Created to Belong: Please Rise
November 13, 2016
Fellowship Reformed Church
Created to Belong: Clean Coal
I’m not sure I really want to preach today.
Don’t get me wrong, I love preaching. And I love you. But I’m finding this hard.
The world is different today than it was a week ago.
And I haven’t figured it all out.
How about I just take you all to brunch? Even better, what if Nate takes us all to brunch?
I’m sure we could scrape up enough Russ’ coupons around here…where’s JB?
Oh wait…Russ’ is closed on Sunday…
What if I said a few things that we would all agree with and then we could go out to brunch?
I considered both options seriously.
But then again…you know...and I know...that if we leave here today without naming a few things...without all being a little disrupted...without allowing God’s Word to speak...we will leave hungry...and we will remain hungry...
Listen to the word of the Lord as it comes to us from Isaiah chapter 6…
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." 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!"
St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the largest of its kind in the world.
St. Peter’s is 610 feet long…that’s two football fields. And for those of you who have been there…you know those are some pretty amazing 610 steps. And if you want to climb to the top…your fit bit would register 491 stairs to your exercise log.
It is an impressive building to say the least.
And yet, given the vision we hear from Isaiah today…I wonder if St. Peter’s is a broom closet in comparison.
The immensity of this passage cannot be harnessed.
The Lord is sitting on the throne…in a space that seems as though it will not be confined to ceilings, walls, or floors…
And the passage says the hem…the hem of the Lord’s robe filled the temple…
Voices called out…the room shook…smoke filled the room. It is all too big for our small minds to imagine.
And at the foot of it all…there stands Isaiah…
Meek and mild? meet high and lofty.
What would you say in a moment like this? His response is perfect…
‘Woe is me…I am lost!” I do not belong here! I am a man of filthy lips…and I live among people with filthy lips…I took a wrong turn!!!
WOE IS ME…
Lord, as great as you are is how bad I am!!!
In the face of glory, it is a easy to see our faults.
Our unclean lips,
Our sinful selves…
How can we even stand in God’s glory?
And not just me…look around…Isaiah is quick to point the finger at those around him…”And if you think I’m bad…wait till you hear the people around me!”
Woe to them too!
Lord…we’re too bad to do any good.
Woe is us.
I think the problem with WOE…is that it often leads to NO. No…I can’t go…I’m just going to stay here. Find someone else. I’m not worthy of anything so I’ll just do nothing.
Woe is me is often the end of our imagination…its simply an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves.
We duck behind the curtain and allow our woe to be our ‘doctor’s note to get us out of gym class.’
Lindsay has a terrible case of the WOES and will not be able to participate in any Kingdom-oriented ministries until further notice. Please contact any less ‘Woe-ridden’ person you can find to fill her spot.
Sincerely, Lindsay’s Self-Doubt
I know I’m not the only one with a note like this in my file. And as always, its comforting to know that scripture holds a few Woe-Ridden characters as well.
In Joshua chapter 7, God’s newly appointed leader tears his clothes and falls facedown to the ground after the Israelites had suffered a defeat…and he lays in front of the ark of the Covenant—-face in the dust all day…until he finally cries out, “Alas! Sovereign Lord!”
‘Alas’—Woe’s first cousin. Face down in the dust…a tell-tale sign of a case of the woes.
The passage says the Lord answers Joshua…with a little tough love…“Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?”
God will not excuse Joshua’s absence…
We like the curtain…we’re comfortable behind the curtain…until we realize its the hem of the robe gently pushing us out the door…
Our tendency is to take ourselves out long before God does…
We cannot dismiss ourselves before God has dismissed us.
We are not dismissed. No case of the “Woes” will get us off the hook.
For Isaiah…his cure came in a strange form…a hot coal placed on his mouth…and the words…”Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
Once cured, Isaiah’s Woe turns to “Go.”
No more woe…its time to go.
Stand up…what are you doing down on your face?
Verse 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!"
Isaiah takes on this call at a pivotal time in Israel’s history. King Uzziah has died…a king that ascended to the throne at 16…and reigned for 52 years.
The people were lost…looking for hope and help in the midst of a tumultuous time.
We know the feeling.
This has been incredibly difficult week in our country…one that started with millions casting their ballot…but not just for a person to be president…as my dear friend Jon is putting it so eloquently this morning across town, “it was not just a number to be counted but a hope to be enacted, a fear to be recognized, a loss to be addressed.”
And no matter who you voted for, the response has been troubling…both on a national level: protests in major cities around the country, a tumultuous stock market, a rise of hate crimes reported around the country.
And a little closer to home, I heard stories of racially charged incidents at Hope College and locals schools…schools that our kids attend. This is not somewhere else…this is here.
There are some who have mistaken the victory this week as a license for open attacks on minorities. Racial slurs, hateful speech, frightening and vandalism.
This is not the 1940s, the 1960s, this is last week.
The undercurrents of fear, anger, racism, and classism have been brewing in the American melting pot for decades, even centuries…but the pot tipped this week.
The election did not create these things. They are not the sole property of one party or another.
But the reality is they happened…they are happening…and they will happen…and its not okay.
God’s heart is broken whenever someone is treated as though they were not created in his image.
Woe is us…
“My lips are unclean, and the people around me have unclean lips too…”
How could we possibly sit this one out?
Do we have the courage this morning to say, Send me? I’ll Go.”
To say, “Woe is me…Now Send Me.”
Send me…to the schools, the nursing home, the enabling residence, the community kitchen.
Have we perhaps been laying with its face in the dust for too long?
When it seems as thought the world is going down…this is the time for the church to go up.
No more hiding behind the hem.
God says, Stand up. Let’s go. It’s time to church up.
After all, as I said earlier…the Lord could not be contained to the temple…
Decades after this prophesy, God’s own son…in a much more humble temple…a local synagogue in Nazareth…stood up. And he read the words of the prophet who had appeared in that first throne room…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus stood up…
…and fulfilled the words of Isaiah.
His robe was dusty,
His hem was frayed…
There were unclean lips all around him…
But Christ goes…
In the troubling political time of Jesus earthly ministry, his words were often unpopular and his actions frustrating. This episode in the synagogue almost ends with him being pushed off a cliff…
No one said that being sent by God would be the popular thing to do…
Its just the necessary thing to do.
In a world whose diet seems to be lacking the Fruit of the Spirit…it is time for us to take our vitamins and shake us out of our Woe-mas.
It is easy to feel small…
It is easy to hide behind the hem…
But the Lord needs us to go…now more than ever…
Are you ready to say, ”here I am…send me…”
Send me to speak against racism.
Send me to seek unity.
Send me to show others the love of Christ.
There is not one person in this room, in this church, in this community, and indeed in this world outside of God’s grace, outside of God’s love, and outside of God’s call.
And if we believe there is than our image of God is too small.
He cannot…and will not be contained.
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. The Whole Earth is full of his Glory.”
Into this Whole Earth, with our Whole Lives…we are called to go.
How could we possibility sit this one out?