“Here I Am Lord, Send Me”

Text:  Isaiah 6 / John 3:1-17

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

A minister was standing in the pulpit of his church looking out at his congregation, wondering what had gone wrong. It was a large sanctuary but it was almost empty. The minister looked out at the empty seats and surveyed the 4 lonely people in the congregation – one young man and three elderly ladies. He begins to speak…

“I give thanks to God that there are at least a handful of us who have made the effort to come to worship, who have come to feed on the Word of God, and who don’t believe that God is less important than the football game on television.” Suddenly, the young man in the back pew jumps up. “Oh no, I forgot about the football game.” And with that he runs out of the sanctuary.

This was supposed to be a lead in joke, but it troubles me. Sometimes things are funny because they’re all too real. I look at our own congregation and wonder… What made you chose to be here today? And why didn’t everyone make the same choice?

There are plenty of chores to do at home, books to read, television to watch, and websites to search. The weather is beautiful, you could be camping or doing yard work. What motivated you to abandon all this to come to worship? What caused you to delay the trip to Seattle or the get-together with friends and relatives?

I suspect that some of you might come out of habit and to tell you the truth, not all habits are bad. Good habits, such as coming to church, come out of good self discipline. Attending church is a good spiritual habit as long as you prepare your hearts also. Some are here out of habit.

But there is something lacking in that answer, because I’m sure there was a time earlier in your lives that you made the decision to come and it wasn’t out of habit. There had to be a time you made the decision that this was a discipline you were going to follow. What made you make that initial decision?

Others might come because they’re struggling with God. They might be grieving or hurting in some way, you might be lost or lonely and your attendance comes from a search for answers.

Still others might be coming against their will. You come here because your parents insist on it and they are bigger then you are. Or your wife might want you to come and you think it’s a smaller effort to give in then to have to deal with what would happen if you don’t.

There was a man who was enjoying a pleasant sleep in his cozy bed when his wife suddenly yanked the covers off the bed and announced, “time to get up and get ready for church.”

Meekly the man told his wife, “I don’t want to go to church today. Just let me stay here and sleep in this one day.” Without compassion, his wife looked at him sternly and said, “Look Einstein, you have to go to church today, you’re the Pastor.” By the way, this is not autobiographical.

So, why come to worship? Our lesson from Isaiah is a great place to find the answer. For the past three thousand years, worship has been set itself, on this chapter. The order of worship is based in part on this chapter in Isaiah.

First, true worship is not an escape from reality. It is something that should bring the reality of life to light. Isaiah starts out the passage with an interesting statement. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.” It’s like saying, “in the year the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, I worshipped God” or “In the year Kennedy was assassinated, I worshipped God” or “In the year they flew planes into the World Trade Center, I worshipped the Lord.”

Worship in the church should never be oblivious to what is happening outside the building. Why do we worship God? It’s not to escape life out there, it’s to deal with life out there. If you want your worship to be true worship inside Redeemer, then you bring in all the baggage that you had with you outside of Redeemer.

In Psalm 86:6-7 it says, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy, in the day of trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”  It is a natural part of worship to bring with you the concerns you have in life. We gather here as a family in Christ and we bring in the fears of life so that our Lord might help us through them. We bring in the worries of family, the concerns of the world and we lift them up in prayer, together, and we seek God’s comfort and guidance. Not just for ourselves, but for those we love. We worship because our lives are full of concerns and issues and we need some place to take them.

True worship also focuses on God. This is where many people make a mistake when it comes to worship. We assume that worship focuses on us and our needs. I’ve heard people say that they struggle with worship because they feel they’re not being fed. Well, that seems like a legitimate struggle. What concerns me is that I never, ever hear people say anything about whether or not God is being blessed in the worship service. I never hear anyone concerned about whether God is enjoying the worship.

Why do we worship? We worship so that we can get something out of the experience, but our primary goal in worship should be that God can get something out of it. And until God can get something out of our worship, we never will. Until God is blessed by our worship, we won’t be blessed.

It seems that the churches that grow the fastest are the one’s that concentrate on entertaining the members and all too often we treat worship as something that is suppose to entertain us. But it isn’t. What is most important is that God enjoy the worship service, that we do a service worthy of His attention. We are here to worship Him. We are here to bless Him.

In our Old Testament lesson, the Prophet Isaiah goes to the Temple, and he says, “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” It is the presence of God that brings meaning to the worship. True worship always focuses on God.

Next, true worship always begins with an awareness of God’s holiness. I think we’ve lost a little of that in our worship services. It used to be that the very architecture of a church had to do with the awesomeness of God. If you’ve ever walked into one of the ancient cathedrals in Europe, you can just feel the awe and wonder the moment you step foot into one. Every sense in engaged, the quiet, the aroma of incense, the beautiful art, the music. They all work together as an acknowledgement of God’s Awesome holiness.

Recently, the church in America and throughout the world has emphasized the personal nature of God. We hear about a God of love or the joy of God.

At Redeemer, we have looked at this side of God. But we must not stop there. We need to also acknowledge the awesomeness of God. It seems we have almost reformed our image of God into our “little buddy” or someone who is a real pal and has our backs. We have often forgotten that God is such an awesome and holy God that to be in His presence is to be filled with awe and wonder.

When Moses was aware of God’s presence in the burning bush, he was afraid. When Jacob had a dream of a staircase to heaven, he woke up and was afraid, because he said, “surely the Lord is present and I didn’t know it.” The Bible says he was filled with awe. Other examples show that when people were aware of the presence of God they were filled with awe and fear. We worship God because He is holy and that holiness demands our full attention.

True worship also helps us to understand ourselves and our shortcomings. It gives us an opportunity to come to our God on our knees asking for forgiveness. In Isaiah, the seraph’s are singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” And right away Isaiah cries out, “Woe to me!” and speaks of his sinfulness.

It’s impossible to come before God and not be aware of His holiness and also to be aware of our own unholiness.  Paul said in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

It is impossible to approach God’s presence without being aware of our own shortcomings and sins. That is why, in worship, we have our prayer of confession. And what happens after this confession? We are absolved from that sin through the blood of Christ. Our forgiveness is assured.

Our confession is always followed by God’s forgiveness. In our Old Testament lesson, Isaiah becomes aware of the holiness of God, which moves him to become aware of his sinfulness. This in turns leads him into confessing these sins. That confession leads to his forgiveness. In Isaiah the seraph symbolically takes a hot coal and touches the lips of Isaiah as a gesture of the forgiveness that was given him.

In 1 John 1:8 and 9 we are told, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We worship because we want to experience the forgiveness of God. We need to hear the same message Isaiah heard.  “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 

Finally, we worship so that our lives might be changed. True worship motivates us to rollup our sleeves and get to work. I have thought about making a plaque that says, “Enter to worship, depart to serve.”

In Hebrew the word for worship and the word for serve are the very same. Worship and service go hand in hand. In the Christian life, you can’t have worship without serving others.

Going back to our lesson in Isaiah, he hears the voice of God say, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And what follows for Isaiah is the service, the work, the rolling up of the sleeves when he says, “Here I am Lord, send me.” True worship will always involve serving others. We can’t enter the sanctuary to worship, without leaving to serve.

So, why are we here this morning? Why did you come to worship today? Hopefully we came here to be challenged to do more out there. So I guess, the question isn’t why did we come or why didn’t you choose to do something different. The real question is, what will you do when you leave this place?

Isaiah was sent to speak the message of God to the people, but what are you sent out to do? What is God calling you to do this week? Who in your life do you need to show the love of God to? Who is that you need to reach out a little harder to? Who is it that you know of who is not coming to worship who should be encouraged or invited to come here to Redeemer?

We started by asking the question, “Why are we coming to worship?” One of the main reasons is to discover the answer to the question, “what do we do after worship?” What is God calling us to do?

That can be a hard question to answer, but it’s the one we come here each week to answer. And, guess what, the answer changes every week, because the opportunities and challenges change every week.

What is God calling you to do this week? What God calls us to do from one week to the next might change, but our response should always be the same as that of Isaiah, “Here I am Lord, send me.” Amen.

 

 

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