Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Sept. 8, 2019
Our scripture lesson this morning is from the Prophet Isaiah. Many of the books of the prophets contain a “Call Story”, a time in their lives when God spoke very clearly to them that they had a special job to do.
Let’s take a look at Isaiah 6:1-8
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. 2Seraphs 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. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
5And 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!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The 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.” 8Then 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!”
You’ve probably heard that sweet story of the little girl who wanted some time alone with her newborn baby brother. Her parents were hesitant and reluctant at first to let her in the room alone with the baby, not knowing quite what she was thinking. Finally, they gave her permission to be alone with her brother, but they left the door cracked open a bit, so they could see and hear. The little girl walked up to the crib and said to her tiny new brother, “Tell me about God. I’m starting to forget.”
That’s our problem, too. We forget.
It’s part of the human condition. We get distracted. Our minds get filled up with so many things – some of them important, many of them not.
We’re driven to distraction. And it shows up in a lot of ways. Speaking of driving . . .
I was driving to Lahey Hospital this week, travelling south on Rt. 3. I remember approaching the slowdown when you reach the ramp to get on Rt. 95. But the next thing I know I’m 5 miles north on Rt. 95, totally forgetting that I needed to get off at the first exit on Rt. 95, like you’re going to the Burlington Mall. How could my mind get so distracted? (It was easy!)
I suspect we’ve all had that experience of almost sleepwalking through life, mindlessly going through the motions. “Now, what did I come downstairs?”
Sometimes we spend our days thinking about too many little things and not enough big things. We can forget to attend to those big things, like relationships and personal growth or even rest.
Other times we’re not fully living life because we’re overwhelmed with our fears and anxiety about the future. So, we’re not fully alive today because we’re living in the worries about tomorrow.
Distraction, anxiety, forgetfulness – no wonder we make wrong turns!
One solution or antidote for this condition is called Mindfulness.
I’ll bet you’ve heard of this and probably have seen books and flyers for workshops on the subject. Mindfulness is the idea of being fully present, fully engaged with what one is doing. When I zoned out driving, I obviously was not fully engaged in the driving experience. I was not fully present in my car.
My body was there, but the rest of me was somewhere else.
Mindfulness is not just being “mindful” of something, as in, “Keep this in mind.” It’s being fully awake, fully alive in the present moment!
Jesus said on more than one occasion, “Stay Awake! Stay Alert! – for you do not know when God come to you!”
One of the clearest themes of the Bible is God’s desire for us to be spiritually alive! And God has gone to great lengths to help us become spiritually alive. From Moses to the Prophets, from Jesus and the entire New Testament to all the great religions of the world, it’s clear that God wants human beings to be spiritually alive – and it entails all that we are – heart, soul, mind and strength!
The Apostle Paul called it being, “Alive in Christ.”
He said to the Ephesians that, We were once dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1) but God raised us up with Christ Jesus, and made us alive in him!” (Eph. 2:5)
Fully Alive, Fully Present to God, to life, to those around us.
Let’s take Isaiah as our example this morning.
Isaiah 6:1 – 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.
Isaiah’s desire is to be fully alive to God, and part of his mindfulness is to be open to God’s presence and God’s call. So he puts himself in a position to meet God and to hear from God. He goes to the Temple to worship, and in his vision – the hem of God’s robe filled the temple.
Isaiah goes to a place set aside to meet with God. Not that God can be contained by a building, but having places set aside, sacred places and spaces, help open our hearts to the living God. They help us be fully present to God.
Isaiah is so fully present to God that he hears angels worshiping God. That’s pretty good! I’ve never heard angels singing, but I’ve felt close to heaven when I’ve been in worship with others singing to God. I’ll bet that each of you, in one way or another has felt that, too.
If we want to be alive to the God who’s always with us, it helps to put ourselves in position to do so, through such activities as Worship, Prayer, the Sacraments, the Scriptures, Fellowship and Service. All the things we do here are designed to help us be more fully present with God – awake & alert to God!
So Isaiah is awake to God’s presence in the room and then he becomes very mindful of his own response to God’s presence.
Part of being mindful is being aware and in touch with our own reactions and emotions, our thoughts and our feelings.
So Isaiah says, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live amidst a people of unclean lips.”
In the presence of a Holy God, he feels unholy.
In the presence of Pure Goodness, he’s becomes instantly aware of the areas of his life that are not so good – his shortcomings and mistakes.
So one of the angels takes a coal from the altar and lets the burning coal touch Isaiah’s mouth, his lips. Then the angel speaks what we call the Assurance of Pardon and Grace. “Your guilt is gone before God, your sins are blotted out.” In other words, “Isaiah, you’re forgiven. You’re loved and accepted by God.”
You know, the flow of our worship service is identical to this passage. We sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy to God,” as we did this morning. Then we confess our sins before God, trusting that God’s grace will touch us, too.
I sometimes think these wild stories in the Bible are simply there to vividly dramatize for us a pathway to God. Praise, Confession, Pardon leads to reconciliation with God.
So, Isaiah is in the moment with God, he’s about as alert and awake to God as a person can get. And God then says, “I have a mission for someone. Who can I send?”
And Isaiah knows that to be fully awake to God, he’s gotta say,“Yes.” – “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
That’s the goal of mindfulness for Christians.
It’s not just about having inner peace or calmness.
It’s not just about being more fully aware of ourselves and our surroundings.
It’s about responding to God.
It’s about remembering our calling to be instruments and agents of God’s holy love – because we sometimes forget. “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
Let’s pray to prepare ourselves for Communion.
Thank You, Loving God, for sacred places, sacred times and this sacred meal. Open our hearts to your presence. Fill us with your life and power. In your holy name. Amen.
Intro to Communion:
Just like the little girl in the story, we’re prone to forget.
So God has given us the sacrament of Holy Communion to help remember
Let’s sing our Communion Hymn, “In Remembrance of Me.”