Jesus Is The Least And Last For Me (Midweek Lent 2)


Jesus Is The Least And Last For Me

That should never have happened. Many years ago I remember seeing two little boys get into a fight on a playground. They were pushing. They were shoving. They were hitting. The mom quickly came up. And she held them apart and said, “You two are brothers. You are brothers. You are family. No one gets you like your brother. And no one understands you like your brother.” I sat there looking at the boys. And the look of hatred was quickly replaced with shock and then shame. They could see that that fight should never have happened. This evening we see a similar fight the disciples had with each other. In Luke’s gospel, in chapter 22, we read these words: “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” (Luke 22:24 NIV11-GKE)

When we read this we wonder how in the world this conversation happened at all. Did they compare their sermons, their miracles, how many demons they drove out? Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t give our minds enough time to ponder the possibilities. Instead, he gets us right to the point. We read: “Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.” (Luke 22:25 NIV11-GKE)

There is no more crushing correction than to be compared to the bad guy. Gentile kings were legendary for their power, their selfishness, and their cruelty. And here we have an example. Step 1: The Gentile kings would take your money by force. Step 2: By force then those same kings would misuse your money and then make you call them “benefactors.”1 What does “benefactor” mean? It means, “do-gooder.” Listen then what Jesus tells them next: 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?” (Luke 22:26–27 NIV11-GKE)

Not so with you! That’s the statement of fact that Jesus tells his disciples. What does being a grown-up look like? What does being a leader look like? It means continually being willing to be at the end of the line instead of the front. It means serving those at the table instead of sitting at the table. It reminds me of the Supreme Court. Whenever there’s a new member of the Supreme Court, that person then has to do service tasks for the rest—buying donuts, getting coffee. And whoever is the newest yearns for the day when he or she is done serving others like that. Jesus says to each of us, “not so with you.” Jesus puts us on this world to serve others. And he lets us grow up and even become leaders not so that we would go to the front of the line, but instead, that we would continually, voluntarily go to the end of the line. And here is where we see our own sin, don’t we? We are sinners who continually absorb the sinful world around us. We want to be at the front of the line. We want to sit at the table, not serve those at it. And, no doubt, when Jesus said this to his disciples, they saw their own sin and repented of it. But listen to what Jesus says next: “Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27 NIV11-GKE)

If you could boil down Jesus’ life to one word, this would be a good choice, wouldn’t it? Jesus’ entire earthly life was service. Jesus took on human flesh and blood to serve his parents and his God above. Jesus grew up not to be freed from service, but to take on even more service. Jesus became least. Look at Good Friday. There is no lower position than a criminal crucified. Jesus became the least. But he did so for me. Jesus became the last too. When it came to sleep, Jesus was the last one to sleep. When it came to food, he was the last one to eat. All of this he did for me. That’s what each of those disciples could say. That’s what each of us can say today. Jesus became the least and the last for me. And that’s why this time of Lent is filled with pain. For a little more than normal we see our own sin and its cost. But it is also filled with such joy, isn’t it? For here we see how Jesus became the least and last for me. These words conclude this way: 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28–30 NIV11-GKE)

Look at the amazing grace displayed. Grace is God’s undeserved love toward us who don’t deserve it. The same disciples who didn’t want to serve those at the table now get to sit at Jesus’ table in heaven. The same disciples who yearned to push themselves to the front of the line, now by grace, are placed there. And isn’t the same true for us? The Christian student who despises her teacher then grows up and, by God’s grace, gets to serve others by becoming a teacher. The boy who falls asleep during the sermons and resists reading God’s word at home then, only by God’s grace, gets to preach sermons and read God’s word at home. The children who resists their parents so mightily in their teenage years grow up. And by God’s grace, that amazing undeserved love, get to have the undeserved privilege of having their own children. And finally, at the end of all their lives as Christians, Jesus then, in an unexpected act of grace, gathers us all believers to him in heaven, but not to serve at the table. Instead, we get to sit at the table. All of this is ours for one simple reason: Jesus is the least and last for me. Amen.

1 “ⲉⲩⲉⲣⲅⲉⲧⲉ” (Luke 22:25 GNT-ALEX)

But For Us Fights The Valiant One (Lent 1)


But For Us Fights The Valiant One

There is a need for justice. When someone cuts you off in traffic; When someone bullies you on the playground; and most of all, when the name of our Lord God is dragged into the mud—for all of these times that hurts our souls and cause us pain, there needs to be justice. This morning we hear about justice. And we hear about what Godly people do about justice. In 1 Samuel 17, we read, 4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” (1 Samuel 17:4–11 NIV11-GKE)

The context in these words is war. In ancient battle they would gather all their troops against each other. Often there would be a valley in the middle. And on the high ground on one side and on the high ground on the other the troops would assemble. And there they would stay since each side did not want to fight up hill. What you need in these circumstances is someone to pick a fight. In these words you meet that man. His name is Goliath. The man is almost 10 feet tall. He is a champion among champions. He was the one who, day after day, started to pick a fight. And when he stood up in the middle of the valley, the Israelites on the other side would tremble. What they needed was a valiant one. They needed a valiant soldier to stand up to this 10 foot tall enemy. And, as we follow these words, we soon meet one. His name is David. He goes out to visit his brothers at the battle line. And one by one, he invites the soldiers to go out against the Philistine and fight him. And one by one, they decline. Finally David is brought before king Saul. And so, we read the words which follow: 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. 45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:32–40, 45–49 NIV11-GKE)

Finally then, justice is served. Everyone that day was looking for a warrior, a champion, who would be valiant for them. And finally on that day they found one. David became for them what everyone deep down wanted to be, but could not. These words make us want to pray to be David. They make us want to stand up to all the Goliaths in our own lives—the times people cut us off, bully us, and even insult our Lord God.

What if, my friends, I told you that there is more going on in these words? I mention this because, for years I would go to Sunday School as a child and the conclusion I reached was this: David trusted in the Lord, therefore you, little Stevie, go out and trust the Lord too. But my dear friends, David isn’t the valiant one in these words. The Lord was the Valiant One. And if we go back and read these words a little closer we see this. David talks to Saul and he says the Lord delivered him from the jaws and paws of bears and lions. And when he stands up against the Philistine what he says sounds like no movie that I’ve ever watched. Instead of talking about how amazing he was, he talks about the Lord—how he goes against this Philistine in the name of the Lord. And before it began, it was over.

As we look back at these words, it’s hard not to see our own sin and weakness. For there are so many areas in our lives where Jesus is the one who has to stand for us, in our place. And instead of trusting him, we trust in ourselves. We cannot convert ourselves to faith. We cannot take away our own sin. We cannot change our thoughts, words, and attitudes. We cannot change anything in our lives—at least for good. All this is in the hands of Jesus. Jesus is the real and true Valiant One.

And in our gospel for this morning we see such and amazing example of this don’t we? Again and again and again, Satan is hurling one lie, one trap, one deception after another at Jesus. But Jesus neither gets too hot nor too cold. Jesus never says too little nor too much. He perfectly quotes God’s word and perfectly applies God’s word.

And all of this is such good news for us. For all the times we thought we had to have the perfect word or response—and failed. For all the times we thought we could get through this world by raw power or pretty persuasion. For all the times we thought we were the ones who needed to be in control; For all the times we tried to be the Valiant one, Jesus is the Valiant one in our place. He is the one who fights for us.

So my dear friends in Christ, when you read these familiar words of David and Goliath, they are not written for perfect people who never mess up. They are written for us; for all the times we have not let Jesus be our Valiant One in our place. When you go home tonight, go home content. Go home content knowing that because Jesus is the Valiant One, when God looks at you he does not see the times you should have stood up and didn’t. He does not see the times you pushed your Savior out of the way to take control, only to mess it up. God sees his sinless Son in your place. For for us fights the Valiant One. Amen.

Who Is The Dreamer? (Epiphany 7)


Who Is The Dreamer?

Joseph’s dreams were different. Each of us have dreams. But how many of us can say that our dreams carry the wonder and weight of God’s will? We can joke sometimes, pretending that our dreams are God’s will. But we know it’s not true. We might say, “My dear wife, I had the dream last night that I had a brand new BMW motorcycle. I think we both know what this means, don’t we? It’s God’s will for me to have one.’” We can laugh at this and joke about it because we know our dreams are nothing more than dreams. But Josheph’s dreams were different. Joseph’s dreams carried all the weight and wonder of God’s will. God gave to Joseph this amazing gift to have dreams that were far more than dreams.

And so, from early on, Joseph was the dreamer. And those in his family knew it. His brothers hated him not because his dreams were just dreams, but instead because there was more to his dreams. And deep down inside they knew it. And they hated him for it. His brothers hated him for it. And deep down, his father feared him for it.

His dreams carried the weight and wonder of God’s will. And as a result, he was The Dreamer. And very soon he learned a powerful lesson. His dreams brought him disaster. His brothers hated him so very much that they sold him off into slavery, wanting to put him to death, but not wanting to get their hands dirty. That’s what happens when your dreams carry the weight and wonder of God’s will.

But his dreams didn’t just bring disaster for himself. His dreams brought disaster for others too. Joseph is in Pharaoh’s prison. And there he meets two men. He meets the cupbearer and the head-baker of Pharaoh. He tells these men the meaning of their dreams. He tells the cupbearer that the meaning of his dream is that Pharaoh would “lift up his head.”1 and he would serve Pharaoh again. Then the baker says, “ooh, it’s my turn,” expecting some good news. Instead, Joseph tells the baker that Pharaoh would lift the bakers head up too—yes, indeed, he would lift his head up off his body when he is beheaded. And what shocks us is that there is no hesitation at all when Joseph says this.

This drives us to ask the question, why. There was no hesitation when Joseph spoke of his dreams because in the months and years in the cold darkness of prison a powerful truth: His brothers accused him of being the “great dreamer.”2 But really, truly, Joseph realized that he wasn’t the dreamer at all. God was the dreamer. God had a dream for Joseph. God’s dream was to give Joseph this great amazing gift of sharing his own dreams and then to have him use that gift. But instead of using the gift, Joseph abused that gift. The selfish teenager had a dream or two and went around telling everyone he could that all of them would bow down to him. How selfish and childish he was! But God had more dreams for Joseph. His dream was to bring Joseph to forgiveness. In that cold prison Joseph had time to see his sinful abuse of his gift. And he had time to see that he was forgiven for that sin. God brought him to forgiveness. And with that then he was able to forgive his hateful, murdering brothers. We see that in these words. We read: 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:3–5 NIV11-GKE)

My dear friends in Christ, where’s the pain and punishment? Oh my dear friends in Christ, if this were a movie there would be a long section where Joseph gets back and gets even with his evil brothers. And then there would be a long speech about how they got what was coming to them. But look here at these words. There is not even a hint of revenge and retribution. How can that be? God had long before this brought Joseph to forgiveness for abusing his own gifts. And as a result, long ago Joseph had forgiven his brothers. God brought Joseph to forgiveness. But there’s even more in these words: 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, Lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me Lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’ 12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.” 14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.” (Genesis 45:6–15 NIV11-GKE)

God brings Joseph to forgiveness. Then he brings him through forgiveness. And on the other side is thankful service. Joseph zealously and faithfully uses his gift of dreams to serve his God and save his brothers.

There is so much more we could say this morning about what is going on here in these words. But, for this morning and for this time, let’s pause and apply these words to us in our lives. Who is the real dreamer? It wasn’t Joseph. It was his God. And the same is true for us. God is the real dreamer in your life. And just as he had dreams for Joseph, he has dreams for you. And it follows the same path for you as it did for Joseph. He gives you gifts, and sadly, instead of using those gifts, you abuse those gifts—and so do I. A little boy and his sister grow up together. And like it is with so many families, they get into fights. But the boy grows bigger and stronger. And when they are fighting he pushes her and hurts her. Then that there is that fear-filled moment when he realizes that that he used the gift of strength as an abuse of strength. A little girl grows older and she realizes that she guide a conversation and even gain friends by telling jokes. Then, without thinking about it, she makes fun of her friend, and from then on she loses that friend. God gave her a gift. And she abused that gift.

But then after that, what is God’s dream and desire? He brings us to forgiveness. That descendent of Joseph was born in Bethlehem. Jesus grew up and became strong in all of our gifts. But instead of abusing those gifts, he used them perfectly in our place. And then the gift of his own life he gave up to pay for our sins on Good Friday. God brings us to that forgiveness and convinces us that that forgiveness is ours.

But he goes even farther. He doesn’t just bring us to forgiveness. He also brings us through forgiveness to service. With joy in our hearts at knowing that the times I have abused the gifts given to me are forgiven, we then pick up those gifts and use them. We use them just as Joseph did, with zeal and joy.

That, my dear friends in Christ, is why God is the dreamer. For he doesn’t just dream. His dreams carry all the weight and wonder of his own will. What he dreams he is able to get done. So this morning go home in peace. Go home in peace knowing that we might dream. But God is the real dreamer. And his dream for each of us is to bring us to forgiveness and then bring us through forgiveness to service. Amen.

1 ”יִשָּׂ֤א“ (Genesis 40:13 BHS-T)

2 ”בַּ֛עַל הַחֲלֹמ֥וֹת“ (Genesis 37:19 BHS-T)

Jesus Speaks An Unnatural Truth (Epiphany 6)


Jesus Speaks An Unnatural Truth

Sometimes the truth is unnatural. And there are truths in our lives like that, aren’t there? Take, for example skiing. If you’re looking down a steep slope, common sense and gravity would teach you that you need to stand up straight, or else you’ll fall down the mountain. But when you’re skiing, the opposite is true. When you’re skiing down that mountainside your balance and focus is down the hill. And if your balance and focus is not down the mountain, then you’ll fall. It’s the truth. But at first, is seems unnatural to us. And the same is true in our every day life. Jesus speaks to us the truth. But often it is an unnatural truth. We have an amazing example of this in Luke 6: 17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. 20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6:17–21 NIV11-GKE)

Look at what we see here in these words. This is what life looks like after the fall into sin. People are poor. People pine away for food. People are sad. People are diseased. And all of those are effects of the fall into sin. And if we ask the question, “how does Jesus speak to us,” notice the first answer: Jesus comforts the afflicted. But how he does this is amazing. For he speaks to us truths that seem unnatural to us. When it comes to pain, hunger, sadness, and disease, one of the conclusions that we can so very easily reach is that, if Jesus loves us, he will give us joy instead of pain. But here, in these words, notice how he speaks. Jesus promises to give us joy amidst pain, not joy instead of pain. Our life right here and right now is not ‘your best life now.’ Instead, it’s your best life in heaven. What hope these words give to us. When we are sad or sick, diseased or despairing, we know that Jesus is in control and the same Savior who saved us from our sins will also preserve our lives.

Jesus comforts the afflicted with an un-natural truth. He gives us the promise of joy amidst pain instead of joy instead of pain. But he also gives us another promise. As soon as Jesus creates faith in our hearts, we yearn to speak the truth of what God’s word says. But what happens when we do this is that we speak the truth in love, and then the world around us shuts us down and condemns us. They make fun of us, insult us, and get angry at us. And we make the common sense conclusion that what we are doing is wrong. Instead of sharing our joy, we shut it in and keep it secret. But then Jesus comforts us with this amazing unnatural truth. We might conclude that it’s better to say nothing than to say something and be persecuted. But what does Jesus say? We read: ““Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:23 NIV11-GKE)

What an unnatural way to speak. Rejoice? Leap for joy? Look at the pictures that Jesus uses. Look at that phrase, “leap for joy.” I’ve married a sizable number of couples over the years. And I remember years ago a wedding I had. And the bride had invited her sister to be a bridesmaid. And the sister whom she had not seen in a long time showed up. And the proper bride with proper decorum lost all of that. She leaped for joy and ran out and gave her sister a huge hug. That’s the word that Jesus uses her. But notice how unnatural the context. When we speak the truth in love and are persecuted, they we leap in joy. Why is it that we are able to do this? For that’s the same way they treated the Godly prophets in the past. Ahah! There’s the joy. When we face persecutions because of our faith we recognize and realize that there’s nothing new under the sun. We stand in a long line of people who were persecuted because of the truth.

So my friends, when you say that you believe in the Triune God and are persecuted, then rejoice. When you say that you believe that all of God’s word is true and are persecuted, then laugh. When you say that God created us as male and female and are despised, then be content. When you say that baptism saves and are made fun of, then jump for joy. For they treated the prophets the same way.

Jesus speaks an unnatural truth. He comforts us with the unnatural promises of joy amidst pain and joy amidst persecution. But, as these words continue, Jesus speaks in an entirely different way. We read: 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24–26 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus speaks an unnatural truth. First, he comforts the afflicted. But second, he afflicts the comfortable. A good friend of mine has a dog. And when the snow came down in the winter night, what did the dog want to do? More than anything, the dog wanted to go out and play in the back yard in the snow. So my friend let the dog out. And after about 5 minutes there was the dog, staring in the patio door window. So he let the dog in. And then, as soon as the dog is inside, what does the dog want to do? The dog wants to go back outside into the darkness. Isn’t the same true with us. Jesus frees us from pain and persecution, and what do we do? We forget about him. Jesus frees from our sin. And what do we conclude? We conclude that he freed us for our sins. And Jesus shares with un an unnatural truth. He afflicts the comfortable. If you think that your full belly and full bank account gives you the right to forget Jesus and reading, learning, studying and growing in God’s word, then you can have your joy here on earth, but not hereafter in heaven.

So, my dear friends in Christ, what do we do with all this? First, we confess our sins. We confess the times we wanted to find joy instead of pain, instead of how Jesus says our life here is going to be: joy amidst pain. We confess the times we wanted to be let into the light and then, just as soon as we were brought into the light, we ran out into the darkness. And our Savior Jesus is faithful and forgiving. He forgives us and watches over us. He shares with us this unnatural truth: He gives us joy amidst pain. And he gives us joy amidst persecution. Amen.

Whom Shall I Send? (Epiphany 5)


Whom Shall I Send?

Power is impressive. One of the privileges of working in the garden is that, after dad was done tilling the soil, we got to go out and play in the dirt. We got to take out our Tonka trucks. One day, instead of toy dump trucks, we saw real ones. They were paving the road in front of our house. So what do you do when that happens and there’s nothing else to do? You go out and watch. I just sat there for many minutes watching the big machines at work. But then, there was the back-hoe. I remember seeing it dig a trench. And that huge arm swung out and around. And even though it was a safe distance away, for the first time, I could imagine what that machine could do if it swung out to me. Power is impressive. But when you begin to see that that power can be used against you, it becomes terrifying. In our gospel this morning Peter came in contact with true power as Jesus performed a miracle and it was terrifying. This morning in our first lesson we see much the same pattern. In Isaiah 6, we read: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1 NIV11-GKE)

All of God’s word deserves our attention. But there are some that deserve our imagination. Here in these words Isaiah sees the Lord. The real and true God that we worship—the same God that we all have wanted to see with our own eyes—that is the God that revealed himself to Isaiah in this amazing imagery. Isaiah saw heaven itself and God seated there in heaven. But then what happens? “Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” (Isaiah 6:2 NIV11-GKE)

Isaiah sees angels. And these unique kind of angels, called Seraphim, were flying around the throne with two of their wings. But what were doing with the others? With two pairs of wings they covered their faces. And with two others they covered their feet. There’s a visual sermon there. Even though these angels are powerful and without any sin, nevertheless, when it comes to the Triune God, there are facets of their God they are not allowed to see and there are places they are not allowed to go. And as Isaiah sees this he begins to put the pieces together. If holy sinless angels cannot see some facets of God and if there are places they cannot go, then what about me? And as this thought is swirling around in his mind, he sees and hears what happens next: 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:3–4 NIV11-GKE)

The angels continued to sing this triple song of praise to the Triune God. And as they sang, the temple began to come apart. It’s important if a wall shakes and shatters. But when a load-bearing wall begins to fall apart, it begins to be scary. Bit by bit, moment by moment, Isaiah begins to stack all these details up and they add up to a very scary and fearful conclusion. There are facets of God that even angels cannot see. There are places that even angels cannot go. If they are holy and cannot go there, then what about a guy like me who is not holy? And God’s power is truly powerful. He could destroy anything he wants to. And that drove Isaiah’s mind and heart into a very specific direction. We read: ““Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV11-GKE)

Isaiah shouts out that he is a man of unclean lips.1(Isaiah 6:5 BHS-T)}} Here there’s so much that needs more time and attention in explaining. When Isaiah says, “unclean,” he does not mean “a little dirty.” Today we’d use words like viral, infectious, contagious. Notice how he speaks. He says that his people have infected him with their sins and he has infected them with his own sins. And my dear friends in Christ, what do you do with infectious diseases? First, you have to quarantine them. Second, you need to eradicate them. That’s why Isaiah says, “I am ruined.”2 (Isaiah 6:5 BHS-T)}} That is Isaiah saying, “I am as good as dead; I am as destroyed.” Because the God that his holy three-times-over cannot be in contact with infectious sin.

Now, my dear friends in Christ, before we look back at Isaiah and make fun of him concluding that he was over-reacting and being melodramatic, realize that he saw every detail clearly. And where he was is where we need to be this morning. Years ago I met a young woman who was terrified of being married. She was terrified because she knew that along with marriage usually comes children. And there was the terror of having a child and not knowing what to do with the child. But there was more to it than that. She was terrified that her son or daughter would catch her sins. She knew herself well. And she knew that if she had a child she would teach that child her own sins. Whether actively or passively, directly or indirectly, she would teach her child how to sin. She saw how infectious and contagious sin actually was. She saw clearly what Isaiah saw here. And what she saw and what Isaiah saw, we too need to see this morning. We need to shout out with Isaiah, “Woe to me! I have infectious words that flow from contaminated lips.” But what happens next? 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”” (Isaiah 6:6–7 NIV11-GKE)

What do you do with contagion and contamination? First, you quarantine it. Second, you burn it away. And usually that means burning the person along with the contagion. That imagery of burning is precisely and exactly what the Lord uses for Isaiah’s benefit. One of these powerful angels goes to the fire and takes one of these burning coals. And the same infectious, contagious lips that deserve to be destroyed are now burned and cleansed. In a miraculous way, instead of destroying both the person and the contagion, just the contagion of sin is taken away.

And my dear friends, what happened to Isaiah has happened to you. You deserved to be thrown into hell forever where both your body and your sin would burn forever. For what has come out of your lips has infected others. And you have allowed what others have said to infest your heart. But instead Jesus suffered the punishment and torments of hell in your place. But that salvation didn’t just stay there on Good Friday on the cross. No, instead, God came to you with his word, delivering that forgiveness to you, so that just the sin is removed and atoned for. And after that you are left standing. These words end in a very beautiful way: “Then 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!”” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV11-GKE)

The Triune God burns away Isaiah’s sin. And then what happens? The persons within the Trinity speak to each other. There is this great and glad task they have. They want someone to go out and share this forgiveness with others. To begin with Isaiah would have shouted, “do not ever send me!” Now he says, “send me, send me!” He does this for one simple reason: those who are forgiven are glad to share that forgiveness with others.

Let’s travel back in a sermon a little. What would you say to the young woman who was terrified to have children because she was terrified of handing those sins down to her children? You would tell her what the Lord told Isaiah: Your sins are forgiven. Your contagious words are burned away and you are left still standing, forgiven. You would tell her that there is no person better qualified to raise children than her. But that worthiness does not come from her. It comes from pointing her children again and again to the cross where salvation was won and to the word where that forgiveness is delivered to us. You’d tell her that every day her child will see you, a mom, who is full of contagious and infectious sins, who takes those sins to Jesus. There can be no better parent than that.

So we too, can and should start out by saying, “Don’t dare send me.’” Because our sins are infectious and contagious. But, let us end this morning by speaking just as Isaiah did: “Send me, send me!”

1 ”טְמֵֽא־שְׂפָתַ֙יִם֙“

2 ”נִדְמֵ֗יתִי“