Whom Shall I Send
“Whom Shall I Send, and Who Will Go for Us?”
Isaiah 6:1-13 and Luke 5:1-11
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany ~ February 4th, 2007
The Lord says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” That question was posed to Isaiah, to Peter and to you and me today. Our lessons for today go together so well as we see how God calls us to be a part of His kingdom and the Body of Christ.
We begin with the power of God. Isaiah sees that grand vision of the throne room of God. There are angels, majestic and mysterious creatures, that are singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” to God. It is a vision of God’s majesty and awesomeness. It is a vision of the power of God and Isaiah is able to see it in all its glory. Peter has a similar experience here too. He is out fishing with his company all night and has caught nothing. Jesus, God incarnate, comes to the shore that day and teaches the crowd and then tells Peter to go out deeper and let down his nets. When Peter does this he witnesses what was probably the largest catch of fish he has ever seen! Peter witnesses the awesome power of God in this miracle.
And what happens when people face the holy, awesome power of God? The do like Isaiah and Peter – fall to their knees and recognize their sinfulness. When a person is in the presence of the holy, the righteous, the perfect, all the imperfect comes to light and is seen. Nothing is hidden in Gods sight. Isaiah drops to his knees and says “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Peter also falls to his knees and says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Both Isaiah and Peter have encountered God and seen their sinfulness.
The same can be said for us as well. But you may be thinking, “I haven’t had a vision like Isaiah or seen a miracle like Peter.” But you have. Here in worship we encounter the holiness of God. Here in worship we come before the throne of God and witness the miracle of forgiveness and new life. Here in this place we come before our awesome and holy God. We invoke His presence when we began our service in the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” God is here! True enough He is present in our whole lives, but this place is our “home” with God. This is an image that has been playing around in my mind lately that I think is huge. Worship is home. Worship is our sitting at Jesus feet. Worship is where the true reality of life is. And here we gather – here we are home – here we encounter the holiness of God. And like Isaiah and Peter we fall to our knees and confess that we are sinful. You did that already. After we called on God’s triune presence with us we then confessed that we are “poor, miserable sinners…”
After we confessed our sins, knowing full well that in God’s presence we fall short, we then hear the forgiveness of our sins. The full power and glory of God, instead of destroying us, comes to save us. In Isaiah’s vision and angel takes a coal from the altar of the Lord and touches his lips and announce that his “guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” For Peter, after dropping to his knees and confessing that he is a sinner, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” In essence Jesus is saying, “Don’t be afraid because I have forgiven you and you need not fear the wrath of God.” Jesus offers forgiveness to Peter and calls him into service as we see Peter leaving everything and following Him.
The question is posed to you again, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” At first we hear this question and we tremble. “Who me?” “I can’t!” “I don’t know how.” “Send someone else.” In essence we feel the holiness of God shining down on us when we hear this question and we see our broken, sinful lives. How could we go in our condition? We can’t. We can’t respond to this question from God on our own. All we can do in the presence of God is fall on our knees and confess. It is God who allows us to answer this question. It is God who fills our hearts and minds who transforms us to be able to say with Isaiah, “Here I am.” It is with God’s strength that we can like Peter follow Him where He leads. God calls each of us to go, to be sent, to be disciples. But He also fills us up with His power and strength to be part of His body, the church, which is in mission to the world.
And that is where our Epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians comes in so well. Over the last few weeks we have been moving along through 1 Corinthians. Two weeks ago the reading was about how we are all unique but integral parts of the body of Christ. Last week we heard how love is the central ingredient to the Body of Christ. And today we see how we are to fulfill the mission of the church – actually even a way to measure what we do as the church. Paul here is speaking about the spiritual act of speaking in tongues, which while it is a good thing can also not be effective in the mission of the church. Sometimes in our life, when we have been filled up by the Spirit we feel on top of the world. This is good but it is self filling and is very inward which is only part of our spiritual life. When we have been filled up by God we are then lead to share with the world the love of Jesus. Isaiah was sent. Peter followed. We are the body sent in mission. And how do we judge that mission? Not by “spiritual” acts but by the building up of others. The love of God and of our neighbor as Jesus summarized the commandments. Building up others in Christ is our mission – even to the outsider!
When we come before God we become painfully clear of our shortcomings and sinfulness. But God reaches out to us and offers forgiveness. He transforms our lives and sends us out. We are the Body of Christ – we are He hands and feet. We may express it in different ways but we all are important in the mission. And how do we know we are in mission? When others are being built up – when we give our faith away for the sake of another.
Maybe we all have an Isaiah experience. We come here to worship and believe we enter into God’s presence. We see His holiness and our sinfulness and we confess before Him. God offers his forgiveness in a very tangible way – at communion. Just as the coal cam to Isaiah’s mouth so too the bread and wine, the body and blood, touch our lips and enter into us to forgive, renew and send us out. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And we say, “Here am I. Send me!”