In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
And I said: “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!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”Isaiah 6:1-13
There was also a baptism so the sermon brief was to focus not on the Trinity (for Trinity Sunday) but on the reading and the baptism. So they had the following - or thereabouts. I've taken out the baby's name which I did use - just so you know I didn't call her "this baby" all the way through!!
What an amazing image of God in all his glory in this vision of Isaiah. This has been a journeying passage for me over the years -of mixed meanings – it has spoken to me in different ways throughout my life.
I really love the graphic description of the place. When I was a child this was especially true.
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke."
I really loved that image of the angels with all those wings and especially that great long robe spreading through the court. I was rather into stories of princesses with long dresses and I rather pictured that long road like the wonderful dresses in my Ladybird edition of Cinderella!
That really graphic image spoke to me very strongly when I was young.
Then when I was a little older and studying history, the thing that struck me about this passage was that, as much as it is a description of a vision, it was a vision located in TIME by the writer. “In the year that King Uzziah died.” According to most historic record that’s in 740 BC. This vision is not some vague story for any time. It’s a vision that a real person had at a particular time. It has a particular place in the story of God and of his creation.
In my life in ministry, that moment when Isaiah says “here I am, send me” has been significant many times. When I was thinking about changing careers from sensible history teaching for something as mad as youth work, I heard this passage. When I was welcomed into my new role as a youth minister, we had this passage. When I was thinking of moving jobs, leaving family and friends behind, this passage made me realise there would be some SENDING by God and that I was ready. “Here I am send me”
Does Isaiah sound ready though? That’s not where he starts and it’s not where I started with this passage. I’m sure it’s not where this baby starts her journey of faith with this passage either.
No Isaiah starts not as one ready but as one aware of God, aware of himself and prepared to change.
He knows he has seen God but he feels he’s the wrong kinda guy from the wrong kinda place. God however transforms him and turns his life around.
That’s what each of us today together with this baby and her family, seek to do in joining in this baby’s Baptism and re-living our own baptism.
We may think, like Isaiah that we’re not really ready or worthy but it’s that turning to God and showing a willingness to be changed by God that we begin our journey. It’s not a magic wand though, far from it, there will be things that draw us away from God as well as those that draw us to God.
It was also with some sadness that I learnt another way this passage had significance for me. someone who was brought up in the same church as me is not now someone who includes religion in his life. He and I were chatting a few years ago and he told me that this very passage was THE one that, as a young teenager, made him decide NOT to keep coming to church. Why? He told me that he thought if the angel needed tongs to pick up the hot coal then that made no sense of God being Almighty so he couldn’t be.
A pair of tongs was a stumbling block for him. There will always be stumbling blocks for all of us. Things which make us doubt, make us question. Question ourselves, question those we love, question the value of life, or the existence of God. Yet ours is a Gospel of stumbling but also of getting up again. Just like a child when she starts those first steps only to land back on the ground. this baby won’t stop there. She’ll get back up and try again and again. Jesus once told a man that to enter the kingdom of heaven we must become like little children and I think that was certainly one part of it – falling down but getting back up again and trying again and again. As we get old we sometimes feel more inclined to give up when it’s difficult but it’s never too late to start trying again.
And I still hope that my the young man I mentioned might do that in time. And the time I see the most hope for that has been since he became a father. His daughter is now two and I have seen such a transformation in his life. He sees the world in so many different ways.
Something so tiny as a baby, can change the world. This little child here can make us see things in a different way. Today we can look again at our own faith as we’ve shared in this baptism. You as parents must see things as people changed by this tiny form.
I think when we look at a young baby, and for parents, looking at your own children must be even more powerful, when we look at a young baby, we get a small tiny inkling of how God must feel looking at the world, at his creation, at each one of his little children.
We look with the eyes of love,
the eyes of hope,
the eyes of forgiveness of anything.
And I don’t know if you’re like me when I look at my own niece but I wonder just what she might achieve in this lifetime that is only just begun. Where might life take her?
And this is how God sees Isaiah in this vision. Full of Hope and Love and curiosity about what this beloved child will do. It’s how God looks at each one of us. God sees our failings and is ready to forgive them as he does Isaiah. God sees with the eyes of a loving parent, a hoping parent, an expectant parent.
Today we have offered this child to God’s care. To the potential of God’s call
To the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
We can’t know where God will send this baby yet. What her life may contain. But know for sure. God has hopes for her and hopes for all of us. His voice is there asking “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
That question is not just for Isaiah – it still rings out for each of us if we have the ears to hear it.
The question is
What is God’s will for you this week?
Where will God be at work in you this week?
Where and when will be your opportunity to say
“Here am I send me!”