218-547-3156
Walker, MN

Feb. 10, 2019   “Woe is Me! {yet I am blessed}

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Let’s consider the OT reading for today from Isaiah 6.   Just like with the Gospel lesson for today, we have the calling of workers, who are given the job of ‘catching men’ for Christ by sharing the word of the Lord.   Whether with Isaiah 6 or with Luke 5, we often jump to the very end of the interaction, and we think of the ending as the main point:   “Here am I! Send me.”   and, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”   Yet, those are only half of the main point.

In both instances, and in all other similar accounts, there’s something important which happens before that conclusion; it is so important that IT MUST come first, or else the conclusion doesn’t happen.   So, before we get to ‘send me’ or ‘follow me & catch men,’   *what came first?  Before the Lord of Hosts issues a call for US to either go or to follow,

His very presence first issues the call to ‘REPENT’.

In many Christian circles today, {& esp. in generic churches, & in TV preaching} this important point of repentance as sinners is often absent, because it doesn’t ‘feel good’

to be told what you’re doing is wrong, you’re bad, you’re being disobedient to God, & God doesn’t like it. In weak Christianity, people just want to feel good about their personal faith.

And, therefore, in many places, preachers do not speak against = /the sin of using God’s name in vain; / or the sin of adultery or homosexuality or pornography; / or the sin of abusing drugs or alcohol; / or the sin of sexual activity & living together without marriage;

/ or the sin of gossip or slander; / or the sin of lying; / or the sin of hating, or holding a grudge & not forgiving; / the sin of greediness & selfishness.

Often, the idea of ‘sin’ is treated lightly: that we’re all the same & God loves you anyway = don’t worry about it.  So, there’s no call to repent; that is: to stop sin now =for your soul’s sake. More & more, you will hear that no one is supposed to judge another’s actions, not the preacher, not the Bible, not even God. They say: God made you this way & accepts you the way you are; so don’t feel guilty.   The attitude is: you can behave as you want, as long as you also say you ‘believe in Jesus.’

But this is opposite the attitude of The ‘holy, holy, holy Lord of hosts’ in the Scripture. The Word of the Lord says, “the soul that sins shall die,” Ez.18;   or from Is. 59, “your sin has separated you from God.”   According to Gal.5, sinners do not inherit the kingdom of God = Period.   And Paul says, “we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” We can’t.

But without this first half =to repent of sin= we will not rightly hear the second half of this main point = that of going, following, & sharing the saving message of God in Christ.   Without the call to repent & turn away from sin, the only message we have is that Jesus is our ‘buddy’, our good example, who isn’t really concerned if we sin. But what He really is is our Holy Lord, and our only Savior from soul-killing sin.

A faithful Christian =at times= will be conflicted about coming into the Lord’s Church; *for who among us deserves to come into the presence of the Holy God?   If those around us knew of the terrible thoughts we had this week, / or heard the unkind things we said about others, / or if they had seen the wrong things we did in secret this week, *would we dare come here if our sins were exposed?   ……..Yet, we are exposed!

Here, we come into the presence of The One who hears all, knows all, & sees all of our sins; AND He has the power to punish us.  Every one of us does not deserve to be here, and =like Isaiah & Simon= we should all be ashamed of how we have disobeyed the King — the Lord of hosts.   When we come here & call on the Lord, our first thoughts ought rightly to be,

“Woe is me!”  and “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful person.”

Yet,… it’s good that we are here;   and most of us are here because we have heard before & we believe that =after our sincere repentance again= the Lord has something more to say to us, and we long to hear it again — almost as much as our Savior Jesus longs to speak it again, & teach us to do better.   We come into God’s promised holy presence, not because we deserve to; but because we can’t hide from God, and our only hope is to seek His mercy = not his tolerance or acceptance = but mercy.

Therefore, when we come here, humbled & afraid =like Isaiah & Simon= we come & we focus on the historic altar-of-sacrifice; and on the cross, on which hung the crucified body of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

++************************************************++

Tom was just 16. Old enough to know he shouldn’t have done it; now he was in for it. He had taken the family car for a joy ride with several of his friends while his parents were away on a short trip. His parents had trusted him to stay home, and their only request was that he not use the car while they were gone.   He had promised that he wouldn’t, but the temptation proved too strong.   And what’s the big deal? Beside, how would his parents find out? But that was before the accident.   Thankfully, no person was hurt, but the car was; the mechanic told him it would cost several thousand dollars to repair. Now Tom was scared. He’d have to face his parents; but he was too old for a spanking or a time-out. The punishment would be bad.

He felt sick; he couldn’t sleep. The next day his parents came home to an empty garage. When Tom came home from school, his father was waiting for him. He hung his head & told his father the whole story.   He confessed his sin; he was ashamed he betrayed his parent’s trust. His eyes were wet in guilt; now, he was ready for his just punishment.   But this time, his shame & sorrow was the punishment. There was no yelling; no long lecture. There was a form of anger, but his father said,   “Son, that hurts me, and I’m very disappointed.   But I’m very thankful that you & your friends are all okay. I forgive you. Now, let’s talk about the repairs.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah received his commission “in the year that King Uzziah died.” Also called Azariah, Uzziah had reigned as a ‘good’ king of Judah for 52 years;   but at one point he was proud & arrogant, and he went into the temple to burn incense before the holy God ==which was the role of the priests alone, so it was wrong for him to do = He sinned against God’s command.     The Lord struck Uzziah with leprosy until the day of his death; but the Lord did not condemn.

All sin is always serious, always condemns, & must be dealt with by the One who defines sin. We recall that in Isaiah’s time, God’s people were sinning against Him by neglecting His worship, & joining in the worship & sacrifice to false gods; & because of it, their land & freedom would be taken away.  In our day, the most common false god is a person’s desire to be #1 in their own eyes & to live their own way.   Isaiah was a good prophet, but by nature was also a sinner.   Which is why he confesses: “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips,   and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…”

Isaiah knew that Exodus 33 says that a man cannot see the face of the Lord God and live.

When Isaiah is brought into the midst of this vision, in the presence of the Holy One,

he concludes: that’s it, I’m dead, I’m finished.    God’s holiness is rightly a frightening theme, and this is the FIRST HALF of the main point throughout ALL of Scripture.

***********************************************************

But, as with Isaiah, there is the SECOND HALF.    We rightly tremble in the presence of the Holy God — even here & now;   but God is also present to remove our guilt.   *How does He do this? *Why doesn’t He just strike sinners down, dead?

When Isaiah saw God in all His splendor, majesty, & glory, he was not giddy & not joyful, but fearful; because he knew that he was a sinner in the presence of the most holy God — that meant certain death & destruction.   For a moment, he was also humble & reverent, because he was actually in the presence of the Creator, in all his glory. But, Isaiah is laid bare.   In truth, he is a poor, miserable sinner; and he lived among sinners.   Before the throne of God, Isaiah mourns for God’s people, & fears for his eternal soul.

*Do we think we’re better than Isaiah? You & I are tempted say that we’re not as bad as other people; even if that’s true, we still can not say that we deserve the favor or forgiveness of God.   God doesn’t grade on a curve — the soul that sins shall die; and the wages of sin is death.      After acknowledging his condition, Isaiah has nothing more to say;   he can only wait for the holy judgment of the Holy Lord.   Simon Peter reacts the same way at the miraculous catch of fish.   In the divine presence of the Holy God, Simon falls down before Him and begs, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”   And then he, too, is silent, and awaits the word of judgment.   *Are we better than Simon Peter?

And today WE are in the holy presence of God. He promised: “Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there I am in the midst of them.”   God is truly present where His Word & His Name are called on & believed. Yet, we are a people of unclean lips, and we live among the same kind of sinners as ourselves;   we are not worthy to be here in the temple-presence of the Lord of hosts.   Even the holy angels, the seraphim, covered their face & feet in reverence & humility before their Creator & Lord.   How dare we come into His presence with anything but silence & fear because of our sin.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

But now, let us notice something very important.   Neither Isaiah, nor Simon, run away; and neither do WE.   And notice that God does not chase them away;   and He is not chasing US away, either.   For Isaiah, an angel came forth with a burning coal, a remnant of the burnt offering, and with it touched Isaiah’s lips, and Isaiah’s sin & guilt was forgiven.   By that connection with the substitutional sacrifice, Isaiah was made holy, like the angels;   it was put on his mouth, and it made him clean.

Like Isaiah, you & I have had our guilt taken away.   We have been made clean. According to the purpose & Word of the Lord, the sacrifice of Jesus’ body & blood on the cross has been applied to us by faith, thru the mercy of the Holy Lord of hosts.   Thru God’s working Holy Baptism, the righteousness of the Messiah has been washed upon us.   The Holy Son of God was willing to come down to dwell with us, in the midst of unclean people, to bring the mercy & salvation of God to us. Jesus did not come to ‘accept’ us, He came to change us;  tobe forgiven people; people turning away from their sins.

Jesus Christ has removed your filthy old-nature garments to clothe you with His own robe of righteousness. The Holy Spirit of the Lord has been given to you so that you will not run away from Him in fear,   but fear your sin, and run to Him in humble repentance;   to take cover again & again in the shadow of Jesus’ cross.

Our season of Lent is a month away; but as Lutherans, we realize why Lent is the most important church season;   because the cross of Jesus, & His crucifixion, is the only door to heaven for sinners under the judgment of the Holy God; it’s the door of mercy.   Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world;   and for as long as we are in the world battling our sins, the cross is Jesus’ throne, & God’s mercy is the glory of his people.   That’s why, even as filthy sinners, we do not run away from God; in faith we run back to Him, again & again.

And we come into his presence, not because we think we’re better than any others;

but we believe what God has said: this is the place to receive His word of mercy. Here Jesus is present, that we might know where to come to fall down before Him, & have His forgiveness spoken over us, again.

And here, His word promises a miracle presence for us to receive His very broken body & shed blood to remove our guilt.

Isaiah had a sacrificial coal touch his lips & cleanse his sin.   In the Lord’s Meal,

the very sacrifice of the Son of God is placed upon our lips & in our mouths for the forgiveness of our sins.   Because He is merciful to us, and holy, so He must first turn us away from continuing in sin; so now we can represent God’s mercy & holiness to others, one unworthy person to another.

This is how we see God-at-work with Isaiah and with Simon; two halves of a whole message.  Repentance & forgiveness are always first; and then we will respond rightly,

by singing God’s praise with the holy angels, and by sharing the good news of salvation with those around us.

We come into His presence humble & sorry;   we leave here forgiven & comforted,  and strengthened to live as His holy people.   Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory,   by His mercy in Christ Jesus.

Amen