The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany at Hope, Jerseyville
Sermon Text: Isaiah 6:1-13
Grace, mercy, and
peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What makes your
best friend your best friend? What are the key, foundational building blocks of
a strong, long-lasting relationship? Is it having something in common: common experiences
and interests, or common values and priorities? Or is it their loyalty and
faithfulness, that you can always count on them and trust them?
Whatever it is and
whatever your relationship is built on, what would happen if those building
blocks were taken away? Would you still be friends? If you grew up together and
shared everything together, but then you both moved away and your interests and
experiences, your values and priorities changed, would your friendship last?
Or if it’s built
on trust, loyalty, and faithfulness, what happens if they betray you, abuse
your trust so that they are no longer trusty worthy, loyal, of faithful to you,
but only to themselves? They ignored you except when they needed something for
themselves, but they never did anything for you. Instead, they hurt you, talked
bad about you if they ever talked about you at all, and they hurt the people
you care about. Is there a point when that person is no longer a friend? If
that is your child, is there a point where you just throw up your hands and let
them be and do what they want because they just keep hurting you? Is there a
line that they could cross where you would just be done with them?
Do you think you
have crossed that line with God? If a friend treated you the same way you treat
God, do you think they would still be your friend? Or if you treated your dad the
same way you treat God, would your dad still claim you as his child? Is there
any reason we should have any sort of relationship with God?
We don’t really
have much in common with God. We were created in His image and likeness. We
started out similar, but then Mankind fell, we sinned, we lost the image and
likeness of God, and now we all fall short of His glory.
He is the “Holy, holy, holy… Lord of hosts.” He is
thrice holy, three times holy, the perfect Triune God who never does anything
wrong and never makes a mistake. He is the Lord God Almighty, the maker of
heaven and earth. He is eternal, without beginning or end. He is omniscient,
all-knowing. He is omnipresent, all-present. He is omnipotent, all-powerful. He
is immutable, never-changing. He is the Lord God of Sabaoth, the heavenly host,
which means He is the commander of the heavenly army of angels as they battle
the devil and his army of demons. Does that sound like you? Is that what your
average day looks like? We are not like God.
And our interests are
not the same either, and our loyalty and faithfulness does not lie with Him,
but with ourselves. While He is interested in being with us, we are only
interested in ourselves. We do not keep the Ten Commandments even though it
hurts Him when we break them. We hurt or harm our neighbor in his body. We hate
and get angry with our neighbor. We don’t help and support him in every
physical need. And we do not lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we
say and do, much less in what we think. And the relationship between husband
and wife is not always of love and honor, but suffers from the same
unfaithfulness and lack of loyalty as our relationship with God does.
We hurt God and
the people He cares about. We betray Him, don’t listen to Him, actually do the
exact thing He tells us not to do. We serve ourselves first, and then maybe we
ask Him for something we need. We limit our relationship with Him to when we
need something from Him, plus an hour on Sunday morning. But the rest of our
week, the rest of our life, that’s ours.
Even for a parent,
that is probably stretching, testing, and straining that relationship. If a
child has walked away from their parent, abandoned them, had nothing to do with
them, turned their back on them, done everything wrong and done everything the
parent told them not to do, even the most loving parents would likely be
tempted to walk away.
So God ought to
walk away. He ought to remove us from Him, leave us to lie in waste and
desolation for we are a people of unclean lips and we dwell in the midst of a people
of unclean lips. He ought to forsake us and leave us to be burned for we have
forsaken Him. He ought to do as Peter says and “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
But instead, He
tells Peter, “Do not be afraid.” He
doesn’t send Isaiah, this unclean man, away, but an angel comes and touches his
unclean lips with a burning coal from the altar. And from that altar, from the
place of sacrifice, from the sacrifice made on the cross, Isaiah’s guilt is
taken away and his sin atoned for.
though we may not be like God, we may have nothing in common with Him, we may
have lost that image and likeness He gave us, yet He becomes like us. He
becomes one of us. God becomes man, takes on human flesh, shares with us every
experience common to us. He shares in our temptation. He shares in our
weakness. He shares with us the needs of this mortal flesh, of being hungry,
tired, and thirsty, of being hurt and in pain. He takes on our fallen image and
He even takes on
our sin, our unfaithfulness, our disloyalty, our abandonment of God and is
abandoned and forsaken by God when He was in His hour of greatest need as He
hung upon the cross. He takes on everything we have ever done to hurt and
offend God and takes our guilt away. He atones, makes amends, and pays for
everything that we have done wrong to mend, heal, and make right our
relationship with God.
He sends us no
angel or burning coal, but the very body and blood of Jesus, the Son, the
second person of the Holy Triune God. And His body and blood that was given and
shed for you on the cross is taken from the altar, taken from the place of
sacrifice, and put upon your lips and “your
guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” You are forgiven. You are at
peace with God. You have a peaceful and right relationship with Him that He is
your heavenly Father and you are His dear child.
And He shall never
leave you nor forsake you but will continue to speak His Word and be present in
His Sacraments that your ears might hear and your eyes might see His work for
you. For how long? “How long, O Lord?”
Until the very end. Until the cities are uninhabited, the houses are without
people, and the whole land is desolate. Until there is not one believer, but
all people on earth have forsaken God, God will be present. To the very end of
this life, God is with you, yet that is only your beginning.
When this life
ends, your eternal life in Christ begins with Him in His kingdom. Then, you
shall be like Isaiah who sees the Lord sitting upon His throne, high and lifted
up, and your voice will be added to the voices of those seraphim and cherubim.
You will sing with the band of the apostles, the fellowship of the prophets,
the martyrs of God’s kingdom, the holy church throughout the world, all the
angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, “Holy, holy, holy.” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.