Rev. Eric Dillenbeck
June 3, 2012

Isaiah 6:1-9

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Today we begin our summer sermon series entitled, “Holy Moly!”

“Holy Moly” is an acceptable term used to express shock or surprise. In the context of our worship life, the name “Holy Moly” refers to being surprised by grace; that moment of grace found in the stories of our faith and in our everyday living that “re-colors” our lives in more vivid, intense, and joyous ways.

The curriculum our children will be using in church school this summer, which inspired this series, is also called “Holy Moly” and also follows some of the great stories from our Hebrew Scriptures. The creators of this curriculum could not have chosen a more accurate name. While it is slightly cheeky, it does capture the wonder and surprise readers often experience when traveling through the Old Testament. There are so many surprising moments which capture the imagination and re-frame our understandings. This summer we invite you on a journey; we invite you to be surprised by God’s grace and presence; we invite you to listen for God’s call, for God’s invitation, for God’s claim on our lives.

Let us listen for God’s Word to us this day in the words of the Prophet Isaiah 6:1-9.

Isaiah 6:1-9

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of God’s robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above the Lord; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of God’s glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And 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 Holy One, the Lord of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The 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.” 8Then 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!”

The Word of the Lord Thanks be to God

“‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” These powerful words of Isaiah have inspired generations of disciples and prophets. The first five chapters of Isaiah are not packed full of the same kind of inspiration. Those chapters make it clear that God is not happy with the land of Judah, calling it wicked and sinful.

Those chapters make it clear that God is not happy with Jerusalem either, calling it the degenerate city and comparing it to a person of loose morals and behaviors. It is clear from those chapters that the people of God have failed to live into the vision God had for them, they failed to embody God’s dreams for the world. And for those people, God’s disappointment had consequences.

The people’s world was changing. There were new economic realities; there were new social and political circumstances that were vastly different than that to which they had grown accustomed. The people were grieving and were filled with uncertainty. We know these circumstances surrounded these people because for some reason the author of this portion of Isaiah dates this record by including a historical reference.

“In the year that King Uzziah died…”

History tells us that the year was 740 B.C.E. Uzziah had been king for a good 45 years, and had become a leper about 10 years before this vision takes place, requiring the appointment of a regent to rule publically in his place. The death of a long-reigning king is always an occasion of political uncertainty. We can relate right.

Whenever there is a leadership change there is a certain level of uncertainty as well as a plenty of opportunity.

Isaiah was feeling that uncertainty. In his grief for his people, his country, and for himself Isaiah retreats into the temple to try and find a sense of peace, a sense of God’s presence.

He wasn’t ready for what he saw and experienced that day; a presence so immense that the hem of God’s robe filled the temple; a presence so immense that the voices of those attending to God shook the thresholds.

His vision exemplifies author Annie Dillard’s wisdom. She says, “When we go to church we should wear crash helmets, receive life preservers and be lashed to the pews in case God shows up [1].”

We gather in this place asking for God’s presence, asking for God to be with us. But, do we really want that? Do we really want to experience the Holy Otherness of God? Last week we saw how the disciples hid and prayed only to have the holy otherness of the Spirit empower them in ways they could not imagine.

And here we see how Isaiah, in the face of immense change, goes to church to find a sense of normalcy only to experience how the full mystery, awe and wonder of God’s presence disquiets his Spirit and inspires a recognition of his unworthiness.

But God does not leave him in distress. God’s forgiveness and comfort draw close to Isaiah and blots out his sin. Only then is Isaiah actually able to hear God’s voice. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us”; the voice of God inviting a response. This voice is not demanding a response, simply talking out loud, pondering. But having experienced the comforting forgiveness of God Isaiah cannot help but respond. “Here am I; Send me!”

I imagine that if Isaiah had been more keenly aware of what YHWH wanted from him, he might have skipped worship that day; he surely would have wanted to take back those fateful words about asking to be sent.

Isaiah’s call is not for some easy gig; he doesn’t get to preach comfort or joy, but rather make harsh demands for a people lost and far from God’s intentions for them.

Later in today’s service we will find ourselves singing those same words, “Here I am Lord. Send me!”

As we prepare to sing those words I am acutely aware that we are about to play host to the neighborhood as we welcome folks to the Strawberry festival. I am also acutely aware that we are about to play host to our Family Promise guests.

As we sing maybe we should, as Annie Dillard says, grab our crash helmets and fasten our seat belts because it seems God is taking us up on our offer.

Holy Moly, what does that mean for us? How will God change us in this experience?

[1] Christian Century, January 26, 2010. Page 21