It is the Sunday after Pentecost, labeled Trinity Sunday on the Church calendar—a day when we recognize the mystery of God—triune, three in one; Father/Son/Holy Spirit; all creating, all redeeming, all sustaining; Beloved, Lover, and the Love between them. I invite you to take a moment this week to marvel on the idea of Trinity—but our lectionary lessons pull us away from simple adoration to the relationship between God and ourselves. I will share a musing and then give us some time to talk to one another about God in our lives.
Today the Isaiah lesson caught my attention. Maybe it was because I read the story about the Connecticut Sun coach who during a heated discussion with an official made a disparaging remark about Las Vegas Aces’ Liz Cambage’s weight—incorrectly guessing where the 6’ 8” basketball player tips the scales. And so when I read Isaiah’s words--“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!”—my reaction was, why are we always denigrating ourselves or others?
Here is Isaiah, being given a glimpse of the throne room of God—being able to see all the attendant seraphs and to hear the music that shook the rafters, and to feel the glory of God. And instead of wonder, the emotion that strikes him is fear. Because we have been schooled that we can’t see God and live. Because we have, from the garden of Eden on, wanted to hide our true selves from God. Because we have been told that we aren’t good enough, that we aren’t clean enough, that we aren’t enough.
And my feminist self asks, “Who says?”
In fact, if you look at this particular text, the only one who says “I am not worthy” is Isaiah himself. There is no pronouncement from the throne (What are you doing here?). There isn’t even shock from the seraphs filling the air. There is only Isaiah’s own feeling—I shouldn’t be here.
And let us remember that it’s not like Isaiah snuck in the backdoor, or through a secret entrance. Isaiah had a vision, presumably one that God intended him to have. Isaiah was invited into the throne room—invited into God’s presence—invited to be there.
I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have the exact same initial response. I think we have been conditioned to think ourselves “less than,” and I’m not sure that conditioning came from God. What I can say, is that God invited Isaiah, and for whatever reason Isaiah let his own insecurities get in the way of the experience.
But fear not. God is aware of how fragile human beings are, and whether needed or not, a seraph shows up holding a live coal and touched his mouth and proclaimed that with that gesture, guilt has departed and sin is blotted out—and now we can get on with the story.
It is at this moment that Isaiah hears God’s voice—had God always been speaking? Did Isaiah’s fear block his ability to hear God until that time? I don’t know. But now, Isaiah can hear God throwing out the question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah, confident of his status to stand before God, maybe in a fit of “looking before you leap,” forgetting where he is and who he is, speaks up and says “Here am I; send me!”
Today, I hear this Scripture saying to me, to us, 1) don’t put yourself down, don’t concentrate on what you think disqualifies you from servanthood—God has chosen to have this relationship with you—and that makes you more than worthy to be here.
2) God knows us, and will show up to provide a way for us to let go of our fears and our failures. Whether it is a seraph with a burning coal (which could be seen as the most outrageous placebo ever!), or a resurrected Jesus saying to Thomas, “touch and see and believe”—God wants to clear away any obstacles to our being able to hear the most important question ever—a question that gets asked again and again, in every time and in every place. “Who will go for me?”
3) The Mystery of God, maybe even more incomprehensible to us than the mystery of the Trinity, is that God choses to be in a continuing partnership with us. God didn’t just choose a people, give them a label, and go off on vacation somewhere else in the universe. God didn’t just come down to earth to “set the record straight” as Emmanuel, and then figure the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus would solve all our problems. God, as Spirit, moves among us, hovering, whispering always, hoping that we will put aside our fear, shed the layers of self-hate that we have been taught, and hear God’s call, and have the courage and the spark to put our hands up, to open our mouths, to say and mean, “Me. Pick me. Yes, I will go in your name.”
As promised, I’m going to give us a little time to share how my version of events makes you feel. I would love for you to share a time when you felt that you answered God’s call, or maybe you are still trying to figure out what it is God wants you to do, or maybe you are still caught in feeling you have somehow gotten somewhere you shouldn’t be.
Spend a few minutes talking with one another—and then I’ll bring us back to wrap up. [BREAK OUT GROUPS for 10 min?]
In this season of Pentecost, this year, I challenge us to be more like Isaiah. As Paul says in Romans, we have been adopted into the family. If we think we are naked, we have been given beautiful clothes. If we think we are second class, we are presented not just as part of the family but heirs. And with that comes responsibility. There are no more excuses. May our eyes be open to the wonder around us. May our ears be open to hearing God’s voice. May our lives, and the life of our church, be an honest response—for we too want God to use us. “Here we are, Lord. Send us!”