Summary: A sermon for the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany
A small boy thought his pocket knife was primarily something to be stuck into the ground or flicked into the side of thick barked trees. Then one day his grandfather said, "Hey, let me show you what you can do with that." The boy handed over the knife and watched intently as the older man took a piece of kind ling and carved an intricate design of stars and circles on its side.
"Let me show you something else," said the boy ’s Grandfather. He took a small block of wood, 3 inches by 5 inches, whittled off the corners, rounded the rough edges. He gouged and cut, grooved and shaved. In 1/2 an hour the boy was staring at the smiling, bearded face which emerged from the block of wood.
Let me show you one more thing." said the grandfather. He went into the refrigerator and using, the knife’s bottle opener, opened 2 bottles of pop for a midmorning snack.
"There," the Grandfather said as he handed the bottle of pop and the knife back to the boy,, "you can see there are a lot of good things you can do. with a knife."
When Isaiah and Peter encountered God and Jesus they learned a valuable lesson about their worth, their usefulness, their value as human beings before God. Our first lesson and our gospel lesson are stories about two men as they encounter the diety in their lives. Though these stories take place thousands of years apart, as we read we see that Isaiah and Peter had a similar encounter with the Divine. To make it easy for us to understand these two encounters, I would like to focus our attention on the story of Isaiah,,but remember Peter’s story is very similar.
Isaiah had a vision while he was in the temple. In that vision, he saw himself in the presence of God. He saw God sitting on his throne the seraphim flying around with him and praising God by saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. "
In the presence of God, in the awe of the majesty, the wonder of almighty God, Isaiah had one response.
He cried from the depth of his soul, he cried brokenness of his spirit, he cried from the life, "Woe is me. For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.".In the presence of almighty God, in the wonder, in the might, in the holiness, in the righteousness of God, all Isaiah could proclaim was his sinfulness. In the presence of God, Isaiah felt, he understood, he experienced most profoundly his own sinfulness.
Then our text says that one of the seraphim takes a burning coal with tongs from the altar of God and touches the lips of Isaiah declaring: "Behold this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven."
Notice the response of God to the sinfulness of Isaiah. God acts. He is moved and he responses by cleansing Isaiah of his sin. God doesn’t tell Isaiah to get his act together, he doesn’t send Isaiah away from his presence. But God in his loving kindness, in the grace of his kingship responses by making Isaiah clean. God provides a way for Isaiah to be released from the human predicament of sin. God frees Isaiah from the torment of his sin, released Isaiah from the guilt of his sinfulness. God acts so that Isaiah may be fully human, knowing, the full freedom of living in the love of God.
Then notice what happens next. God needs someone who will bring a message to his people. God needs someone to go to is people, and notice Isaiah’s response, He says, "Here am I. Send me." After Isaiah has been touched by God, after Isaiah has been cleansed by God, after God has acted in Isaiah’s life, then Isaiah is free to responds. Isaiah has been freed from his bonds of sin, he has been freed from the selfishness of his own sin, so he can now say to God, here am I: send me, God, let me do that for you, let me be your spokesman to these people. Let me God. I can do it.
In the presence of God, Isaiah saw what could really be done with his life. He felt his own brokenness, he felt his unworthiness, he felt useless. But then he was touched by the hand of the master. God’s hand touched him, God’s hand cleansed him. God changed his life, and then Isaiah was willing to respond to God. Isaiah was willing to be a tool of God’s delivering God’s message to his people. It is like that Grandfather taking that knife and using it to its full potential to make that knife come alive for that little boy. The master touched the knife and made it worthwhile, made it do things the boy scarcely knew the knife could do.