Mission Possible!

 (Isaiah 6:1-8)

 How many of you remember, not the most recent movies, but the older television show "Mission Impossible?" You might remember that Jim Phelps would receive a tape that he would place on a reel to reel tape player.

Often the tape began, "Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it is such and such…" He would listen to the proposed mission being assigned to his team, and then at the end of the tape he was given the option of accepting the mission or not. Then of course that beginning segment of the show would conclude, "This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds."

Wouldn't it be great if God sent out tapes, or I guess that would now be CD's or e-mail, specifying very clearly what our mission is and then giving us the option to accept or decline the mission? But God doesn't work that way, does he? God has his own way of revealing his mission for us and it's not always as clear cut as we would like it to be.

So to better understand how God calls people into his service let's consider our scripture reading from Isaiah for a moment. This narrative of scripture is commonly referred to as Isaiah's call or isaiah's commission. Let me begin by unpacking our scripture reading a little. So please pull out your Bible and let's walk through this together. In verses 1-4 Isaiah begins by specifying the date he experienced God's call. Isaiah specifies that it was the year King Uzziah died, which we know to be around 742 BCE.

It's also important to not that the king's death also signaled the end of an era of relative independence for Judah. Now Isaiah's story begins with the description of an awe inspiring vision of Yahweh as king on a throne, Yahweh is how the Hebrews referred to God. The fact that "the hem of his robe" filled the room indicates that Isaiah stands at the entrance to the sacred home of God. And there is singing and praising God. Now what Isiaiah is experiencing is a theophany. And if you have attended some of our Bible Studies you know that a theophany is a direct experience of God. Moses and the burning bush is another example of a theophany.

Well Isaiah was in the midst of a direct experience of God and he begins to fear for his life because here he is before God, and realizes he's an unclean or sinful person. So standing before God, Isaiah, probably after taking a deep breath, confesses that he is unclean. Then something remarkable happens. In response to his confession, one of the seraph's (which is a six-winged creature of God) performs a ritual of purification that combines word and action.

Isaiah confessed that he was a man of unclean lips so in verses 6 and 7 we read that the seraph touches Isaiah's lips with a piece of coal from the altar and pronounces that his sins are forgiven. Now it's important to note that this ritual of purification has cleansed the prophet, but it did NOT address the other aspect of Isaiah's confession, which was the fact he lived among unclean or sinful people. So this action of God, through the seraph, indicates that Isaiah has been set apart.

Now in verse 8 Yahweh for the first time speaks, but notice he doesn't speak directly to Isaiah. Then Isaiah's vision reaches its climax when the prophet overhears the Lord asking the heavenly court who should be sent, and the prophet steps forward without hesitation and says, "Here am I. Send me!"

What a powerful experience. Have any of you ever experienced anything similar, perhaps a powerful experience of God that was a direct experience or an indirect experience with the almighty?

I know my call to ministry was a powerful indirect experience of God. Certainly an experience I will never forget. So how can we discover what God's mission is for us? Well there are three things we have to do. The first thing we need to do, to discover God's mission for us, is to get to know God personally.

Do any of you have a spiritual hero? I imagine most of us can probably name someone from our lives, or from the Bible, that we consider to be our spiritual hero. Someone we admire for their faithfulness, leadership, witness, or discipleship.

I suggest for Isaiah his hero was King Uzziah, who reigned for 52 years as a godly king. Isaiah really respected Uzziah and was devastated when Uzziah died Essentially when Uzziah died Isaiah's hero was gone.

I imagine great uncertainty must have filled Isaiah's heart following Uzziah's death; he probably wondered what would happen to the nation of Judah with the passing of this God-fearing man.

Perhaps for the first time in his life Isaiah was placed in a position of seeking to hear from God on his own, with no spiritual help from a spiritual leader. And it's in this moment Isaiah offers us an excellent example to follow. When we lose our spiritual direction, we should follow Isaiah's lead and seek God.

With the help of the Holy Spirit we can seek God in prayer anywhere and at anytime. In James 4:8 we have this promise: "Come near to God and he will come near to you." (NIV)

And when we pray to God seeking his will we ought to pray for the following: " Vision for the direction God wants us to take in our lives " Wisdom in dealing with the problems we face " God's will in our lives -- today, tomorrow, and in all of our tomorrows " Patience to give God a chance to change things in His time " Faith to follow what we believe God wants us to be and do, and " Discipline to do the right thing in all things

When Isaiah encountered God, what did he discover? Well first he experienced God's holiness. Isaiah writes that he saw the Lord sitting on a throne. He saw God in human form!

Secondly Isaiah felt the building shake as the angels proclaimed that God is holy. Isiaiah was experiencing the presence of a pure, unstained, uncreated, perfectly good Being: a Holy God, and immediately became conscious of his own sinfulness.

So as we draw near to a holy God, we can expect to become increasingly conscious of the sin in our own life. In much the same way that bringing lights up in a dimly lit room exposes details we had missed in the darkness, so to will exposure to the holiness of God cause us to become painfully aware of our own sin. And this is a good thing because awareness leads to action.

As we seek God for specific direction in our life, we can't become discouraged when the feelings of our unworthiness and inadequacy surface. We ought to expect this to happen as we approach a holy God. The second thing we need to do to discover God's mission for us, is to be totally honest with God.

Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me" as he begins to confess his sin. He is broken over sin. He doesn't try to hide it, dress it up, or blame it on anyone else. He takes responsibility for his sin and exposes it before God. If we want to hear the voice of God, it is absolutely critical we confess all our sin.

In some cases confession and repentance may mean going to someone and asking for their forgiveness for something we did to them or said against them. It may mean returning to someone or praying for something we did many years ago. Perhaps we did some shoplifting as a kid, or engaged in some indiscretions as a teen. Sin is sin and cannot be simply dismissed as something we did when we were less wise. We must repent and seek forgiveness.

When John the Baptist preached his message of repentance, the first question new converts first was, "What shall we do?" John called these actions the "fruit" of authentic repentance (John 3:8).

Confession leads to cleansing. This is why most of our worship services include a prayer of confession early in the service. You see to better receive God's Word and his message for us we need to be cleansed, and cleansing requires confession. So I encourage you to take the prayer of confession and the time for silent prayer at the beginning of our worship service seriously. It's a time when we all can be intentional about confessing our sins.

Our scripture reading said in the moment of repentance, an angel grabs a piece of coal from the altar (which was the place things died for sin) and touches Isaiah's lips. His sin is purged. He is forgiven. He is clean!

The same is true of us. We may not experience coal being placed directly on our lips, but if we honestly confess our sin, God who is grace-filled and merciful will cleanse us of all sin.

The third thing we need to do to discover God's mission for us, is to obey God carefully. The cleansing of Isaiah cleared the way for communication with God. Isaiah after confessing and being forgiven begins to hear the voice of God saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"

Now I believe God had been speaking to Isaiah all along, just as God continues to speak to us, but Isiaiah was out of touch and failed to hear the voice of God. God speaks to his people consistently, but regrettably we aren't always tuned in. Sin disorients us and causes static in our communications, and lessens our ability to listen for and hear the will of God.

Now God's voice is often not a verbal command from on high. God often times uses other means to communicate his will for us, for example, through other people, a feeling or urge we get out of the blue, or something else like a sea shell, as it was for me in my call to ministry.

As Isaiah began to align his life with the will of God, dealing thoroughly with the sin and self-centeredness in his own heart, he then began to hear God and became one of God's greatest prophets.

Isaiah's cry "Here I am, send me" was the beginning of a lifetime of responsiveness to God's will. No longer were two wills competing for control of Isaiah's life, now there was only one. Isaiah set aside his desires and set his heart to obey God carefully for the remainder of his life. And we can do the same.

No matter how many minutes, days, or years we have to live, we too can say "Hear I am, send me" setting our hearts on God and obeying God carefully for the remainder of our lives.

In "Mission Impossible," Jim Phelps had to quickly review the details of the mission, before the tape self-destructed at the end of the message. Phelps and his team had to come up with a plan, and they were always on their own.

While God doesn't send out tapes, CD's, or e-mails that self-destruct, I suggest God's methods are much better. You see, unlike Jim Phelps, when we receive our mission we don't have to come up with a plan, God already has one, we just need to be open to what it might be. And we're not on our own either, God goes before us, God walks beside us, God walks behind us, God walks above us, and God walks below us.

In other words God is with us always and is everywhere when we engage in his plan for our life. With God our mission is possible! Amen.

The following resources were used in part or for inspiration in preparing this sermon: Pucik, Don. "Mission Possible!" Preaching Magazine, Volume 21, Number 5, March-April 2006, 63

Read other messages by Pastor Wade