Here I Am, Send Me.


falling-leaves

 

The following was a sermon that was presented in response to a discussion over coffee.    My favorite sermons are the ones that are born from a conversation between friends that takes a theological turn.   This one, resulted from a moment with a parishioner, where she very candidly said; “The Trinity is a silly concept,…Drives me nuts to even be talking about it…”  

Isaiah 6:1-8

6In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

5And I said: “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!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.

7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8Then 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!”

~*~

This past summer, there was a micro-burst that hit Cheshire County, and as such we were all witnesses to an incredible show of nature’s majesty.

Thunderstorms, lighting, rain, and hail ripped through Cheshire County, and travelled down the Route 9 corridor with a power and a rage that was almost incomprehensible.

I found myself driving home in that mess, and in the 14 years I have been making that daily trip between Hillsboro and Keene, I do not believe I have ever experienced a more heart stopping journey.

By the time I made it to Stoddard, the roads were almost washed out, and I had to drive through several inches of water at several points.    Each time I did, I held that steering wheel and my breath tight.  This was pre-Jeep, when I drove the Nissan Versa, and turning on the wipers caused by car to rock back and forth.

By my half way point, I saw lighting strike the ground no more than 100 or 150 yards in front of me.   The noise was deafening.   Seeing it strike caused my heart to skip a bit.

Hail the size of quarters struck my hood and trees bent before me in the wind.   With each curve, I scanned the horizon for the tornado that just had to be there.     The majority of the forty five minute journey was spent at 25 miles per hour, and with a prayer on my lips.

When I finally arrived home, and scrambled to the garage, I stood looking out at the rain.   I saw the water being pushed across the street by the wind.   I saw branches of the few trees in my neighborhood swaying to near snapping levels.    I stood in that garage and I marveled at the sight.

I stood there, with heart beating fast, knowing what I was seeing.

I know the Science behind thunder.   I remember learning about it in the tenth grade.   I know that the sudden increase in pressure and temperature produces an expansion of air, and that air creates a sonic shock wave.   I know that hail is produced when there are thunderstorms that have strong updrafts, rising up to levels were water freezes.   I know that what I am seeing is natural, scientific, and explainable.

I am still in awe.

I stood in that garage wondering what the early Native Americans would have thought.   Lightning and Thunder were their Gods, and it’s easy to see why.   I wonder what those, knee deep in the demons and angels of the middle ages must have thought.  I remember the story of Martin Luther hearing his calling in the Thunderstorm, or John Wesley feeling the presence of holiness on a ship tossed by storm.    I wonder what the people of Jesus’ time thought as they stood watching their twisting trees and hailstorms.

After a while I moved into the house, and I relayed the story of my journey home.    In the end, there was little in the way of words that I could use to describe the experience.   As I sat down by the window and continued to watch the storm, I realized that in all likelihood the singular word that I could use to describe that storm, was simply “Awesome”.   Whatever word Martin Luther, John Wesley, The Native American, or the Middle Easter Shepherd chose to utter from their vantage point, I imagine it meant the same thing.

Mind you there are two uses of the word awesome.

There is the awesome that is uttered when you stand in your garage looking out at a storm, and then there is the awesome that is the third most popular phrase in a 15 year olds vocabulary behind “I want” and “I need”.

The Awesome that is muttered in hallways of schools across this country is not the awesome I refer too.    Awesome is not an adjective that can be applied to a classmate’s car, a new song by some overpaid pop diva, or even the incredibly succulent taste bud tease of the world’s best cheeseburger.    Instead I refer to the Awesome of Noah Webster;

“that which inspires great admiration, apprehension, or fear”.  When I say awesome, I mean that which is exhaustively inspirational.

I like “exhaustively inspirational”.   That’s what I mean when Awesome escapes my lips during the lightning and the thunder of an autumn night.

I also mean the Awesome that is found in the still moments too.

Awesome Moments

I remember those first few months of my calling.  It was period of mental turmoil at its finest.  I knew I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to doing.   I knew I was on a pathway that was no longer seemed right, but I wasn’t sure what to do next.

As I was stewing this over in silence for several months– torn between wanting to listen and answer with doing all the things that world said I should be – I had my car accident. Without going into too much detail, I was travelling at about 60 when something happened to my tire, and I lost control of my car.   For a moment, I was partial ejected from the car as it rolled down an embankment.

The accident and it was in slow motion.   What seemed like an eternity of violence wasn’t scary though.   Everything was crystal clear, and I remember each moment.  I remember saying two things to myself as it happened; “Get your legs back into the car” and “Roll with it”.

Although I came out unscratched it shook me up.   I realized that in that moment, that in an instant everything could change, and that tagging along for the ride was no longer going to be an option.  Although I know that the God didn’t cause this accident to get my attention, there was certainly a message in it.

It was an awesome moment, and in it was a message from me; to me.  I knew in that moment, that rolling with it was a temporary answer. Rolling with it certainly was not a long term solution, or a long term life path.

Yet, I am the most stubborn of beasts.   In my stubbornness I still did nothing.   I stewed on it.   I stewed on it for a long time expecting the answer to make itself known to me.

As I waited, I did what I was supposed to do.   I turned to books on living out my faith, I turned to my pastor who had no idea what to do with me, and I turned to the Bible and read the calling of people like Jonah, Paul, or David.    I stalled.   I waited.   I basically decided to roll with it as long as I could.

Then on an average day, in the middle of October, I took an extended lunch, and took a walk outside of of a state forest in the town that I worked.     Although I would like to say I went looking to hear from God or seeking answers, the truth is, I wanted to choke the living daylights out of someone, and I needed to find a moment to recharge.  I need to sort through the proper pathways for resolving a run of the mill work challenge, and I wanted to do it outside, in the beauty of a fall walk.

In the end, it was a walk interrupted.

It wasn’t long before the same old questions starting to pop front and center.  Everyone has a calling – or that pathway that we are destined and designed to take – and that calling lies square in the center of our beings. If you try to ignore it peace will forever prove elusive.

In that walk interrupted, I started to ask myself if I am this angry because I am not supposed to be doing what I was.   Were my answers proving elusive because I was asking the wrong questions?   What could God possibly want from me?  I am not perfect, but I am a good man.   I am a good husband.   I have a good job.   I am a good provider.   What more can he possibly expect of me?

I sat down on the remnants of a stone wall and stopped for what was supposed to be a second or too.   I closed my eyes and felt the pleasure of a light breeze and the warmth of the sun on my face, and I exhaled.

~*~

Isaiah walked into the temple in Jerusalem, in a time of dread and uncertainty. The passage that started this message begins with the words:  “In the year that King Uzziah died.”   In ancient times, this would have been denoted a time of transition, fear, or uncertainty.   The king was the source of your comfort, your wealth, your sense of well being, and when he died, you would have been filled with uncertainty.

(Note:  One modern day scholar, suggests that if the passage was written today, to relay that same uncertainty, the writer would have likely said something like “In the year of the Twin Towers Collapse” to draw the same degree of fear from a modern reader.)

Isaiah’s world was shaken up.   He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do.   He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to proceed.   He had no idea of the path he was to take.   He walked into that Temple, but for all intents and purposes, Isaiah was sitting down on a moss covered stone wall.

~*~

I sat there for a few seconds with my eyes closed, and after a few moments I prayed.  I asked God to show me.  I asked God to help me understand.   I asked God for some sort of clarity or some sort of understanding.  As I opened my eyes I looked up, and amidst the rays of that warm sun, there were what seemed like millions of orange, red, and yellow leaves falling all around me.   The beauty of my little perch on that stonewall was stunning.

It was awesome. It was awesome in its beauty.  It was awesome in its stillness.  It was awesome in its holiness.   I can still recall that moment as vividly as if I was still sitting there.

When I think of the colors, the sun, the falling leaves all around me;  I can see Isaiah entering that Temple and looking up.  He writes that as he did, he looked up and saw the Robe of God, and it filled everything.   I don’t know the glory and the grandeur that moment held for Isaiah; I can only imagine.

Yet, I know when I saw the Robe of God in those falling leaves on that stone wall it was beyond profound.

As Isaiah was touched by the awesomeness of that moment, so are we when we find ourselves in the presence of God.

On that stone wall, I was taken by the awesomeness of the moment.   I remember being perfectly sure.  Like I imagine it for Isaiah,  I too knew that God was everywhere before me.

In that moment, I was completely and fully in the presence of God, like no other moment in life.  I had been searching for that epiphany for so many months.  I was demanding it.   I was wishing for it.   I was praying that it would arrive, and in that instant I had it.

We all know the story of Moses and his mountaintop experiences with bushes enveloped in fire.   For me there was no burning bush, parting of the seas, miraculous water into wine moment on that stone wall.   Yet, wonderfully, not one of those things can even come remotely close to the power that I sat in at that moment.  It was a truly awesome moment that has profoundly changed every moment since.

When I close my eyes, and picture Isaiah in the temple, I can see that moment.  I can hear the cries of Isaiah saying “who am I?  I am nothing?  I live in a world broken beyond comparison.   I am broken.   Who am I?   What could you possibly want with me?”

What has this got to do with the Trinity?

As people of faith, we are called to celebrate the great mystery of a triune God; a God the exists as three but one.   We are called to celebrate the God that is Creator, the God that is Jesus, and the God that is the Spirit.   For many this is an enormous stumbling block with whole denominations springing up in the middle of the fights about how they wish to define that unique character of the divine.

Theologians call the Trinity a great and holy mystery.

For me, It’s not a challenge to my faith to see God as one God in three person.

It may be a mystery, and parts may be hard to reconcile, but this I know;

We can see God in the awesomeness of a spring thunder storm.

We can see God in the awesomeness of a grieving family.

We can see God in the awesomeness of the actions of his followers.

We can see God in the awesomeness of a moment spent in prayer.

We can see God in the in the awesomeness of the quiet moment on the side of the road.

We can see God in the falling oak leaf.

The real truth of the mystery is that God’s presence is real, around us, and fully made known in a world of possibilities…and a world of awesomeness.

As I close this message, be assured that what is more important than figuring out the how’s and why’s of a theology that has caused headaches for generations; is the awareness that when you are in that moment, when you are in the presence of God; whether it’s like Isaiah’s moment, my moment in Fox Forest, or the one that is uniquely your own; the only response that is possible is Isaiah’s.

For me that’s the miracle of the Trinity that I celebrate:

God meeting you were you at, in places that work for God; even if they are unexpected, unexplainable, or unexpected for me… God meeting you in ways that work.

You might be fighting with God – and from time to time we all do – and ignoring the pushes, prods, or kicks… but one day you will be at that place that makes perfect sense while it makes none.

It will be uniquely yours and Gods.   You might grasp the Robe of God with both hands, or you might use language, expressions and symbols different from the ones employed in this place or churches like us, but the response will be the same.   It is the only response that is possible.

Your response will be Isaiah’s:

When you see the Robe of God, and are touched by the Glory of his presence, you will stand and declare; Here I am!  Use Me!   Here I am Send Me!

As you do, know this;  You stand in the very real, very miraculous, very holy, and very awesome presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit;  Amen.

(Pic/Flckr.com/Vancity Allie/2005)

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