great is not that he exerts his power by doting on our weaknesses and failings. There is nothing unique or unusual about that; we do that to each other all the time. But God is greater. And what makes God so utterly unique and wonderful and holy is his desire to be merciful and forgiving of all; his desire to work through each person to share his love with others. That is what the holiness of God is all about. And that is the holiness that God reveals to Isaiah.
This is this holiness that God reveals to us everyday, the holiness at work in this new beginning. We might be uncertain of what the future holds. We might feel unworthy of the task before us. But in his holiness, his merciful love, God desires to work through each of us; through you and through me, through Grace and through Fairview, and through all of us together. That is why we are here today! That is why we begin this new endeavor! God has great plans for us, just as God has great plans for the north Hixson community! This doesn’t mean that God’s plans have changed or that we weren’t fulfilling God’s will before, it only means that we now have a new opportunity to be even more fully the people God has called us to be! There is no need for us to feel unworthy because God will make a way for us; the Lord will provide all that we need to be his servants in this world!
Not only did Isaiah realize that he was lost, a sinner, a man of unclean lips, but he also realized that God was calling him. And this totally changed Isaiah’s life. “Here am I. Send me!” Do we have the faith to say this to God as he calls us out of a life of sin and self-preservation and into his kingdom? Faith trusts that the searing, white-hot holiness of God will not destroy us but purify us and prepare us. Faith trusts that in the will of God a way will be made for us to follow. Faith trusts that God’s last word to us is a wonderful promise of abundant life in him! God is not our enemy but our friend. Are we answering God’s call on our lives? Are we being the people that God wants us to be; that God knows we can be? This is the question we must answer in the coming months and years; not only for ourselves, but also for our church and for our community!
You see, Jesus Christ called the church into being so that his work might continue in the world. And we are all one in Christ Jesus, commissioned to be his hands and his feet without any thought to the building in which we worship. Today we live into that in a little way by joining with Fairview (Grace) in a two-point charge. Indeed we come to this place with a sense of uncertainty and unworthiness, but this is not about us! It’s about the world out there! God has called us to serve our community and our world in his name, to spread his holiness throughout the land, and the body of Christ is stronger when it is united. But we have to make a decision to respond to this call. We have to make a decision to be faithful to God. Are we willing like Isaiah to respond to God by saying, “Here am I. Send me!”
When we can respond with faith to God’s call on our lives and in the life of the church, amazing things will happen. I want to remind (share with) you something I spoke from the pulpit a year ago today:
My friends, be ready, get ready because God is up to something big around here: discouraged folks cheer up, dishonest folks ‘fess up, sour folks sweeten up, closed folk open up, conflicted folks make up, sleeping folks wake up, lukewarm folk fire up, dry bones shake up, and pew potatoes stand up! We have work to do! Christ, the Savior of the world, is to be lifted up. And here’s how it happens, through our response to God’s call and our united efforts! When the people of God unite and allow the Spirit to take hold, amazing things happen: barriers are broken, communities are formed, opposites are reconciled, unity is established, disease is cured, addiction is broken, cities are renewed, races are reconciled, hope is established, people are blessed, and church happens. Today we unite as one in Christ Jesus. Today the Spirit of God is present in this place in a new and special way and…well, we’re gonna have church! We’re gonna be church! Here we are! Send us!!!
Let us pray: God we thank you that you never let us sit idle, that you are ever so willing to love and forgive us and call us to new obedience. We praise you that you have a plan and a call on each of our lives and in the life of your church. Make us sensitive to you call and obedient to your will in Jesus’ name. Amen.