Have you ever found yourself somewhere where you now you weren’t meant to be? Last year I was in Christchurch and my wife and I were looking for somewhere to eat. The tour guide we saw earlier that day told us how they had reopened the cinema complex in the city centre, so we thought we’d check that out. When we arrived, we notice people dressed up, there were people with clipboards, and a red carpet. It was then we realised this was opening night, and these were invited guests, and we weren’t on the list. So, we quietly slipped out and found somewhere else to eat. We were a little embarrassed, out of sorts, and confused, because we were in a place we weren’t meant to be. Fortunately, no one noticed so we escaped without incident. Isaiah must have felt the same thing when he was in the temple on that fateful day when the seraphim began flying around and the presence of God was fully revealed. Clearly this was a special occasion and he just happened to be there, rightly or wrongly, when it occurred.
It’s one of those interesting phenomena how people speak about such moments, especially when they were invited to be there. How many people would you tell if the Queen, or one of her family, come to visit, and you got an invited to a reception with them? How many people would you tell if you got to spend time with your favourite football player? How many people would you tell if you went out on a special date at some 5 star silver service restaurant, especially if it was free? When these things happen to us, we can’t help but talk about it with others. It’s not that we’re boasting, we are just sharing the excitement and thrill of the experience. The memory of the moment is something we want to live with forever. It is something we will tell our children, and our grandchildren, and everyone else who will listen.
That’s the essence of Isaiah’s call. He finds himself in the temple one day, and suddenly he is caught up with the presence of God. He acknol3wedges he shouldn’t be there and realises that his sinfulness excludes him. His life is not perfect, his words are not pure and undefiled, he is literally a fish out of water drowning in the sheer enormity of God’s presence. But God doesn’t let him run away and hide. He doesn’t let his sinful condition exclude him from the moment. God literally comes down and, like Jeremiah last week, touches his mouth declaring him forgiven. It is this forgiveness that God freely gives that makes Isaiah able to remain in the moment. He is no longer a person in the wrong place at the wrong time. God wants him there and makes it possible for him to be present. So, when God asks who will I send to speak my Word to the nations, Isaiah’s enthusiasm for the experience puts up his hand and says send me.
Every Sunday we have the same encounter. We come into the presence of God. We don’t deserve to be here. We are all sinners and all unworthy to be in God’s presence. We are all visitors and newcomers, because every week our chaotic and dysfunctional lives make us unworthy to be here. I don’t think people who have been occupying the same pew or seat all their lives realise this. Too many Christians operate with a sense of entitlement. They think because they have been a Christian all their lives they deserve to be here. In fact, too many look with disdain upon visitors and newcomers as interlopers to “their” church. But it isn’t “their” church, it is the body of Christ. It matters not how long you have been a Christian, every Sunday you come once more into God’s presence unworthy and out of place.
The wonder of this encounter though is what God does. He reminds us of our baptism, that we are named by Him, Father, Son and Spirit. He purges sin from us by reminding us of the unconditional grace the Gospel gives as we are once again forgiven. He whispers into our ears his words of life, comfort and hope and we hear His Word read and proclaimed. He reaches out and physically touches out lips with the body and blood of His Son, reminding us that he is truly present and that this presence is given to us in love. Every Sunday we are brought into the presence of God, even though we don’t deserve to be here, and God heals, restores, and forgive in amazing ways. And then he says, who will take my Word to the nations? Who will step up and speak the message of love and grace to their neighbours, family, friends, and colleagues? Who will do this?
When Isaiah realised what was happening, when he realised the magnitude of the moment, when he encountered the touch of God, he couldn’t help but leap for joy and speak enthusiastically about it. So why are Christians so reluctant to do similar. Is it they have forgotten what God does for them every week? Is it they have become complacent and apathetic to the absolute wonder of God’s grace in His Son’s death and resurrection? If we truly embraced what God is doing here every week, we would be shouting it from the rooftops to anyone who we meet. We would leave worship with a passionate hunger to share the message God places on our hearts. In the end this is the heart of the matter. We come not for our sake, but so through us God may invite others to experience the same wonder and amazing love He is desperate to share with the world. We come as visitors, newcomers, and people out of place, and leave forgiven restored, loved and touched by grace to speak His Word as His people in the world. We should be leaping out of our seats and yelling, Lord send me.