Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 6:1-13
In 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!” [9And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ 10Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” 11Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; 12until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. 13Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
Isaiah had a vision while he was in the temple. In that vision, he saw himself in the presence of God. He saw God sitting on his throne the seraphim flying around with him and praising God by saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. "
In the presence of God, in the awe of the majesty, the wonder of almighty God, Isaiah had one response. He cried from the depth of his soul, he cried brokenness of his spirit, he cried from the life, "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 for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." In the presence of almighty God, in the wonder, in the might, in the holiness, in the righteousness of God, all Isaiah could proclaim was his sinfulness. In the presence of God, Isaiah felt, he understood, he experienced most profoundly his own sinfulness. Then our text says that one of the seraphim takes a burning coal with tongs from the altar of God and touches the lips of Isaiah declaring: "Behold this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven." Notice the response of God to the sinfulness of Isaiah. God acts. He is moved and he responses by cleansing Isaiah of his sin. God doesn’t tell Isaiah to get his act together, he doesn’t send Isaiah away from his presence. But God in his loving kindness, in the grace of his kingship responses by making Isaiah clean.
God provides a way for Isaiah to be released from the human predicament of sin. God frees Isaiah from the torment of his sin, released Isaiah from the guilt of his sinfulness. God acts so that Isaiah may be fully human, knowing, the full freedom of living in the love of God. Then notice what happens next. God needs someone who will bring a message to his people. God needs someone to go to is people, and notice Isaiah’s response, He says, "Here am I. Send me." After Isaiah has been touched by God, after Isaiah has been cleansed by God, after God has acted in Isaiah’s life, then Isaiah is free to respond. Isaiah has been freed from his bonds of sin, he has been freed from the selfishness of his own sin, so he can now say to God, here am I: send me, God, let me do that for you, let me be your spokesman to these people. Let me God. I can do it.
Unlike Isaiah, we won’t be touched with a burning coal from the altar of God, But we will be instead, touched with the forgiving hand of Jesus. Jesus is God’s salvation in our world. Jesus is God’s touch to cleanse our sinfulness. When you come to the altar for communion, Jesus’ touch of forgiveness will be here for you. He will cleanse you as Isaiah was cleansed by the seraphim long ago. That cleansing will be just as good, just as thoroughly, just as life changing for you as it was for Isaiah. God still hears our cries concerning the human predicament of our sinfulness. He is still moved to compassion, he wants us freed from our bondage to sin. So, here at this altar, at this table, you will feel the touch of Jesus’ forgiveness through the bread and wine. Here God will hear your cries, God will hear your lament, God will touch you and make you new. God hears the cries of the lost, and he answers with his voice of forgiveness, with his touch of love. Let us pray: Almighty God, we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. Touch us again and heal us of the things we have done and left undone. Thank you for the forgiveness your Son provides us. Lead us in your ways. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.