Here Am I, Send ME!

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. The Year King Uzziah Died

It was the year that King Uzziah died, also known as King Azariah, one of the kings of Judah, the southern Kingdom of Israel.  The place where the Holy City of Jerusalem is located, the place where the temple of God resides. We know that before the exile of the people of Israel and after the reign of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two separate kingdoms the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, which contained Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies found in the temple.  This was the year that King Uzziah died. The King of the Kingdom that some might call the more faithful of the two kingdoms.  Our scripture opens up with the descriptor that all that we see takes place the year King Uzziah died, roughly 742 BCE.  And all that we see occurs to the prophet Isaiah, the prophet of Jerusalem, who specifically had a word from the Lord for the Kingdom of Judah.  In the year that King Uzziah died we are welcomed into this fantastical vision of Isaiah standing in the presence of God, standing in the company of God Almighty.
So it was in the year that King Uzziah died, this year of 742 BCE, that the prophet Isaiah is brought into the company of the Most High God, God who is almighty, God who is sovereign, God who is omnipotent and omnipresent, God who is our creator, God who is Alpha and Omega, God who is the beginning and the end, God who is also infinite and has no beginning and no end, God whom we give our lives to.  Isaiah is in the company of the Most High God, the God who is triune, the God who is three in one, our Trinitarian God, who embodies the Heavenly Parent, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And what carries out in front of him is the most captivating vision not only he, but any one of us might hope to see.  Isaiah stands in the Holy of Holies and the Lord sits high on the throne, and the Lord’s robe was so large and royal that is flows down from the throne and fills the entire temple. And around him are seraphs, these winged beings, and heavenly hosts, all standing in the almighty, holy, royal company of God.  And the place is filled with smoke. And Isaiah stands right there watching all of this unfold. This is quite an unbelievable sight to see.  If it weren’t written in the scripture, we might never have believed it happened.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of God’s glory.  All praise goes to the God above, in all of God’s glory as God fills the temple with God’s glory and the earth is a witness to how great God is, because the earth is full of God’s glory.  Words that ring out from the seraphs as they cover their faces, only showing how amazing and holy this event is because no one can look upon the face of God and live.  But the words themselves uplift how presence of the Lord had not only captivated the room, but had touched and transformed the earth that all the world must proclaim the greatness of God’s glory.

 II. Standing In The Presence Of God

And as the prophet stands in the Holy presence of God, it is almost as if in his humanity, in his very being, as he looks back over his life and takes account for what he has done and who he is, he realizes that he is unworthy to stand in the presence of God, because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we have fallen from God’s grace in the presence of sin and evil.  Now we are continually searching to reconnect back to God in ways that unify with God and spread God’s love, peace, and justice in the world, that we might put on the mind of Christ that allows for us to love one another.  But in this moment, the prophet seems to realize because of his separation from God, because of the presence of sin in the world, because of his own personal sin and the presence of sin within the corporate world that create systemic evils, that he is unworthy to stand in the presence of God.  He is inadequate to stand in the presence of the Most High God. “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!”  He knew that he was unworthy because his life had made his lips unclean, meaning he had lied, he had talked negatively about people, he had gossiped, he had used foul language, and he had spoken words that had spread hatred and harm, and what’s more he came from a world that perpetuated these concepts of hatred rather than love, of violent words rather peaceful words, of condescending judgment rather than restorative love, empathy, and justice, words of anger rather than joy.  He knew that he had to be made whole in order to stand in the presence of the Almighty God.


 III. What God Calls You To, God Prepares You For

Quite often as we are called to do great things in the world, as we are called to do God work, sometimes it is so grandiose that we feel inferior.  And to be fair without the gifts that God has given us, without the help from the God we serve, without God placing goodness within us we fall short.   I can remember many a time in my life when I felt like God was calling me to something great and I felt like I was not ready to take on what I was being asked to do.  For example, when I was called to apply to the class for licensed local pastor school, and even when I received the call from the District superintendent to become the pastor of this amazing church, I have to confess I looked to God and said, “God am I ready for this? Can I take on what you have called me to? Woe is me and can I take on the task of what it means to be a pastor? I had to move from where I was comfortable, move from where I was really just beginning to get comfortable, the place I was just beginning to call home in Baltimore. We were in a global pandemic and I had to learn how to lead and become a comforting pastor in a time where we are isolated and separated from one another.  We were in a situation where no pastor I had known and learned from had experienced this pandemic situation, many who were learning through the pandemic.  So I was stepping into a situation where there were some things that my mentors couldn’t even help me on because they were learning these things at the same time.  I was wading in new territory, and in some ways, I had no clue what God was up to or what God is still doing sometimes.  Lord I am unworthy, what must I do to become worthy in your presence God?  But my personal experience and your personal experience is not the only places we may have found inadequate.  We as this church, Cheltenham United Methodist Church, have been called to serve those around us.  God has uniquely placed us in this community, knowing that we have the gifts and ability to connect to those around us.  And just like any church, we are called to the needs and desires of the community we have been called to serve.  But sometimes what it takes to connect to people, to bring them to gospel of Jesus Christ or just connect them to a community of faith, is overwhelming to think about.  Because we would have to really get to know people, we would really have to ask them who they are and what they like to do. We would actually have to see them, to look deep within their souls, to understand who they are.  We would have to step out of our comfort zone and meet people where they are.  We would have to try a few things and possibly fail, and then try new things if we are going to grow and build.  God how are we going to do it?  Are we able to do it? God We are unworthy, somehow make us worthy.  Some of the things you want us to do just seem overwhelming and out of our reach.  What do we do?  But this feeling even reaches beyond that.  The larger church has been tasked with working to build the Kingdom of God, to declare the reign of God within the world by building Beloved Community.  We do this by loving one another and functioning in God’s grace in ways that creates peace, love, justice, and harmony in ways that allow all people to live in God’s harmony, to live together.  We are supposed to work to create a transformed world in Christ.  But sometimes the concept of that seems so grandiose, so unattainable that we say, Woe is me for I am not capable of doing what God has called me to. We are unworthy, Lord help make us worthy.
But the beauty in the text is this.  As Isaiah came before the presence of God, feeling inferior and not able to stand before God.  God made it so that Isaiah was cleansed.  A seraph came over to Isaiah with a piece of live hot coal and he was made clean.  What we see here is that God prepared Isaiah for what he was being called to.  God is not going to call you to something that God has not prepared you for.  When I was called to this church as pastor, I had to trust that God had given me the gifts and abilities that I need in order to serve you as best as I could.  God called me to this and prepared me for this.  So, I seek God daily to show me the things that I need to do to grow and act in ways that carry out what God would have us to experience together.  As we continue to reach out to the community around us, and in some ways prepare for the new way to reach out to the community in our new normal of life in the midst of and hopefully heading out of COVID, God has prepared us for the journey ahead.  We have crafted a strategic plan that creates a walking path and a labyrinth, it welcomes the community to a music festival, and it pushes us to develop unconventional ways of worship.  God has given us the tools and prepared us to do what God has called us to. And God has gifted us with the skills to do it, we just have to lean into the Holy Spirit.  And as the larger church, God has prepared us for the journey, by giving us the teachings of Jesus that show us how to love one another; feed the hungry; pray with and welcome the outcast; be concerned about those around us; to hold to the ways of God over that of law, especially when it stands in the ways of God’s love and justice; and meeting people where they are to really connect with them. So, we must study the ways of Christ that help us to Build the Kingdom of God in the world.  We are supposed to allow the Spirit to guide us that we might be made holy and function in the ways of Christ without even thinking.  What God has called us to, God will prepare us for. God makes us worthy, God cleanses us and prepares us for the journey ahead.

 IV. God Invites Us Into Connection

But that is not the end of the story.  God invites us into connection with God.  To come to this work that God has called us to in connection with God.  God is inviting us to relationship and connection.  God is calling us to make ourselves vulnerable that we might intentionally be connected with God to carry out God’s will in the world.  Our scripture shows that God, our God, in God’s fullness of the trinity, the One God who is both one and community in communion with Godself because God is a triune God, a Holy Trinity, one but also Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, proclaims “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  In all that God is, in God’s fullness God is asking who will do the work, who will come into communion with the Trinity, the one true God, to serve the world, to do the work that God is calling us to.  Who will go for God?

And as God has prepared us to do the work will we be like Isaiah and say, “Here am I, Send me.”  When God calls us to serve the hungry, will we say, “Here am I, Send me.” When God calls us to spread the Good news of Jesus Christ to the world will we say, “Here am I, Send me.”   When God calls us to spread love, peace, joy, and justice, will we say, “Here am I, Send me.”  When God calls us to something that seems wildly out of possibility will we say, “Here am I, Send me.”