Summary: We might be uncertain of what the future holds. We might feel unworthy of the task before us. But in his holiness, his merciful love, God desires to work through each of us, and we are called to be God's servants.
A young preacher had just finished seminary and had taken his first appointment in the hills of Kentucky. Wanting to be effective in his preaching ministry, he walked into the pulpit on his first Sunday and preached on the evils of smoking. When he finished his message, some of the church leaders met him at the door: “We’re a little surprised that you would deal with the subject of smoking because nearly half of the state of Kentucky raises tobacco. You might want to think twice about talking about tobacco from this pulpit.” The preacher thanked them for enlightening him. The next Sunday he came back and preached against liquor and drinking. With great fervor, he preached on the ills of whiskey. The same group met him at the door when he was finished. They said, “We think we need to tell you that you ought to be careful about preaching against alcoholic beverages, especially since nearly a third of our county distills whiskey.”
“I didn’t know that,” the preacher replied. “Thank you for helping me.” He came back the next Sunday to preach a stirring sermon on gambling--in any shape or form, the lotto, racehorses, or any other. The same group met him after the service: “We think we need to tell you that over half of our county raises thoroughbred racehorses, so you want to be real careful about talking about gambling from the pulpit.” Being a quick learner, the next Sunday, the young preacher preached against the evils of scuba diving in international waters!
So here we are; at the start of something new. And I'm sure many of you are wondering what I (your new pastor) will say. You've been wondering all week, no doubt. Well, I can assure you that I am not going to preach on all the evils of the world...at least not today. But perhaps there have been other lingering questions as well. We wonder what the future holds. What will it be like to share a minister? Will we have to change? What will this new person be like? How will we work together? What is going to happen now? Where is God in all this transition?
Certainly, we want to know where God is in the midst of this change. Surely, God will work in this new partnership to further his kingdom, but how will that happen? With that question, let us consider now our text for this morning; the call of the prophet Isaiah. Some three thousand years ago, there was a man named Isaiah who heard the voice of the Lord saying to him: "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" It is a question that echoes down through the ages. It is a question asked of every believer and every church. Everyday, God wants to know who will be out there working for him, who will go in his name into the world. On this day and beyond, as we come together as the Grace-Fairview two-point charge, we have an opportunity to respond to God's call in new and exciting ways. The question is, will we?
Isaiah was faced with a mighty call on his life...and it wasn't easy for him. Just like change and transitions aren't always easy for us. And Isaiah had to make a decision, an eternal decision. Would he respond to God's call or not? How many of us have heard God's call on our lives, but are still unsure of how we will respond? How many of us feel a sense of uncertainty today; wondering where God will lead us now? I know I do! Perhaps we are all feeling a bit overwhelmed today, wondering if we are really up to this new task that God has set before us. Indeed, at times, God calls us to new places, to do new things, to live in a new way, and we proceed with caution, uncertain of what lies ahead.
As we look at our Old Testament lesson for this morning, we see that this is the same kind of thing that Isaiah experienced by being in the presence of God. He is overwhelmed by his sense of unworthiness. He sees himself as he truly is, and he is unsure if he is really up to the task now before him. "Woe to me!" Isaiah cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” But this is where things really take a turn. Because God can do something with people who see what they are and know that God is calling them to something greater. With Isaiah’s admitting his unworthiness before God, we see God do for Isaiah that which no person can do for themselves. God forgives Isaiah and makes him clean; makes him worthy! “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!”