Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | June 3, 2012

2012.06.03 “No Ordinary Day” – Isaiah 6: 1 – 8 Trinity Sunday 2012

Central United Methodist Church

No Ordinary Day

Isaiah 6: 1 – 8

Pastor David L. Haley

Trinity Sunday

June 3, 2012


               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. Seraphs 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. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

          And 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!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The 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.” Then 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!” – Isaiah 6: 1 – 8, The New Revised Standard Version


It seemed like an ordinary day.
Pushed myself out of bed.
Argued with my inner voice,
“Stay home, don’t go to church,” it said. . .

“But I’m the Pastor,” I said . . .

Wrote a reasonable check for the offering
Drove to church wondering where I’d eat afterward

The choir sang.
People prayed.
It seemed like an ordinary day.
Then God showed up and called my name.
I saw myself as God sees me . . . and wept.
But God touched me, cleansed me, and called me.
It was an ordinary day for God.


This opening meditation, by Kwasi Kena and Safiyah Fosua of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship (yes, I confess inserted the part about being the pastor) sets the tone for my message today.  Which is, that even in ordinary time, whenever you worship God, there are no ordinary days.  Because you never know when God’s going to show up, nor what God is going to call you to do.

This is in contrast to the fact that we have finally reached that time of year in the church which is known as “ordinary time.”  Which means, not that nothing is happening, but that we are past the major liturgical cycles of the Christian year, Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. Today, Trinity Sunday, is the last “named” day until we celebrate until All Saints on November 1st.

In worship, the summer 8:30 service is underway, I’ll not be wearing a robe until after Labor Day, and after next Sunday, the choir will take off as well.

In addition, I think I’ve gotten all the new babies baptized (6 since last September), my two spring weddings successfully hitched, and no funerals. on the calendar. (I am so happy to have reached the point where I’m doing more baptisms and weddings than funerals.)

On the calendar, school is out this week, and families readjust school schedules to summer school and day camp. The Cubs have even managed to win a few games (not many.)

In other words, even though it’s not here meteorologically, it’s summer in Chicago.  Ordinary time, we call it.

So you might think, ordinary time, nothing special’s going to happen.  The thing is, whenever you worship God, you never know.

Perhaps it was with such an attitude that Isaiah went to the Temple that day, in the time of King Uzziah, some 7 centuries before Christ. He went about his duties in the temple, thinking it an ordinary day, until God showed up, and everything changed.

It happened in the Temple, the place where God’s presence was believed to dwell.  And God – well, God at that time was not thought of as our buddy, but a God whose name is too holy to say, the God who holds the cosmos together and whose unmediated presence is too great for mortals to endure. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Ark is opened and calamity unleashed on all those looking in.  I don’t know if it was a vision or an earthquake, but it proved to be a faithquake for Isaiah.  He saw a vision of God as high and lifted up, surrounded by seraphs who attempt to shield themselves with their wings from God’s radiant presence.

Sometimes I wonder if we appreciate such an idia of God, anymore, as transcendent, high and lifted up. The Lutheran theologian and scholar of religion, Rudolph Otto, called God the “mysterium tremendum,” the awful mystery. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber went on to call God the “mysterium tremendum” that appears and overthrows, but also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.”

Have you ever had an experience of God like that? If so, you will know that it is both awesome and memorable.  It happened to me once when I worshiped in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and heard that spectacular pipe organ play, increasing in volume until you’d think – like Isaiah’s temple – that the very foundations would be shaken. It happens most of the time when I listen to Mozart’s Requiem, and listen to, among other pieces, Mozart musical depiction of God, the “Rex Tremendae Majestatis,” the King of Awful Majesty. It even happened to me once at the Smithsonian in Washington, as I watched a presentation about black holes and the universe.  If the universe is so great, and we believe God created it, how is it that we so often reduce God to something so comprehensible, so domesticated, so “buddy, buddy,” as some people talk of God.

Not me.  I’m with Isaiah.  When you feel like you’re in the presence of God, I believe you will feel like you are undone, finished. God is, Our Father, not on earth but in heaven, “Holy be God’s name.”

It’s appropriate we should talk about this on Trinity Sunday, which is, after all, why they gave us this text.  To put before us a vision of God who is holy and majestic and at least as complicated in relationship as great in power and majesty.  You won’t catch me trying to explain it, because I think it’s much more important that – like Isaiah – we experience it. I agree with what St. Augustine once said, as far back as the 4th century: “Before experiencing God you thought you could talk about God; when you begin to experience God you realize that what you are experiencing you cannot put into words.” We experience God the Father, God Always and Everywhere, we experience God in Jesus Christ as God Then and There, and we experience God the Spirit as God Here and Now, God’s presence with us.

But that’s not the end of the story. What happens next maybe even more amazing.  God reaches out, takes a hot coal from the altar, and touched Isaiah’s mouth, saying, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then, said Isaiah, I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And in the famous words which have reverberated in the experience of God’s people ever since, Isaiah said, “Here am I; send me!”

As great and as incomprehensible as God is, maybe the most amazing thing of all: that as great as God is, God still call us, enlisting us in God’s service.

As you might imagine, this is a popular reading at the ordination of clergy. But what might happen if we claim it for the rest of us, as God’s people?  Why not imagine that moms and dads have a holy calling, that bus drivers and waitresses are called by God, that nurses and teachers and accountants and students and volunteers have also been called, sanctified and set apart for the work of the Lord?

In fat, every one of you has been set apart – marked at your baptism, to bear the presence of the Holy God in the world.  Sometimes that presence is creative, such as nurturing young minds or creating hope through word and deed.  Sometimes that presence is sustaining, such as keeping all the systems that govern our lives working efficiently and effectively. Sometimes that presence is healing: caring for those the world has forgotten or reaching out to someone in need.  But however it takes shape, that presence is the presence of the Holy God of Israel, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we are all commissioned to bear God’s creative, sustaining, and healing presence into the world.

So as you go about your parenting, or your jobs, or your studies this week, I want you to hear the voice of God calling, saying, “Here is a job I need done; who will go for me?”  And I want you to respond, as affirmatively as Isaiah did in the Temple, “Here am I, Lord, send me.”

You never know when or how it’s going to happen. Although I could not find the story, I believe it was told by William Willimon, who before he was Bishop of the North Alabama Conference, was Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. He said after a service one day, a young man came up and said, “Dean Willimon, God spoke to me today during the service.”

Said Willimon, presumptively, like most of us preachers might say: “At what point during my sermon did God speak to you?”

And the young man said, “Oh, it wasn’t didn’t the sermon, it was during the Announcements.”

“What?” Willimon said?

“Yes, they were asking for volunteers, and I hear God speaking to me, that I should lend a hand.”

You never know when or how it’s going to happen.

In ordinary time, in the summer, we may come to church like the person in the opening meditation, or like Isaiah in the temple, doing our duty, not expecting much to happen, when suddenly, in a word, in a hymn, in a prayer, even in silence, God shows up, and we find ourselves moved and the foundations of our lives shifted and find ourselves called to be the person God is calling us to be, and to do the work God is calling us to do.

Because whenever you worship God, the true and living God, high and lifted up, even in ordinary time, there are no ordinary days.  Amen.









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