Isaiah 6:1-9a
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 21, 2024

An unmarried man falls in love with a single mom.  She has but one child, an eleven-year-old boy.  She loves her boy with all her heart.  And her boy loves baseball.

Mom’s not interested in sports; but, because her boy loves baseball, she hasn’t missed a game in years.  Sometimes she has to work the night shift to be free to watch him play; but, when the umpire yells “Play ball”, she’s always behind the dugout, cheering him on.

Because this man loves this woman, he must love her son.  For her sphere of concern wraps around her boy’s life, and it always will.  So, if this man really loves her, he will – whether or not he likes baseball – always be there beside her, cheering on her boy.  To love her is to love her child.

To love God is to love His children.  Because God loves all people, we love God by being beside Him, to support whomever we can with our love.  We best support folks by loving them enough to help them find what they most need: hope, inner strength, consolation and meaning – which we know one gets, to the fullest extent, by getting to know God.  And because everyone gets to know God best by getting to know His love, we love God by volunteering to reach out to people to show them His love.  God asks “Whom shall I send?” and waits for people to step forward to volunteer to go for Him to communicate His love to everyone.

King Uzziah reigned over Judah with considerable success for 41 years.  He’d built up the nation both militarily and economically so that, when he died, the people mourned his passing and feared for the future.

In the year he died, Isaiah was given the gift of seeing God “high and lofty”.  God blazed forth before him in fierce majesty and fiery glory, as angels proclaimed the Lord’s holiness, even while covering their faces and feet lest the soaring flames of His grandeur incinerate them into wispy smoke.  Even the temple itself shook in His presence with fear and awe.

Seeing this, the first words out of Isaiah’s mouth were not of praise, but of despair.  He cried out, “Woe is me!  I am lost!”  The display of God’s greatness made him feel small, vulnerable, unworthy and ashamed of himself.  It made him aware he had no right to be in the presence of One of such staggering and sublime greatness. Isaiah confessed, “I am a man of unclean lips”, a man suited to fit into a community of “people of unclean lips”, a sinner in both word and deed.

But Isaiah was given the privilege of seeing God not so much to make him feel small as to move him to go forth as God’s messenger.  A seraphic angel, sent from God, flew over to Isaiah with a live coal and pressed it upon his mouth.  In a miracle of mercy, it did not burn his lips but it cremated his uncleanness.  It reduced his guilt to ashes and seared his sin away – and Isaiah was left to wonder how he saw God and yet lived…and how he should now live in light of this grace given to him.

As Isaiah so wondered, he heard God for the first time – speaking, not to him in particular, but to anyone and everyone who’d listen.  God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah, who had initially cried out “Woe is me!”, then cried out, “Here am I; send me!”  Likely out of a deep appreciation of being given the gift of that temple experience, Isaiah offered himself into God’s service without knowing what it might entail but without stipulating any limitation to his commitment.

What it turned out to entail, at least at first, was Isaiah’s delivering a message of God’s love in its tough love form.  God sent Isaiah to “go and say” to his fellow Israelites that their God was about to punish them for their long-term, deep-seated wrongdoing so as, out of His fierce love for them, to teach them a crucial lesson.

Thanks be to God that He sends few on such an unpleasant and dangerous mission!  But God would send most of us here today to go and tell those we care about that they too can enjoy the entire blessing of God’s unlimited love.  If we have found God’s love to be one of the biggest, if not the very biggest, blessing of our life – if we, even just a little, have felt the warm embrace of His caring embrace, inhaled the fragrance of His compassion and tasted the sweet wine of His kindness, won’t we happily say to God, “Here am I!  Send Me!  Use me to help others know Your love.”

Now, to go and speak for God, we don’t have to develop some kind of sales pitch.  We just have to grow acquainted with God’s love ourselves and soak in its grace to such a degree that living in His love comes to define who we are and make us capable of conveying His love, not just by what we say, but by what we are: those living in it and living it out.  We whose heart is centered upon God’s love and whose character is reconstructed by it gain the ability to help others to enjoy it.

Fellow Long Beach pastor Bill White tells of how one Saturday, at the end of an afternoon in Compton of ecumenical community service, he passed a home seven houses down from where they’d just done a makeover of a dilapidated residence.  As he walked past this one home, he complimented the husband and wife working in its front yard on the beauty of their roses.  The man, noticing Bill’s yellow T-shirt marking him as a volunteer, put down his weed-whacker, looked Bill in the eye, nodded approvingly toward the renovated house down the street, and said, “I love your heart.  Where can I get a heart like yours?”  Flabbergasted, Bill blurted out without thinking, “We got our hearts from Jesus, and He’d be glad to give you a heart like His, too.”  Though Bill had to dash off, they had a free and easy, albeit brief, conversation about the love of Jesus and its power to transform hearts, homes, neighborhoods and cities.  No canned speech.  No aggression.  No manipulation.  Just a life lived in God’s love, a willingness to speak up to give God the credit, and a faith to trust Him to send still others to help someone know God’s love firsthand.

Maybe God has not given us the spectacular experience given to Isaiah.  But are we not still much given to by God?  And did He not give to us, in part, so that we might go and give to others, to help them know the great grace of His love?

Whom shall He send?  And who will go for Him?

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