Those of us preaching the Narrative Lectionary get to hang out with the prophets for a few weeks. We’ve already encountered Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and the “how not to be a prophet” story of Jonah. This week we come to Isaiah, whose prophetic voice echoes in much of Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God.
Our reading is only eight verses, much shorter than most of our NL readings. And there is a lot packed into this brief scene. Here are just a few ideas of directions a preacher might go with this text:
–These verses present a classic call story and thus could be a springboard for exploring other call stories in the Bible (Moses, Mary, disciples, Paul . . . ) and considering how God calls us today.
–Isaiah realizes his inadequacy for the task, yet God forgives him and sends him. What guilt are we holding on to? What would repentance look like? What will God’s forgiveness free us to be able to do?
–There is a lot to be said in these days about prophets. God asks Isaiah to speak hard truths to his own people. (The NL reading stops at verse 8, but God’s conversation with Isaiah continues.) How can we have the courage of Isaiah to say to God, “Here I am. Send me.”? And once we say “yes,” what truths are we called to speak? (Hint: read Isaiah 5.)
–Of course, maybe during this time of world-wide crisis what we really need is a reminder that it’s not all about us—not about our call or our forgiveness or our courage. This story is ultimately about the holy God. A God so big that the bottom of the divine robe fills the temple. A God so holy that fiery angels attend God and sing praises. With so much attention given to US politics in the past weeks (months . . . years . . . ) it is good to remember that we worship the One who has ultimate power and authority.
Here are a few resources you might find helpful:
- The Bible Worm podcast
- Working Preacher commentary
- A sermon I wrote several years ago: “Dangerous Worship”
–For me, the highlight of the sermon is this quote. It seems a little out of place for those of us still worshiping online, but the sentiment holds true:
In her book Teaching a Stone to Talk, the writer Annie Dillard asks, “Does anybody have the foggiest idea of what kind of power that we are dealing with here in worship?” She says, “It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may awake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.”
Please share your own resources and ideas in the comments below. Blessings to you as you perform the holy and prophetic task of preaching this week.
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