Sunday Sermon 30th May - Here I am
The chosen hymns for this week, Immortal, Invisible and Here I am can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Here I am
Isaiah 6: 1-13 Amanda
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 30th May.
I have been struck recently by how much our faith is paradox.
And how much of the struggle we have with church is because of all these paradoxes.
We seek in our faith forgiveness, that assurance that God has forgiven us the things we have done wrong so we can start have a fresh start is an important part of our faith.
Yet what God seeks from us is to create a life where we can forgive others and live a life that seeks healing for the wrong we have done to others.
That causes conflict.
In the Journal of Adult Development 75% of people surveyed believed they had been forgiven by God for past mistakes and things they had done wrong, but only 52% had forgiven others, and even less, 43% had sought out forgiveness for harm they had done to someone else.
We want God to forgive us, but we probably don’t want to forgive others, and more often than not we don’t even try to sort out forgiveness for things we have done wrong to others
When we struggle with faith it is because we struggle with these paradoxes.
We come to church because we want something from God, assurance, strength, hope, and when we get to church we discover it is the other way round, that God wants something from us, dedication, commitment.
Today as we study a moment in the prophet Isaiah’s life we see how we can live with these paradoxes.
Over the last week the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met, our yearly meeting when the national church reflects on where it is and where it needs to go.
If you have been reflecting on our national Church at all then everything said was predictable....
That the church is in a moment of great crisis.
That we shouldn’t forget that the Chinese sign for crisis is also has within it the symbol of opportunity.
That the things of the past cannot sustained us; that we need to look to the future.
The truth is that we lie to ourselves all the time.
We believe that the time we are living in is unique and particularly bad,
that no one has had to cope with what we have to cope with,
that others had it better, easier.
If only we lived in another time then we would be better, life would be better.
We even get it in the Bible.
People look back to the glory days of the slaves travelling in the desert seeking to arrive at the Promised Land.
Weren’t those good times...every day people woke up and there was the physical sign of God’s presence, a huge cloud that guided them through the desert by day, a cloud of fire that protected them at night.
God looked after them body and soul; God gave them food every day; God gave them the Ten Commandments.
Wouldn’t that be inspirational?
Knowing without doubt that God was with you every day.
Generations and generations of people wished they had lived in those times, yet the Bible states that all the people who lived in that actual time did was complain.
What about us? How many of us wish we had lived in the time of Christ, to be called to be one of his disciples, to have Jesus teaching us every day, to see miracles happening before our eyes, to witness the resurrection?
If we were there, then we would such great disciples we would be pumped up to do amazing things because we would have Jesus there as our inspiration. It wouldn’t be as hard it is now.
And yet at the time the disciples were always botching things up.
They saw the resurrection first hand, and yet it still took them 50 days, nearly two months, to do anything about it. And when they finally created the church all they did was argue about who did what and who was allowed in and what rules they had to follow.
The truth is, that for this moment, for this time, the person God calls to do His work is us, the work that has to be done in His name is ours.
We see it in this passage today.
King Uzziah has died.
One of the court officials, Isaiah can see the chaos and the uncertainty that this death has caused.
It is a frightening time for all those of faith, an uncertain time for the country, who knows what lies in the future?
Does that sound familiar?
And so Isaiah goes to the Temple to pray, to find assurance, to find some crumb of comfort.
And he sees a vision of God.
It is pretty clear cut. When you get round the imagery and the poetry it is pretty easy to understand.
First of all...God is there, in the Temple.
More importantly, God is there, in the Temple, where Isaiah is.
God is with Isaiah...that must be reassuring for him.
What is more God is not only in the Temple, he is beyond the temple; only God’s robe is in the Temple, God is so big that the Temple cannot hold him. God is not only in the Temple, he is beyond the temple, in the world itself. Even those angel things say it. ‘Holy, holy, holy!
The Lord Almighty is holy!
His glory fills the world.’
God is with Isaiah and God is active in the world...that must be reassuring for him.
Then God gives Isaiah a hope of fresh beginnings. His sins have been destroyed. All his guilt and shame and fear are gone. The past does not define him anymore; his future has hope not fear.
How reassuring must that be?
And then comes the kicker.
Isaiah comes to the Temple for God, and God tells him to leave the temple for Him.
Then I heard the Lord say, ‘Who shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’
Isaiah has come into the temple for himself; God is sending him out of the temple for others.
Isaiah is called to be God’s witness in the world, that wherever he goes, whatever he does, his role is to point people to God in the world, not point to God in the Temple, because only the robe is in the Temple, to point to God in the world;
to show people that God is out in the world working where people are because Isaiah is out there in the world working where people are.
So here we are again.
We are at that moment that every people of every generation face.
It is a frightening time for the faith, an uncertain time for the country, who knows what lies in the future?
And here we are in the Temple of God.
We know God is here. We have felt him over the years, when we need reassurance this is the place we have come to pray, this is the place we have found comfort when we have been struggling.
When we have looked in the mirror and seen only the darkest reflection of ourselves it is here,
with the message of forgiveness, with the love others have given us,
that we have found the reassurance that all is not lost,
we can have a fresh start,
we are not defined by our past, we can be something better.
We have even glimpsed some of the glory of God out there in the world.
But as God called out to Isaiah and all the other prophets,
as he called out to the disciples,
as he called out to all the people...so he calls out to us.
‘Who shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’
We have come to the church for ourselves, we have come to find assurance, we have come to recharge our batteries, we have come to find hope, maybe we have come to find forgiveness...and now God is sending us out for others.
We are called to be God’s witness in the world,
that wherever we go, whatever we do,
our role is to point people to God in the world,
not point to God in the church, because only the smallest part of God can fit in this church,
to point to God in the world;
to show people that God is out in the world working where people are because we are out there in the world working where people are.
People need hope, but they will not find hope in the church, because they are not here, in the church.
So if they are to find hope then they need to find God’s hope in us.
That’s why God calls us out there, to the world, because if we don’t get involved with the lives of those out there, then God’s hope is never going to find them.
Let us pray
we gather in this sacred place, joined with others in their homes watching this, we come seeking your presence in the hope that it will change us.
That our fear will turn to hope, that our despair will turn to belief.
We give thanks for those times that we have met.
Sometimes in reflection,
like when we have seen your creative works in a cloud formation or the perfection of a flower blossoming in the perfect light of a still summer’s day.
Sometimes when we have read scripture and a word from your Son or an action from a follower has given us hope that that message, that action, was for us also.
Remind us that you do not touch our hearts and then abandon us, instead, you set us on a path of continual healing.
Like Isaiah you call us to follow you, to leave the place that we have found peace and create peace in the world,
to leave the place that we have found forgiveness and seek a world where forgiveness is available,
to leave the place that we have found consolation and console a world that is in pain.
Lord, give us courage to respond to your call each day,
and wisdom to discern where you are leading us
so that we might follow faithfully and guide others to you.
Gracious and merciful God,
May we have a heart that longs to respond to your call
and to bring your kingdom here and now into the lives of others.
This we ask in the name of Christ our Lord, who left the perfection of heaven, to bring your kingdom to us.
Remember, if you want to see our worship live then phone me up between 6-9pm Monday-Friday. Places are limited so they are given on a first come, first served basis.
But if you are unable to attend for whatever reason you can also watch them the way you are watching this service.
We are also open for anyone to come in for private prayer and reflection on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 1pm.
May the God of majesty and mystery, fill you with awe and wonder;
may the God whom even angels worship, guide you in the ways of holiness;
may the God who asks “who will go?”, inspire you to cry, like the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I; send me!”
And, may the God who calls; send you to live into your calling, and bless you on your way,
now, and forever.