March 2, 2020
Isaiah is a priest. His assignment is to serve in the great temple in Jerusalem which King Solomon built in the 10th century BC. One morning at a service of worship Isaiah catches a vision and hears a voice. The vision is of celestial creatures called Seraphs or Seraphim and they fly inside the temple, around and around like a crazed flock of birds and they sing: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with this glory.”
Immediately after the vision Isaiah hears words from a thunderous voice, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us.” He takes these words to come from the Lord.”
Have you ever heard a voice or voices. No I don’t mean, “Honey, it’s time for dinner.” Not that. I’m wondering if any one here has ever heard a voice that you can only attribute to the voice of the Lord, a voice from on high, a voice that is outside of you but also within you.
It’s happened to me only twice, the first time when I was offered the job as pastor in Lake Forest and as I was struggling with that call I heard Someone of Something say “Go.”
The second time was my call to Litchfield Park. The church was a mess when I interviewed and I was worried that I would be chewed up and spit out. As I lay awake all night long asking for a sign, I heard a voice say to me three times, “There is nothing to fear here.”
A friend of mine who is a million times more spiritual than I am told me that when God wants to tell us something God tells us three times, because we are so dense we don’t get it the first or second time. .As I was thinking about this passage, Isaiah and the voice of God, I was thinking about my child hood and our family’s experience with telephone. The phone would ring and I would run to answer it. Who could it be on the other end? Was it my nanny reminding us to come for Sunday dinner? Was it my best friend Ronnie, asking me to come out and play. I could not wait to answer the phone. I could not wait to identify the voice on the other end.
Those were the days before caller ID and the ubiquitous Robo Calls, may they all rot in hell and then be burned to a crisp.
Of course Robo callers provide a useful service. They tell you your Social Security number has been suspended and you should call them back and give them your old Social Security number and they will provide you with a new one.
Just a bit of trivia to add to the useless information you have stored in your brain. In October alone, 5.7 billion robocalls in the US were placed, and of those, 108.9 million were in Phoenix. Nationwide, robocalls are made at a rate of 182.7 million per day, 7.6 million per hour and 2,100 per second.
For whatever reason this passage in Isaiah led me to think about Robo Calls. I know, it’s weird, but here’s what I was thinking: that Isaiah lived before the telephone was invented and before Robo calls invaded our homes, because if God had phoned Isaiah up, Isaiah would have ignored the call and not answered.
“Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” It was a voice and a question that Isaiah could not ignore. And he answers, “Here I am, send me.”
I confess I’m really cheeky about a lot of Bible passages. This one, as well. Why did Isaiah answer so promptly? I wouldn’t have answered unless I saw a job description with salary and hours. Did he have any idea what he was getting into?
Do you know the rest of the story? Do you know what happened after Isaiah said, “Here am I send me.” Yeah, you want me to tell you, don’t you so you don’t have to go home and read your Bible. I’m not gonna do that. But I will tell you that he didn’t have an easy cushy life in the Lord’s service.
Here is incredible faith. He was ready to serve God in any way he could, without reservation, without conditions, without bargaining.
This story from Isaiah has vexed me this past week. In my entire adult life I have always had a purpose–principally to serve as pastor of a church. I have never taken more than 2 months off, and when I did take time off I went stark raving mad. As a good Presbyterian I have felt I needed to be useful, to serve God in some way or another–primarily by preaching, teaching, pastoring.
But now as my ministry here is drawing to a close and we hope to move to CLT next year I’ve been wondering, “What’s next? Will I find a church there that needs an interim? Will I have the opportunity to preach a couple times a month? What do I want to do.” And the larger question, “What does God want me to do?”
So I want to say as you as my witnesses, that I am telling God today, “Here am I, send me.”
And, of course, I am hoping you get the point of what I am saying. What is most personal is also most universal. What is God saying to you for your next steps in your life’s journey?
There was a pastor who was trying to motivate a man in his church to become involved in ministry. Finally, the man felt the only thing he could do was to take the youth group to a local retirement community so they could lead a monthly worship service for the residents. As the youth led the service, this man stood at the back of the room. Suddenly, an elderly man in a wheelchair rolled up beside him and took his hand. He held it all throughout the worship service. This continued month after month, until one Sunday afternoon, the elderly man didn’t show up at the service. The man went to the nurses’ station and asked, “What happened to that man?
“Oh, she said, “He’s near death. He’s just down the hall. Maybe you should go in and visit him. But he is unconscious and unresponsive.”
So the man walked down to the room and entered. There were tubes all over; the man felt uncomfortable. Yet he took the elderly man’s hand and held it. Almost instinctively, he prayed for him. And when he said, “Amen,” the elderly man gently squeezed his hand.
Shaken by that little squeeze, the man tried to quickly leave the room, but he bumped into a woman coming in. It was his wife. She said, “He’s been waiting for you. He said he didn’t want to die until Jesus came and held his hand. I tried to tell him he would see Jesus after death, but he said, “No. Once a month, Jesus comes and holds my hand, and I don’t want to leave this world without holding his hand once more.”
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us.”
“Here am I, Lord, send me.”