A Vision of God in the TempleIsaiah 6:1-8 (NRSV)
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!”
I wonder, have you ever felt unworthy when you faced a challenge or a task? Like you didn’t know enough, or you weren’t strong enough or you didn’t have enough experience? Friends, the truth is, that happens to all of us. Even the people that seem the most secure on the outside, question themselves sometimes. In the Bible, we hear lots of stories about important people and prominent leaders who struggle with being enough, and they question their ability to do what God is calling them to do.
We often question our own selves because we don’t have all the answers or we’re not quite sure what to do or what direction to go in. What if we take a wrong step? What if we say something the wrong way? What if people misunderstand us?
But friends, the truth is in life, we have two choices. We can sit in our fear and self-doubt and never move ahead, or we can have faith as we step forward into the unknown.
There’s a story in the Hebrew scriptures about a man named Isaiah. Isaiah became a great prophet, but even Isaiah questioned himself. He wondered if he was enough because, in the face of God, he felt so small, so inadequate, and so unworthy. I wonder, has your faith ever made you feel that way? Small inadequate and unworthy? Sometimes when we think of God, we get overwhelmed because God is so much bigger than we can ever understand.
I know that it sounds funny, but like many others, I used to try to put God in a box. I liked my faith that way because I understood what it was all about. I had names for God, and I knew just what to expect. In my own mind, I thought I knew all there was to know about God and my faith. But then one day, I realized that if I was truly going to believe in something bigger than myself, then I had to let go of that understanding. I had to open the box and learn to live in the mystery of my faith.
Have you ever read a mystery novel? They’re exciting, aren’t they? They get you to think beyond your everyday experiences, and they help you to use all of your senses. They make you feel alive, don’t they? Well God and our faith are the same way. It’s not about finding and knowing all the answers; it’s about experiencing the beauty, the possibility, and the overwhelming and inspiring sense of awe.
I find that sometimes I feel most connected to my faith, not when I’m in search of answers, but when I allow myself to sit and experience the mystery. Because some things can’t be explained; they can only be felt and experienced. I used to think that faith was about finding the right answers, but now I know that it’s more about hope and trust and the ability to believe in something you can’t keep in a box or fully explain, something that you just know in the depth of your being is true.
Folks, God doesn’t live in our sanctuaries, and God doesn’t fit in the neat and pretty boxes of our faith. Because God is so much more than that! God is exciting and messy. God is inviting and challenging. God is understanding and encouraging. But more than anything, God is love! We have no words or ways of fully understanding the divine but the truth is, that’s part of the gift! Because God is mysterious, we are each able to experience God in our own way.
You may experience God in a beautiful church sanctuary, or out in nature, in quiet moments of reflection, or in the noise of a crowd knowing that you are surrounded by other children of God. And not only do we experience God in our own ways, but we each experience God’s call in unique ways too.
When the prophet Isaiah experienced God, he was filled with joy and awe at the sacredness of God while at the same time he was frozen in fear by God’s mystery. As we heard earlier, when God spoke to Isaiah, Isaiah was afraid that he wasn’t good enough. He knew that his life wasn’t perfect. He knew that he made mistakes and poor choices sometimes, and he knew that he would never be enough. But God assured him that he was! God filled him to overflowing with a sense of unconditional love which gave him the courage to step forward and faith.
So, when God asked, “Whom shall I send to as a messenger to My people?” rather than running away, fearing that he wasn’t enough, Isaiah embraced the mystery of God and answered, “Here I am Lord. Send me!” Friends, in the days and weeks ahead, I hope and pray that we might have the courage to do the same.