Rev. Debra Jene Collum
There was a meeting room I used to frequent. It was in a school district’s main office building. It was the room in which we wrote policy and procedures, decided on granting guidelines and determined how to run a non profit arm of the Osseo School system. In other words, I spent many hours in that room in meetings that were intense. I functioned in those meetings as a community member from the faith community. In other words, I was a pastor as well as a community member. This becomes important in the story.
In an effort to be energy efficient a lighting system was installed in that room that didn’t work very well.
It is set up so that as the sensors detect movement the lights go on. As long as movement in detected in the room the lights stay on.
However, there was a small glitch in the system, you had to move a lot in the room in order for the lights to stay on. Now if you have been at meetings you know that the longer the meeting goes the less animated the people around the table become. And these were long, long, intense meetings. Not boring, just long and intense. We got a lot of good work done at those meetings. But they were long. And we didn’t move around a lot.
So as we were in the midst of making decisions and forming policy in this room, the lights would go out. In a room without windows, in the middle of a building. We would suddenly, without warming be plunged into darkness. Over and over and over again. The only way to keep the lights on was to move. But you could never anticipate when the lights would go out.
So I developed a techinique of every once in while, waving my arms above my head which worked very well. The lights stayed on. But this technique must also have looked somewhat pastoral or liturguical because inevitably someone would say,
“Oh oh she is getting the attention of her ‘boss’ we’d better watch out.”
We’d better watch out. God might be showing up.
It seems no one wants to be in that room when the holy God comes calling. What about it? Does the idea of standing in the presence of the Holy God have you shivering in your boots
The beginnings of this passage of Isaiah is awesome:
I saw the Lord High and lifted up and his train filled the temple. royal robes acres of royal robes, gold shining robes miles and miles filling every corner.
Sephardim with their eyes and feet covered, great wings sweeping upward to fly, great heavenly beings bent low in adoration, in fear,
Great heavenly voices echoing off the chambers of the deep, shattering the stars in their courses whispers sounding louder than the greatest noise of a hurricane,
Shouts beyond the hearing, crying Holy Holy Holy
The whole earth is filled with God’s glory.
Earthquakes and tremblings, thundering and lightening. No one, no one can stand. No one no one can look..
If this God showed up in our meeting rooms we would be shivering in our boots.
We duck and cower and cover our heads and say with Isaiah: Woe is me, I am a sinner, I am lost,, I am of no worth. My lips and my people’s lips are so smut-filled I have no hope no future no identity before such a God.
Standing before a holy god, The very idea strikes us with grave fear. We know our sin and know that we stand no chance before holiness.
We read of our sinfulness in the paper every day. We contemplate it as we watch the news. It isn’t just personal sinfulness that we lament, not just our own shortcomings and horrors but the horrors of the world.
What would God want to do with us, we don’t care for the lost or the least or the oppressed. We look out only for our own interests. We speak out only when we are threatened. We stand up only when our household is threatened.
What would God want to do with us. Nothing, nothing.
And here is where most of us leave it.
We are too sinful to be considered by God as worth anything.
Jesus may love us, but everyone else and God thinks we are worthless.
Jesus loves you but a holy God certainly can’t.
Well, good thing God and his angels don’t just sit around filling up a temple with wings and robes. And earthquakes and falling stars.
As Isaiah utters his lament: Woe is me for I am a sinner and my lips are smut filled. An angel is dispatched. Not a bigger earthquake to affirm Isaiah’s sin. Or a tsunami to wipe out Isaiah’s sinfulness. As people claim when earthquakes and natural disasters happen. You heard it when New Orleans was devesated by a hurricane: It was God’s wrath on their sin. Or when a tsunami struck in the south pacific. It was God’s wrath because they are Muslim.
When Isaiah cries out: I am a sinner, I am a worthless sinner.
An angel is dispatched with a burning coal touches the lips of Isaiah and cleanses and cleanses Isaiah from his lostness, Makes clean smut filled lips and hearts.
Julian of Norwich sees it like this:
Sin! What are you? You are nothing... I saw in a vision that God is everything, But sin--I did not see you.
When I saw that God had created everything, I did not see you
When I saw that God does everything that is done, I did not see you.
And when i saw the Lord Jesus christ in my soul, I did not see you.
And so sin, you do not exist.
And I am sure that the people who enjoy sin will find themselves with nothing in their hands when they are done.
Sin that thing which we are sure separates us from a holy god is nothing.
Vision God: you do not see sin
Vision Creation: you do not see sin
Vision God continuing to create: you do not see sin
Vision Christ resurrected in glory: you do not see sin
Vision the Holy Spirit in you: Oh that is harder isn’t it.
Try that again
Vision The Holy Spirit really in you: Spirit Christ dwelling in you, Spirit God filling up your life as God’s train filled the temple into every corner
Feel Spirit God filling you to your finger tips, your toes, the hairs on your head, completely
It is easy to vision sin filling us. Could it be that we treat sin as if it has more power, more truth, more validity than God? Than the work of Christ on the Cross. Than the power of the Holy Spirit within us?
Would you say to the angel that touches your lips with God’s forgiveness and love: that is not enough, I won’t hear you when you say: “your sins are blotted out”
I won’t believe you when you say: Your guilt is gone.
Are you willing to say to the Christ who fills you: What you did for me was not enough
Are you willing to say to the Christ who died for you and lives now in you: My sin is more powerful than your love?
For what does the scripture say: God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, to point fingers at the world and destroy the world, God sent his son into the world so that the world might be saved, so that sin would no longer have the power
God is everything, just as Julian of Norwich wrote. God is everything. Sin is nothing.
So we can stand before the holy God, filled with that holiness to the very core of our being saying able to say with confidence Here am I Lord, send me.
When you are tempted this week to focus on the smut filled lips of your lives, stop, feel the coal of cleansing on your lips. Feel the heat, feel the raw power of forgiveness. Forgiveness that burns away and reduces to ashes the power of sin, Sin, it is nothing.
Allow this Spirit of God to fill you to the very corners of your lives. It is the power of Christ in you. It is the trinity doing its work within you.