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  • Rev. Diane Curtis

The One Who Sends Us

Isaiah 6:1-8

Romans 8:12-17

Isaiah 6:1-8 NRSV

6 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!”

Romans 8:12-17 NRSV

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

My father was not perfect, but he was a good Dad. He was there when I needed him, even sometimes when I didn’t think I did. I knew he loved me.

Dad was fair, sometimes to a fault. He was incredibly smart. He had a PhD in electrical engineering (I even got to go to his graduation!) and he was a gold life master in bridge.

My Dad found joy in simple things – the daily jumble in the paper, reading bridge magazines, a fountain coke with lots of ice. He loved sports – his favorite teams were the Oakland A’s (baseball), Golden State Warriors (basketball), and the Michigan Wolverines. He liked having a routine, which was great for us because we knew when he would be home and when he was available to talk with.

Dad was a wonderful grandpa and great grandpa. He taught the kids to play cards and liked to joke around with them. My sons recall that when they got back from the swimming pool grandpa would always ask them, “Was it wet?” You could see the joy and love in his eyes whenever one of the kids would sit on his lap.

Dad didn’t talk a lot, especially on the phone. (I think email was created just for him!) Rather, he liked to listen, think, and ponder. My Dad taught me a lot – the importance of listening and observing, the joy in simplicity, how to entertain myself, and how to use a slide rule. I am a lot like him.

I recognize that each of you has your own experience with your father or a father-figure in your life. That person impacted your life. In good ways and, probably, some not so good ways. One way or another, a relationship with your father or father-figure – his presence or lack there-of – has helped mold you into the person you are today.

Yet we all have a father unlike any earthly one – our Heavenly Father. I can tell you all the wonderful characteristics of our Father in Heaven:

· God is all-knowing and all-seeing

· God is the Creator who made us in God’s image

· God offers us unconditional love

· God forgives us and provides a means for salvation

· And the list goes on

But knowing all about who God, our Heavenly Father is, doesn’t mean we all know, see, or experience God in the same way. Our experience with our earthly father colors our view of God as our Father. We each know the Lord as seen through the lens of our own life.

Isaiah knew the Lord, his Heavenly Father through his worship and service in the Temple. Isaiah was a prophet who was obedient in speaking the word of God in this setting, yet he lacked an understanding of what God truly wanted from him.

In this one year, at this one time in the Temple everything changed. Isaiah was worshiping God in his usual way when he had a vision that was so different, so alive, so impactful that he didn’t know what to do. The sights, sounds, and smells were overwhelming. Isaiah saw the Almighty God but didn’t hear the voice of the Lord amongst the noise and activity of the seraphs. His reaction was to focus on himself – “Woe is me!”

Life is full of noise and activity. Radio, TV, phones, computers, tablets, Facebook, Instagram, car horns, sirens. There always seems to be background noise. Days are a series of going from one appointment to the next or from one activity to another. Everything needs to be scheduled, even time with others – coffee, play dates. Spontaneity is rare. When a few moments of quiet appear, we pick up our phone to text or sink into a chair in exhaustion. Echoing Isaiah, we cry, “Woe is me!” Everything becomes about us – my busy schedule, my health, my issues, my challenges. We are over-tired, over-worked, over-scheduled. Just over!

So where is God’s voice in the midst of all this? We know God is around…somewhere. We worship the Lord most Sundays. But do we see God’s presence? Do we hear the Lord’s voice? Probably not often. For you see, God won’t shout above the noise or intrude into the chaos. God waits for us to turn to him, to seek him, to listen for his voice. But we must stop long enough to make that turn.

“Woe is me!” is the biggest obstacle to seeing and hearing God. Our focus on ourselves and our stuff often takes priority. Finding a way to block out the incessant noise and stopping the hectic activity is difficult. Maybe those who go live off the grid have the right idea to distance from the chaos.

Facing ourselves, our “Woe is me” attitude, and removing distractions is not what we want to do. Rather, we ask God to be with the “me” I have created. To bless what I am doing or help me do what I have chosen. But what about the “me” God created? Where is he or she? That me is there, somewhere, waiting to be freed.

In the story of The Beauty and the Beast, we learn of a prince who is turned into an awful beast by an enchantress disguised as a beggar woman who had offered the prince a rose in exchange for shelter from a storm. The self-absorbed prince refused so she cast a spell on him and all his household servants. She tells the beast that the spell could only be broken if he learns to love another and be loved in return before the last petal falls. From the beast’s perspective this is an impossibility. It is only when he can shift his focus from his “Woe is me” attitude to the care, and then love, for another is he able to be freed to be the prince he was meant to be.

That’s the key isn’t it – to step out of the “Woe is me” attitude to be able to see other possibilities. This is what Isaiah did – with help. He realized and admitted that he was a man who was lost and of unclean lips (a sinner) who was content living with people just like himself. Then the seraph touched his lips with the burning coal. Isaiah received the Lord’s forgiveness. The barrier between he and God was broken down and he was able to hear God’s voice.

Like Isaiah we have a choice. We can continue to focus on ourselves, strengthening the barrier between us and God, or through confession and repentance receive the barrier-breaking confession that opens our ears to hear God’s voice. We can continue to protect ourselves in our castle or begin the process of learning to love and be loved.

Confession, admitting we are sinners, is a hard thing. It takes more than reciting a prayer of confession in church, although that is a good start. What we need is a true, bear your heart and soul to God confession. This is the only kind that makes a difference and can reconnect us with our Heavenly Father. The forgiveness we receive brings joy and peace to our heart, freeing us from the sin that ties us in knots. When the knots are untied, we become open to hearing God’s voice.

When Isaiah hears God’s voice, God’s new call for him, he was able to answer because he had experienced freeing forgiveness. God’s voice spoke to the one inside that God had created.

Experiencing God’s forgiveness, becoming open to hearing God’s voice can lead us down a different path. This can be frightening – we don’t know to what or to where that call will lead us. It could require a tweak or small change (which we would prefer) or turn our life upside-down.

Jim was a high-level Wall Street executive in financial planning. He had lots of money, was well-known, had lots of toys (cars, house, boat, etc.) and hob knobbed with the rich and famous. Yet he knew something was missing. Time with his family, time for himself, and time for God didn’t fit into his lifestyle. He felt an emptiness that nothing he had would fill.

At a men’s retreat with his church – something he managed to fit in to his busy schedule – an afternoon was set aside for a time of quiet reflection. During this time, John felt a stirring in his soul. For the first time in a very long time, he truly prayed and talked with God. John was able to admit his sins and then felt God’s forgiveness wash over him. He heard his Heavenly Father’s voice, echoing his own father’s voice: “Make something of yourself. Make a difference.” God’s message had a subtle difference: “Make something of others. Make a difference.” God called John to a different life, a life with God doing what God wanted.

John now teaches math at a local high school. He gave up a lot. He doesn’t have what he did when he was working on Wall Street. Instead, he would say he has more – time for his family, time to be a part of his community and his church, time to do things that make a difference.

When God calls, we have a choice to listen or not. When God asks, “Whom shall I send?” we have an answer. Isaiah’s answer was, “Send me!” He didn’t know where he be going or what he would be doing. It turned out that the work God called him to was much harder than he could have imagined. God sent him to tell God’s people that they had to change their ways, shift their focus. God required them to repent.

The people were reluctant to respond. Their cities were destroyed, the land became desolate, and they were taken into captivity. Isaiah and the people experienced much pain and suffering. He and the people hit rock bottom. Yet God promised he would be with them, would be there with the people, would provide hope and salvation.

What is God calling you to? Until you rid yourself of the noise and activity that rule your life you won’t be able to hear God’s voice. When you can step beyond the “Woe is me” to confession, you will receive forgiveness. God will be there in the silence to speak: “Whom shall I send?” You can raise your hand and say, “Here I am, send me!”

Another question: what is God calling us, our church, to do? What noise and distractions do we need to rid ourselves of? What do we need to confess? I think God is asking us to let go of the past needs of this church, who we once were, our personal desires for who we are and will be and look to the good of the whole. And not just the whole of our congregation but the whole of the world outside our walls. To raise our hands and say, “Here we are, send us!”

God calls us not only to serve, to give, to faith, and to love. God calls us to him. The One who loves us for who we are, not who we think we should be. God loves us with our imperfections, our sense of unworthiness, and our sins. The Lord, our Heavenly Father, has chosen each of us to be his child and treats us as if we are his only child. The one God loves enough to die for.

As a child of God, of Abba, we are not just one of many. When we are able to embrace in our heart this intimate relationship with God, we can see God for who God is to us, calling God “Abba” (a title akin to Dad or Daddy). We are, each one of us, “Daddy’s girl” or “Daddy’s boy.”

God invites us to this intimate Father/child relationship not because we deserve it or have earned it, but because we belong to him. God embraces us as a parent embraces his/her child. God’s love permeates us and opens us to hearing God’s direction. To God’s call. When God asks, “Whom shall I send?” we can, out of acceptance, trust, and love respond, “Here I am, send me!”


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