Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Jun 28, 2015

“The Call” 6-28-15

Acts 2:36-42, Isaiah 6:36-42
June 28, 2015

Today we are going to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.  As we are about to mark a point in the spiritual progress in one of our Christian brothers, I thought this would be a good time for all of us to think about our relationships with God.  Now since Baptism is a sacrament first given in the New Testament, first by John the Baptist and then by the Apostles of Jesus, it might seem logical that we would be looking at a New Testament passage this morning.  But you know by now that we don’t always choose the logical or obvious path to our blessings here in my pastorate at Faith Presbyterian Church. 
So today we are looking for inspiration from Isaiah, chapter 6, which when I was looking for things to preach about in Isaiah, came to mind for this occasion. 
This is an interesting chapter, because it describes the call or a call of God to Isaiah.  The question often asked about this passage is why the call of Isaiah occurs as the 6th chapter in Isaiah’s book of prophecies.  It would have been a great way to begin the book, with a vision of God.  Some think that this was a calling to Isaiah to a specific aspect of ministry that came after Isaiah had already been a prophet for a few years.
It became a matter of history, that from the death of king Uzziah on, the nation of Judah went into a steeper decline culturally, nationally, and morally.  And as those declines or shifts took place, Isaiah would become less and less mainstream and more and more counter cultural. But today We want to look at the relationship of Isaiah to God and his people.
This passage tells us that Isaiah was one of those who were blessed to see God.  There are a few descriptions in the bible of people seeing God, and this one has less detail than some of the others.
First of all, although Isaiah saw God, he does not really describe Him.  He describes the throne on which God is sitting as being high and lofty.  He describes the robe which God was wearing as being so large that it spilled down the high and loft throne and the hem took up most of the floor space in the room.  But he does not describe what God looked like.
Isaiah also described God’s attendants as being angels of the Seraph order, each having six wings, of which two were used for covering their faces, two were used to cover their feet, and two were used to fly or hover near the throne of God.  These were liturgical angels, as they had an antiphonal song going where one would sing to the other and then that chorus would be repeated back by the second one. 
The words of the song they were singing were “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory!”  And while it was being sung, the thresholds of the doors shook and the room filled with smoke.
Isaiah knew that he was seeing God and his response was hopelessness.  He said that he was lost, or as good as dead.  He had no future because he, a sinful human being had seen and been in the presence of the all holy God.  Or as he put it, his lips were unclean and he had seen God.
Which brings me to my first point of this sermon, and that is that if you have had a meeting with God or have come to have a relationship with God and you do not feel unworthy and polluted by sin, it is probably not God that you have been with or you have not really properly assessed your sinfulness.  When we are with God, we need to be aware that we are totally unworthy of being in his presence.  We are sinners, and we are culturally influenced to be sinners.  I don’t think any of us are aware of how much our culture spurs us into ungodly behavior.  We are sinners and we live among sinful people.
And we can only be in God’s presence if God does something to mitigate our sinfulness.  In Isaiah’s case, it was the purification of his unclean lips by burning coals from the altar that made him somewhat fit to be in God’s presence.
For us it is the death of Jesus for our sins which we appropriate for ourselves by our faith in Him.  Baptism is the symbolic act by which we declare that our sins have been washed away by the death of Christ.  And I am not saying this on my own authority, Peter declared this to be true when on the day of Pentecost he told those who were convicted of their sin to repent and be baptized, as we read in our first lesson.
I like the phrase that the seraph used regarding God’s work on Isaiah’s sin.  He said, “your guilt has departed, your sin has been blotted out.”  It is gone, it is erased.  Or in the symbol of baptism, it is washed away.
So, now that Isaiah was fit to be near God, he was able to hear God asking for a messenger to tell His words to others.  And he responded by saying “Here am I, Send Me!”
The response from God was that Isaiah would speak for God to the people but that they would not listen.  For generations they would not listen, until all of Judea was laid waste.  And the nation would be as if it had been thoroughly burned.  And yet, even though Judea would be like a burnt stump of a tree that had been cut down, even then, that burnt stump would contain seed for the future.  That burned and desolate Judea would be repopulated and from it would come Jesus, the hope and light of the world.
So what is the message for us in this? 
It is a great privilege to be called to have a relationship with God.  We are all sinners and do not deserve to be with God.  But he has done the work that can erase your sins.  We only need to believe in Jesus.  And those who believe should be baptized, either as children of believing parents or when they accept Jesus as their savior.  Baptism is a sign that we have accepted God’s covenant of grace.
All believers have been called by God to tell others about God, about his standards for behavior, and about his son Jesus.
And we can expect some of our words to bear fruit.  But it may not be quickly or clearly seen.
In our times, our culture has produced people who seem to be resistant to hearing Gods words.  There seems to be a great resistance to God’s standards regarding sexual morality, even in those who claim to be a part of God’s kingdom.
But like Isaiah, our role is to speak God’s words and messages to the people of our time, even if they do not listen and because of their refusal become like burnt stumps.  Because our message has power that can cause even burnt stumps to bear seeds, seeds that will bring eternal life to someone somewhere, sometime.
And now we will celebrate the sacrament of Christian Baptism as a reminder and symbol of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.


Pastor David L. Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906