Today is Election Day in the United States, and the stakes seem as high, if not higher, than they have ever been. Today it feels like we choose between hope and fear. And nearly everyone in our nation (no matter which side of the election your politics reside) would tell you we choose between good and evil.
Which, of course, means that this Sunday’s sermon will change, based on the election results tonight (or tomorrow). This could possibly be a sermon of hope. Or this may be a sermon of fear. One pastor may preach doom and gloom, and another the bright optimism of a brand new day.
Isaiah, like preachers across the globe this Sunday, is in an unsteady time. He is tossed about by the idolatry of the nation of Israel, and the ever-present threat of Assyria, and let’s not forget about the diminishing presence of religion… Look at Isaiah 1:2:
Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The whole of Chapter 1 is about the sin and depravity of Judah. Contrast that, if you will, with Isaiah 2:2-4:
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
Fear, anger, and destruction versus a glorious view of the future where there is no war. These are a people torn between fear and hope.
And in the midst of it all, here comes Isaiah with a vision. That vision is both terrible and hopeful all in the same. Hopeful in the vision of God, sitting on the throne, with God’s hem filling the room. Terrible is the seraphs, with hot coals to press on Isaiah’s mouth. Terrible is the smoke. Terrible is the reminder of sin in all of us.
And yet hopeful in the answer of the question, “Whom shall I send?” the answer, “Here am I. Send me.”
When you are terrified, you do not venture on a trip. You do not leave out. You instead hunker down. You retreat. You duck. You run away from rather than to. So this is a hopeful response from Isaiah. “Send me.”
Because Isaiah has seen God. And no matter what happens with Judah, what happens in the nation, what Assyria, or Babylon, or anyone does, Isaiah has seen God’s true power, and knows that the future is held by God.
Here are some other ideas for this Sunday’s text:
- Unpack the meaning of Isaiah’s “Send me.” Is it like Howard Thurman’s “that which makes you come alive?”
- Is it possible to say no to God’s calling?
- Isaiah’s mouth is burned clean with a burning coal. What things can keep you from following God’s calling? How can someone get ready to follow the call?
- Visions. What do you do with a vision? Have you had an experience with a vision?
- Usually our narrative pericopes are longer than six verses. Is there a text you can choose to add some to this pericope?
Where will you go with this text? I look forward to your comments!
Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).
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