A Sermon by Chris Gallagher:
Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ
Our text for this morning comes from the prophet Isaiah chapter 6 verses 1-8. I remember as a kid watching Star Wars, the first one, or no it’s Episode Four in chronology, but anyway the scene of Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo and the rest were being squeezed by a giant trash compactor. The scene made me very anxious wondering how they were going to save themselves. Well in our text Israel like the group in the trash compactor was feeling the squeeze as well. King Uzziah reigned until about the middle of the 8th century BC when he died, and the prophet Isaiah had this vision. Israel at the time was split into two factions, one that wanted to make an alliance with Egypt and the other with Syria. Why you ask? The Assyrians to the north were conquering and smashing everyone in their way and Israel was going to be next. Assyria, unrelenting, unmerciful could be considered the ancient Blitzkrieg. Not to mention the threat of up and coming Babylon from the west. This is the context in which Isaiah has this vision of the Lord where His majesty and awe fill the temple. Not only does He fill the temple, the temple is only able to contain the robe of our Lord. Isaiah’s vision, is a foreshadowing of what John saw regarding the last things, behold, I saw throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And the Church bowed before Him saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” As a result of what the Lamb who was worthy to be slain did for us on the cross, our only response is to praise Him night and day, for the price has been paid.
As Isaiah saw the holiness of the Lord, Isaiah was undone And I said: “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!” Also, God’s holy Law radiates perfection, for God is light and in Him there’s no darkness. When Isaiah realized his imperfection and mortality, he responded that he was lost, had unclean lips, and had seen the Lord of hosts. The threat of Assyria or Babylon faded to the background at this point. When Jesus was with His disciples, he instructed them to cast their nets out for a catch. The disciples replied they had been out all night and hadn’t caught a thing. However, probably in appeasement of our Lord went ahead and did it anyway. Of course, Jesus always works in an unexpected way. The boat almost sank with so many fish in the nets. Luke wrote, “They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” You see, Peter had a similar experience as well, He saw that Jesus was Lord, YAWEH, and He responded “Depart from me, I am a sinful man.” The same way Isaiah did, “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!”
Even in our own lives when life’s trash compactor is squeezing in, we often feel the weight of God’s holy Law. The weight of our nation’s seventeen trillion dollar debt producing hopelessness for our future, and Congress, seemingly inept, that can’t seem to stabilize our fragile economy. It may be finances, how are we going to make it this month? The search for a job seems rather bleak. Possibly, your burden is that you’re going through a family break up or hardship. Maybe your children are wandering off the “straight and narrow path.” Maybe the attack is from an outsider, someone verbally or physically abusing you. However, because of our Original Sin, that which we inherited from Adam, a good possibility it’s our own flesh. When we fall into various temptations, we too fall into despair. We may suffer by not letting go of our pet sin or to keep our “skeletons in the closet” where no one will know. In the presence of the Lord of Hosts, who is able to stand?
Isaiah couldn’t stand, He fell to his knees, but the Lord didn’t leave him there. Neither does He leave us in despair of our shortcomings. One of the Seraphim flew from the altar with tongs and a hot coal and touched Isaiah’s lips with it. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” This is a foreshadowing of what Christ did on the cross for you. He laid down His life for you. God made atonement for you by sacrificing His only begotten Son. Without the shedding of blood there’s no remission of sins. Earlier in absolution, by the authority given to me as a called and ordained servant of Christ, I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not my forgiveness but God’s. Similarly, when the Seraphim touched Isaiah’s lips with the coal and his sins were atoned for, Christ touches our lips with His body and blood. When we partake of the Sacrament, take eat this is My body, take drink this is My blood shed for you, for the remission of all of your sins. Through the partaking of the Supper God is nourishing and strengthening our faith reminding, you, that your sins are forgiven.
After Isaiah is washed and cleansed by the coal of the altar, the prophet responds in a natural and yet unnatural way. And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Like Isaiah, we too have been freed from the threats of the law, life’s trash compactor. We’re free now to love God and serve our neighbor. To take the “Good News” to those who are perishing. Send me, knowing you’ve been baptized into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Send me, knowing that you hold the keys of the Gospel to unbind those in the shackles of sin. Send me, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.