Over the years, I have lost track of how many times I have heard the song “Here I am Lord”. It comes from a favourite book of the prophets in the Old Testament, namely Isaiah. The passage and the song have to do with the call to ministry which is appropriate to this particular Sunday considering we move now from considering who Jesus is, who he was born, how he lived and taught, how he healed, cared for and had compassion for people and most of all how he died and was raised from not only death but from the earth to the heights of the heavenly throne as well. I have lost track of the number of time I have sung it at camp in church and just in the office by myself.
But when I stop to consider all that Isaiah had to say, the challenges that he and the people of Israel had to face, it becomes even more poignant. We are told that it was in the year 740 BC that Isaiah experienced his call to be a prophet amongst the people of Israel. We know that because that is the year that King Uzziah died. He was a godly, powerful man who was in the later years of his reign stricken with a form of leprosy because he had not obey the restrictions and burnt incense in the temple. He was the last of the good kings of the people of Israel. Why is it important and good that Isaiah have this vision? Because he reminds the people of whom the real and undisputed King of Israel is: The LORD himself.
But that is not the sole remarkable thing about the encounter Isaiah has with God. There is the hem of the garment which God wears and it is only this that fills the temple. We are not told if Isaiah saw more than that. He knew that he was in the presence of God and he thought that time was up. He had seen and known God and that means that his life was finished, or so he thought. In a moment when the nation was about to lose its earthly king, and in the moment of seeing God face to face, a new vision with a new path to walk is given. It is not going to be pleasant, easy or even a short journey. Such vision makes a mortal aware of who God is and God wants in this moment from him. He experiences the holiness and awesomeness of God and in that moment realizes who he is as well. This makes him aware of the state of his life and the state of the people and of the land around him. To show this mere mortal that he is ready for ministry, a coal from the altar of God is taken and put to his lips to cleanse his life to the very core. It helps him to know that he is forgiven by God and no enabled to see things as God sees them and to hear things as God speaks them into his life and thus into the life of the nation.
What will it take for you to stop and see God? What will it take to enable you to hear his voice? Will it take angels calling out in abject worship and attendance of the throne? The tears of a neighbour who is about to lose their home because of the loss of employment? What will it take for you to begin to see God for who he truly is and the way the world truly is? What will it take to shake you up so that God has your complete and undivided attention? And when will we stop saying to God, “Here am I. Send somebody else”?
God’s kingdom and his glory are both real and the kingdom is coming. Perhaps the Church needs a new vision. Perhaps the Church is in need of a real “shake up” to know what it is to be in the presence of the Holy One of Israel, to know the living God again. Maybe we need to see God again lest we get really comfortable and thus complacent making us unuseful servants and stewards of the Gospel. We need to be shaken and stirred so that we will move and live to genuinely proclaim and project the message and reality of God.
So let us present ourselves before the throne and offer ourselves that we might make God known and draw his people closure to his glory and his kingdom.