This message ends abruptly because I somehow lost the complete copy of the final manuscript after the fact. I still wanted to share it because I like a lot of what is here. Please forgive the incompleteness…
“Intro & Passion Ignited” sermon from 6/6/10
Call to Worship—Psalm 113
Well, for a next series of sorts going forward, I would like to begin this morning and the weeks following by breaking down our current (& recently developed) vision statement here at Wellsburg Reformed Church. I have spent some time reflecting on our current vision statement through my months of candidating to come here as your next pastor and in these initial weeks since I have started. I have had a few meetings, read some summaries of vision committee proceedings, and spent time meditating on God’s Word and in prayer about how God might guide us in these things. I want to begin the process of this vision statement becoming a part of us and exploring how we can live into it. These next weeks won’t be completely exhaustive, but I hope it will at least be a good start and can carry us forward.
Let’s start this morning then by going to our vision statement. Open your bulletins and follow along as I read it… “The Wellsburg Reformed Church will ignite a passion for Christ through active worship, education, fellowship, and outreach in our community and surrounding area, resulting in a vibrant church family who will openly love, care, and serve.”
That’s a good statement I think. There is quite a bit there and I believe it’s put together well. What I would like to do is use an overarching Scripture passage and then break down certain pieces of this statement with other Scripture passages that speak a little more into them. The overarching Scripture passage that comes to my mind is what’s often described as the fellowship of the believers’/early church passage in Acts 2:42-47. Let me read it to you now…
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
In looking at this passage, I think this is a good place to start and a good overarching passage because, well this is the practice of the early church; the church from which all churches today find their foundation/beginning in. Also, I believe I see each of the main elements mentioned in our vision statement in this passage. There are four main things mentioned in our vision statement; worship, education, fellowship, & outreach. These things are found here in how it is said that, they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship. In how they broke bread and prayed together, were in great awe of God, witnessed wonders and signs, had a common bond, served each other in one another’s needs, and spent time together throughout their weeks. Lastly it is said in this passage then that, those who were being saved were added to their community daily. This is an amazing thing, and an awe-inspiring thing. This is what the church can be like and what we can strive for.
How does this begin then? Well, a passion must be ignited. Our vision statement talks about a passion being ignited through these things in God’s people and the community, but there also needs to be a spark that starts it all in the first place. We don’t just embark upon this in and of ourselves. There’s something behind it; a reason for it and a guiding force. That’s what I want to start with this morning. How does God grab ahold of us and give us a passion for Him and His Church? To help us explore that, listen to this account in Isaiah 6:1-8… (recite from memory)
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. 2 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. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 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!”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 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.” 8 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!”
Ok, now before going too much further, let’s try to take in what Isaiah saw… Can you imagine being somewhere in worship to God; maybe in a room, or in church, or some secluded place, and witnessing what is described here take place? We don’t know exactly where Isaiah is when he has this experience. It’s often assumed that he is in the temple, but the passage doesn’t completely say that. God is not contained by structures, rooms, etc, but He does show up in them. Imagine seeing what Isaiah saw. Imagine being suddenly entranced and seeing the Lord, high & lofty and sitting on a throne with the hem of His robe filling the temple (his splendor filling it all). He then saw angelic beings, each with six wings; two covering their faces, two covering their feet, and with two they flew. In this way they served in the presence of the Lord with great reverence and honor in all their proceedings. They worshipped the Lord as well singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” And if that wasn’t enough, at this call/pronouncement, suddenly the thresholds shook and the room filled with smoke. Wow, what a magnificent site! To this Isaiah can’t help but be completely put at awe and come face-to-face with his unworthiness and sin!
Wow, what a magnificent account! What an awesome story! Let’s take a look at some of the other things that were going on at the time of this story as well. The account opens by saying, “In the year king Uzziah died…” King Uzziah became king at 16 years of age and reigned in Judah for 52 years. Uzziah was a pretty reputable king in that it is recorded that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (II Kings 15 & II Chron. 26). Sometime towards the end of his reign, however, Uzziah acted out in pride, which in turn led to his downfall. Uzziah was infected with leprosy and lost his ability to govern for he now had to stay in a separate house away from the people. His son Jotham governed the people until his death and then succeeded him thereafter. Isaiah became prophet of the Lord towards the end of King Uzziah’s reign. King Uzziah was the first king he served as prophet. Not only was king Uzziah unfaithful to God towards the end of his reign, the state of Judah itself appeared bleak as well. They had experienced some great prestige & peace under Uzziah, but this basically served as a veneer that covered a nation that had turned their hearts and worship to other gods. In the midst of some prosperity their spiritual condition was not healthy and now their king of 52 years had too been unfaithful to God and was infected with a grave disease and died. As Isaiah said in the presence of the Lord, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…,” he felt lost, and I am sure Judah felt lost in their present state.
This background makes what Isaiah saw even that much greater! Isaiah felt like all was lost and in ruins, in his heartache he felt, what was going to become of him and of Judah? And it was then that he saw the Lord in all His splendor and majesty. Isaiah in his and Judah’s unrest sees God still seated on His throne, and being worshipped and adored. People on earth may have been recalling the shame of their times and King Uzziah’s death as a leper, but there was no shame or shadow of failure in heaven. Rather there was peace; there was worship; there was a profound holiness (holiness to the 3rd degree implying completeness) amidst it all. In Isaiah’s bleak outlook, he looked up and the view from heaven was that the whole earth was filled with the glory of God.
You see, it is this that was must discover in our times as well. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, God is on His throne! There isn’t an ounce of chaos in heaven, and God is in control.
Isaiah then sees the thresholds shake and the room filled with smoke and he is led to lay his lostness and uncleanness of himself and his people out before the great Lord of hosts (which basically means the Lord of all, of everything, God Almighty over all). Isaiah has been brought into the great presence of the Lord and all His splendor and he can’t help but notice in the face of this as well his own unworthiness. And then God does something even more glorious as one of the Seraphs flies to Isaiah with a live coal in hand and purifies him of his guilt and sin. You see, this is the amazing thing of it all… Not only is God great and glorious and worthy of praise and honor in his magnificent splendor, but on top of this He offers grace and forgiveness and makes us clean! He goes above and beyond his call of duty as King and Lord Supreme of all the universe and bestows His love and His grace upon people of the earth.
There is no way people on the earth are worthy of all this. Isaiah doesn’t deserve to be brought into the presence of the Lord, let alone be forgiven and cleansed, made new. I am not sure we understand the weight of all this today. I believe in our culture today we have in many ways lost a sense of this holiness and reverence. We don’t treat people in our day with this much respect & honor (and not that we necessarily should). We treat people today as more on an even-playing field. But imagine yourself in just who you are being invited to be in the presence of the president or a king. Usually it’s only certain people that get to visit such people or people that have achieved something. Imagine being in their presence knowing you are not worthy and that you have done something horribly wrong against them that they are fully aware of. Then, in all of this, as if being specifically invited to be before them wasn’t enough, this person forgives you for whatever you have done. It doesn’t matter what it was and your previous status before being invited to see him is wiped out and you are redeemed. That’s what happens to Isaiah here. God not only opens Himself up before him and places Isaiah in His glorious presence, He also bestows upon him grace and clean slate upon which to serve Him. THAT IS AMAZING!
It is in response to all this then that Isaiah is inspired, he is so moved and amazed that he offers himself in service to the Lord of Hosts. He hears the question from on high, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And he has the audacity to answer, “Here I am, send me!” Isaiah could have let one of the angelic beings respond, but in his vision and his cleansing he is given new life, he is redeemed, he has witnessed the power & majesty and grace of the Lord of Hosts and he enlists himself in His service.
And this is not unlike what the people present in Acts 2 experienced upon their conversion and joining of the early church (vs. 37-41). Looking at the verses leading up to our overarching passage of Acts 2:42-47 there are some amazing happenings that end with an enlisting in worship and service of thousands of people to the Lord of Hosts! Acts 2 tells about the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon those present in flaming tongues of fire and when the Apostle Peter addresses the crowd with a rousing message detailing the work of God in Jesus Christ the Messiah…