The election is raging across the country as I write this blog post. I have the Google election results window open next to my post entry screen, so I can see which color the country will be in the morning as I write these thoughts.
The thing that is more interesting to me, honestly, is the text for the sermon that I am working on for the weekend, and how it stands in such stark contrast to the political power plays that we have witnessed over the past several months.
Our text is Isaiah 6:1-8. It is the scene where Isaiah enters the temple and has a dramatic vision where God is pictured as a king sitting on a throne. God is so large that the temple serves as a footstool, while flying seraphim–mystical, six-winged creatures–fly all around the throne.
Isaiah is so overwhelmed by this vision that he is “undone” and convicted that he is “a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” Then an amazing thing happens. One of the seraphim takes a burning coal from the altar fire and touches Isaiah’s lips with it. Rather than burning Isaiah up, this coal cleanses him and makes him clean.
I see a three-part cycle in this passage that paints a portrait of what the qualities of a servant of God look like:
- A servant is humbled. Notice that it is not that a servant is humble. That would be something that the individual does or projects from the inside. No, in this passage, and in life, a servant is humbled by exposure to the divine. We usually require a swift spiritual kick to the head to break us free of our myopic, self-absorbed agenda.
- A servant is forgiven. The grace of God is demonstrated beautifully in this story. God did not deny that Isaiah was a man of unclean lips, or that the people were the same. Instead, God cleanses Isaiah and makes him whole again. This is another act of humbling. We don’t earn God’s grace, forgiveness, and cleansing. It is a unconditional gift.
- A servant is open. Being undone in the presence of God, and then being redone by the presence of God has a way of changing one’s perspective. Whatever Isaiah may have been holding on to when he entered the temple–the fear of the invading Assyrians, the uncertainty of the country’s political future in the wake of the king’s death, the social unrest and violence in the streets due to the impending invasion–it fell away in light of this vision. His hands opened up to God and he simply said, “Here I am.”
I said this is a cycle, because it is difficult to be humbled if you are not first open to the possibility of it. The more closed you are to being humbled, the more severe the side-kick to the head needs to be to open you up. Perhaps Isaiah was desperate enough, and open enough that he was open to the vision in the first place.
So, here we sit.
The race to the presidency is raging on. In this moment, Trump is ahead. There is much fear in our country. There is much hatred that is born from that fear. There also seems to be more hubris that humble going on in the political arenas.
My prayer is that we can be like Isaiah. I pray that we can encounter the divine in such a way that we are humbled, that we claim the cleansing power of God’s grace, and that we are open to one another to share that grace and healing with each other.
If you would like to learn more about Isaiah and prepare for the weekend sermon, please visit the Bible Bookshelf page for Isaiah.