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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Here am I! Send Me. - February 10/2019 - Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-13]

Certainly you have heard the, shall we say, great commission “joke” that begins with God’s call, “Who will go and work today?” and the humorous response, “Here and I, send him, send her!” Unfortunately, what makes that “joke” funny is the fact that there is probably more truth than fiction in that call and response. This morning in our Gospel reading we have the call and sending of Peter, James and John, to be fishers of men. In our Epistle lesson we have Paul’s encouragement to speak words of understanding to others. And in our text from the Old Testament reading we have the call and sending of Isaiah.
 
One note of interest, before we get to our text, is this, and I know I have at least mentioned this before, but it is certainly worth repeating, at least in our context this morning. Many years ago, I distinctly recall a pastor preaching on the great commission passage of Matthew twenty-eight, where Jesus says to “19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20), and the pastor suggested that rather than this being a passage of great commissioning, it was a passage of God’s great promise, “I am with you always.” Personally, I am of the conviction that this preacher is right, that this is a passage of God’s great promise and His promise is that “as we are going,” and as we talked about last week, that is as we are living our lives in our vocations, we are to live lives as priests, as living sacrifices, always ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus. This is our calling from God and His promise to us, that He will never leave us nor will He forsake us and that He will give us the words and the courage to speak the words He gives us to say..
    So, let us get to our text and the calling of Isaiah. Our text begins with the heavenly scene being set, we read beginning at verse one, “1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (v.1-3). The first thing that Isaiah, and we notice, is that the Lord’s glory filled the temple, in other words, God is present.
 
The second thing we might notice is that the seraphim give reverence to God and speak the Trinitarian praise. Certainly this is evidence of the fact that we do worship a God who has revealed and continually reveals Himself to us as a three in one, triune, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Also, here we are shown that the angels serve the purpose of serving God and giving Him glory.
 
As we move on in our text, we hear Isaiah’s confession and absolution, picking up at verse four, “4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (v. 4-7). Isaiah knows he cannot stand in God’s presence and so he confesses his sins. Certainly Isaiah’s words are words of warning and example to us in our own sinful lives. We do not stand before the Lord, but when we come into His presence we too come with confession on our lips.
 
As for Isaiah, upon offering his confession, the seraphim offers absolution with the coal and the announcement that his sins have been taken away, they have been atoned for. Every Sunday morning we begin our divine service with confession and when we confess our sins, we hear the Lord announce to us, through the voice and word of our pastor, that our sins are forgiven and we know for certain, as we confession, so our sins are forgiven, our sins have been taken away, our sins have been atoned for, not by our pastor, but by Jesus.
 
After confession and absolution, we hear God’s call to Isaiah and His message. We pick up at verse eight,  “8And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ 9And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” 10Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’ 11Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: ‘Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.’ The holy seed is its stump”(v. 8-13). God calls and Isaiah answers.
 
God’s message is a message of desolation. God’s message is a warning and although the people hear God’s message and warning, they do not understand and this lack of understanding is a part of God’s punishment. When Isaiah asks, “how long will this punishment lasts” God’s answer is that it will last as long as necessary, but God also promises that there will be a remnant.
 
So, as usual we ask, what does this mean? Again this morning we are reminded that God is the prime mover. God moves first. God created us and God calls us. Just as God called Isaiah to recognize His glory, power, might and authority so God calls us to recognize His glory, power, might and authority. And this is not an easy task as we might think. The world proclaims and would have us believe that there is no God, that there is no creator, but that this world happened along by itself. The world would have us believe that all things arose spontaneously out of nothing and that order arranged itself out of disorder. For us Christians to recognize and proclaim order and to recognize and give honor to God for His glory, power, might and authority is not an easy thing to do, because it brings ridicule and condemnation from the world, yet, what else can we do, as God moves and stirs in us to give glory to Him.
 
As we said last week and many times before, God calls us. He calls us to faith, which He does through the means of Holy Baptism as well as through His Holy Word. God also calls us to divine service. God has so much that He wants to give to us and His desire is for us to be where He delivers His gifts, in divine service and Bible class, making regular, every Sunday and every day, and diligent, whenever offered, use of His means of grace.
 
God gives life at conception. God calls us to faith and God calls us to vocation. Yes, God calls us and gives us His great promise as well. God’s call is that we are to be His priests, a part of His royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own people. God calls us to live our lives as living sacrifices to Him so that others see our good works and give glory to Him. Not that we do this perfectly, but that He is with us to help us to live and do so as forgiven and redeemed children.
 
In order to help us to be His people, God calls us to recognize His salvation. This too is more often more difficult than it sounds. We live in a world where we are taught that there is nothing free, but that there are always strings attached. We live in a world where we are taught that we must do something for God, that our eternal salvation is somehow dependent on us and what we do. We live in a world where we like to compare ourselves with others and we believe that we can be good enough and we can do enough good things to make ourselves right before God. As a matter of fact, we are taught to feel good about ourselves so much that we believe that we only need Jesus a little for our salvation, at least not as much as the person who is so much a bigger sinner than we are, at least in our own minds.
 
And so, God calls us to recognize how sinful we truly are and we do this, we recognize our sinfulness only when we compare ourselves to Jesus, the sinless, spotless, perfect and holy Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Certainly we might compare ourselves with others and so we might think of ourselves that we are rather good people, but if we are going to make any comparison, we must compare ourselves with Jesus and then we do find ourselves wanting. When we compare ourselves with Jesus we then confession as Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” And when we confession our sins we hear our Lord’s most beautiful words of absolution that is that our sins have already been forgiven.
 
God also calls us to be faithful. Let me say that again so you do not misunderstand. God calls us to be faithful. He does not call us to be successful, whatever that might mean, but He does call us to be faithful. God does not call us to any type of worldly success, which is the temptation of this world, but He calls us to be faithful. There are times I like to put things into an eternal perspective. Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. Millions of people watched the ball game and even more the commercials, and that is okay, but what connection is there between this game and heaven? We are people who like to dream big. How often, especially as children, and perhaps as adults, have we dreamed of changing the world? What would it be like if we were rich and famous? What would it be like if we were playing in the Super Bowl? Well, thinking in terms of eternity, and the perfect joy of heaven, when we are in heaven how often do you think the Super Bowl of 2019 will be discussed? In terms of eternity, since heaven is our home, since our life on this earth is short, how important is it that we have lots of money, that we have a new car or a new house, or any of the amenities we have? Again, God’s call is that we are faithful, even unto death.
 
Interestingly enough, as you have heard me say time and again, God calls us and He gives to us. God calls us into being, that is He gives us life at conception. God calls us to and gives us faith, in particular through the means of Holy Baptism and His Word. God calls to us and gives us forgiveness through confession and absolution, as well as through His Word and His Holy Supper. God calls us to vocation, to live lives of faith. God calls us to be faithful. And God works and stirs in us to respond to all He gives to us and does for us.
 
Please hear God’s Word to Isaiah and His Word to you this morning, “7bYour guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. 8[So hear] the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ [And answer,] ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Is. 6:7b-8). May the Lord bless you as a forgiven priest in the priesthood of believers as you hear God’s call and as He works in you to be a priest living your life as a living sacrifice to Him. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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