Isaiah 6: 1-8 (Epiphany 4 - 2016)
“Go with The Word of Christ”
Isaiah’s message from the LORD begins: “Ah sinful nation people loaded with guilt, a brood of evil doers, children given to corruption” (1:4). Isaiah does not mention his Call into the ministry until the sixth chapter. There was first to be a description of the context into which his preaching would surface. Things were bad. Isaiah’s job was to bring a message of judgment from the LORD. Isaiah’s ministry was to call people out from corruption and to lead them back to the holiness of God Almighty.
Last week the members of our congregation set out to add pastoral staff to our ministry. The Lord continues to send servants into a world filled with need for his Word. We live in a world “loaded with guilt, a brood of evil doers, children given to corruption.” He asks, “Who will go for me? Who will speak for God? Who rescue people from corruption? Who will love lost souls? Who will bring the peace of my Son, Christ, to sinners loaded with guilt?” Who will go with the Word of Christ?”
The Word of Confession
The Lord gave Isaiah a glorious vision. The centerpiece of that vision was the LORD himself. His robe and its train filled the heavenly throne room. Above the LORD flew seraphs with purposeful wings. They were singing the original version of the great Trinity Sunday hymn “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (CW 195). Their version of the song shook the temple as the LORD’s throne room was filled with smoke. Isaiah realized that he was in the presence of the glory of the LORD.
What was his reaction? His only appropriate response was confession of his sin. “Woe to me! 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.” Isaiah knew that he was in the presence of the Holy God who had called him to point out the sins of others. He was dreadfully sinful too. What right, what business, what dare did he have to do such a thing! Standing before the glory of the sovereign LORD he knew his unclean lips. He knew his unclean heart. He knew that he deserved nothing but banishment and ruin from the holy God. He did not deserve a Call to ministry. He deserved a conviction and sentencing to hell.
And so do pastors and teachers and leaders in the church! Moments like this have already happened for all of us. Most of us have already stood before God promising to be faithful to our confession, and endure all things even death, rather than fall away. How often have we fallen! How often do pastors climb out of the sacristy to lead worship, as though for the first time: “Who am I to do this?” After years of knowing his hearers personally, he begins the shepherding process all over again. There is angst and appropriate humility for every pastor to say: “Woe to me I am ruined! I am an unclean man and the LORD has called me to lead unclean people to his holiness.” What right, what business do I have leading sinners! I am one too!
We all wrestle with that struggle. Who of us, pastor or parishioner, does not quake like the temple at the thought of God’s presence. We know the past which loves to haunt us. We know the world which loves to taunt us. We know the Lion that loves to deceive us. We know how dreadfully ruined we are because of our guilt before Holy God. Yet we stand in God’s house today, sinners in the presence of Holy God and “our eyes have seen the King.”
Who will go for the Lord? Sinners will … but not just any sinners; sinners who have been lead to confession; sinners who know their place; who say with David, “Against you only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Sinners who confess together: “Lord, have mercy!” And he does! Our confession also breathes forgiveness: washed in Christ and redeemed by his blood for service.
Our King is pleased that Christ is preached at Crown of Life. He is pleased that zealousness for his Gospel has inspired his people to support another pastor. He is pleased that more work in his kingdom will continue. He is pleased first with His Son. His Son is Jesus is the Christ who came to cleanse his people from their sins. His Son is the atoning sacrifice, not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John2:2). That message fits our feet for ministry. The Word of Christ gives us clear confessions to speak.
The Word of Forgiveness
One of the seraphs flew down to Isaiah. He had a live coal in his hand which was drawn from the holy altar with tongs. The seraph placed the coal on his mouth and announced: “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Atonement for sin! Absolute and free forgiveness! Your guilt is taken away! That is what inspires Isaiahto answer the LORD’s request: “Who will go for me?” In the peace of the LORD’s forgiveness Isaiah speaks: “Here am I! Send me!” From the Holy Trinity Sunday hymn we move to Mission Sunday and sing “Hark the voice of Jesus calling ‘who will go and work today?’ Who will answer gladly saying ‘Here am I send me send me!’” (CW 573:1).
Sinners of confession are also believers with atonement. Isaiah spoke faithfully to the hearts of sinners who had strayed. But his message was also filled with Christ. An entire chapter in Isaiah is devoted to the sacrificial Lamb who was pierced for our transgressions and then raised to life. Isaiah had the privilege to point his hearers to that Lamb for their atonement. The one who heard and rejoiced that his guilt was taken away was moved to lead others to the altar of atonement … and to the LORD of Holy Grace.
A pastor enjoys the privilege of announcing the grace of God to his people. He does well to apply it first to his own heart. He reads of God’s grace in his personal devotion life. He receives that grace from the words of faith by coworkers, brothers in the ministry, and fellow believers in the congregation. As the angel announced Atonement to Isaiah, those who proclaim the Gospel must be first be fed by Christ and his message.
Like seraphs carrying coals from the LORD’s altar, pastors carry the grace of God in trembling hands to troubled hearts. They carry that atonement when it is their humble joy to say: “As a called servant of Christ and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” They carry that atonement when simple water is applied at the Font and they speak the name of that same Triune God. They carry that atonement when bread and wine is brought from the altar and announced that, not coal, but the very body and blood of Christ has touched the lips of his people … “given for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Preaching, teaching, counseling, leading, mission work … all arenas of a pastor’s ministry have Christ at the center stage!
There are worlds of people for us to meet: new parishioners; new leaders; new followers; sick and dying; shut-ins; evangelism prospects, straying souls; sinners. We continue meeting people that are thirsting for direction, thirsting for guidance, thirsting for answers, thirsting for the truth, thirsting for someone who cares about their lives and their souls; “people loaded with guilt … and children given to corruption.” They are thirsting for Jesus and his all atoning love and sacrifice.
They need what we all need. They need to see the glory of God hidden in his love and grace through your words and actions. They are souls who need to know Jesus. They need to hear and learn of Jesus through your message and through your life. Remember: Evangelical means that we are people who speak and live the gospel of Christ – crucified and risen again so that our faith will not rest on man’s wisdom but on God’s power! (1 Corinthians 2).
Here we stand … flesh and blood … together in the presence of God’s glory. His glory causes our troubled hearts to confess “Woe to me, I am ruined! Who am I that I should deserve this?!” His grace in Christ Jesus takes all our sins away. His grace in Christ Jesus invites us. He grace in Christ Jesus asks “Who will go for the Lord?” His grace in Christ Jesus causes believers with confidence say “Here Am I! Send Me!” God bless this glorious day! God bless the ministry at Crown of Life Lutheran and everywhere – Go in the peace of Christ Jesus. Go with the Word of Christ! Amen.