Here I am, send me??

Readings for the day (Holy Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018):

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 29

Romans 8:12-17

 John 3:1-17

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Today is defined as Holy Trinity Sunday.  I’ve preached on the complexity of believing in our Triune God.  The three-in-one who is also one-in-three.  And understanding the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, is confusing.  So instead, this week I was drawn to the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah is a rather significant prophet of the Old Testament.  Many of the prophesies about the birth of Jesus are found in Isaiah.  We just heard Isaiah’s call story – how God called Isaiah to do His work for His kingdom.  It appears that Isaiah’s call is simple and easy.  God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  And Isaiah responds so simply, “Here am I; send me!”  That’s ridiculous!  Without even knowing exactly what he was to do, Isaiah just says, “You’re lookin’ for someone; I’ll do it.”  We usually aren’t that quick to volunteer for something we know nothing about.  Our response to the question, “Whom shall I send?” would be more like, “Here am I; send someone else.”  It is much easier to volunteer someone else.  Especially when you look at the verses that follow.  After Isaiah willingly says, “Send me,” we learn that his work was certainly not a simple and easy call.  His call was going to be challenging and difficult.

Would you consider yourself to be a successful person?  How do you measure success?  And if you consider yourself to be successful, or even if you consider yourself to be unsuccessful, you are probably using numbers in some way to measure your success.  Students measure their success in the classroom by seeing how many questions they got right on a test.  Businesses measure success based on how much profit is made.  If the moisture in the crop is low and the yields are high, that would be considered a success.  This weekend we remember our fallen heroes and they are remembered by their successes, such as how many missions they did and how many years they served our country.

So if those achievements are what make us successful, then is the church successful?  Is the ministry that we are doing today successful?  In the church, we do measure success and effectiveness.  And often we use numbers to measure that success.  We look to see how many were in worship, how many attended Bible study, and how many children are in the Sunday School.  Now if we use numbers to measure the success of the church’s ministry, the trends would say that the church is not very successful.  And maybe some of you are getting worried that with the late, wet spring that maybe your crops will be like the church – unsuccessful.

Earlier I said that Isaiah’s call was challenging and difficult.  After saying, “Here am I; send me” God responds by telling Isaiah what he is to do.  God says, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’  Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”  God tells Isaiah that this work is going to be hard.  His preaching, his leadership, his ministry, God says, will not work; it will not be effective.  Isaiah is being sent into an uncertain, unstable situation where people will not listen to him.

Sound familiar?  When only a few children show up for Sunday School.  Or when confirmands never return to the church after Confirmation Sunday.  Or when your own children and grandchildren will not attend a church even though you’ve encouraged, you’ve asked, you’ve invited them to come.  I get it.  It is frustrating and challenging.  It feels as though we, the church, have become unsuccessful.

Or even as a parent, it’s challenging when your children don’t listen.  Maybe you feel like you are an unsuccessful parent.  But you know, take a closer look at the Prophet Isaiah.  He spoke and no one listened.  He proclaimed God’s Word and he was ignored.  By the world’s standards, it would appear that Isaiah was a very unsuccessful prophet for God’s kingdom.  But who was it that made all of those prophesies or predictions that the Messiah, the Son of God would be coming into the world?  Oh yeah, his name was Isaiah.  And when God called Isaiah into this challenging ministry, He did so through a vision.  A vision that clearly defines a massive God who has power and strength.  A God who is able to forgive sins.  A God who is willing to come down from His throne and join in the suffering His creatures endure because of their sin.

This is our Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  This is the God that we believe in.  This is the God who views our success through different lenses.  This is our God, who cares for us like a parent cares for a child – frustrated at times when the child doesn’t listen or completely ignores their parents.  God gets frustrated with us when we don’t listen or when we ignore His call.  But our God also has deep love for us and we can see that love through the fulfillment of what Isaiah proclaimed to the Israelites – that God Himself would take on human flesh in order to save the world from sin and death.  And today we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us, navigating us through the obstacles of life.  So that we may be successful.  Maybe not always 100% successful in what we do every day, but being successful in God’s eyes.  And as long as we are faithfully doing God’s Will, we are successful – even when the involvement and attendance in the church doesn’t show that.

There are days when God’s call for us is challenging and difficult.  There are days when you may feel like Isaiah, feeling unsuccessful.  Those are the days when it is hard to remain hopeful.  Keep your faith in our Triune God.  For God is our hope and our strength in the midst of the chaos.  Sometimes all we can do is take a leap of faith and say, “Here I am, send me!”  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All Rights Reserved.

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Prayers FROM Jesus!

Readings for the day (7th Sunday of Easter, Sunday, May 12, 2018):

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Psalm 1

1 John 5:9-13

John 17:6-19

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Have you ever prayed before?  Okay, of course if you’ve been to church before, you’ve prayed to God.  You probably pray at home, too.  Maybe at work.  Maybe at school.  It seems that no matter where we turn, someone is requesting our prayers: prayers for healing, prayers for peace, prayers for a good outcome, prayers for safety.  Prayers are requested for family and friends who are in the hospital, someone struggling with mental illness, a family dealing with a financial crisis, a couple dealing with infertility issues.  We request prayers for favorable weather, for a loved one who is dying, for a family who is grieving.

In any given week, we can receive numerous requests for prayers – many of those requests coming from posts that we read online through Facebook and other sites.  I think there is something to be said about the power of prayer.  Even though there are many people who have no desire to be involved with the church, they still do request prayers for various situations.  And why would you request prayers for something or someone unless you actually believed in the power of prayer?  Even the lukewarm Christians believe in the power of prayer.

We have come to the end of the season of Easter.  Next Sunday is Pentecost.  In John’s Gospel, there is no teaching of the Lord’s Prayer.  There is no institution of Holy Communion.  Instead, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet during His final meal with His disciples.  And then Jesus teaches His disciples about loving each other by serving one another.  And then He enters into this long prayer.  First a prayer for Himself, as He prepares to head to the cross.  Then Jesus prays for His disciples, meaning His twelve closest friends.  Finally Jesus prays for “those who will believe in me through [the words of these disciples].”[1]

Did you know that?  Did you know that Jesus prays for you?  Jesus, God’s only Son, the Messiah, the Savior of the World…prays for you.  You’re from Martin County Minnesota, you’re not all that important.  You’re a farmer, a teacher, a business owner, a nurse, a student, a golfer, a fisherman, a retired person who is living the dream.  None of us are really all that important.  I mean, it’s not like we are Pastor Eric or anything.  But we really aren’t all that important.  We don’t have a security detail.  We don’t have a wait staff at home.  We haven’t changed the course of history.  Generations down the road will not learn about us in history textbooks.  And yet, Jesus, the Savior of the world, the Son of God says that He is praying for you.

You are being prayed for.  Not just by your family, your friends, your neighbors, your pastors, but also your Savior.  The one who went to the cross because our sins put Him on the cross.  Yeah, He’s the one who is praying for YOU!

How are you all doing?  Stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Tired?  Worried?  Scared?  The weather certainly isn’t doing anyone any favors.  The late winter and now this wet spring is effecting all of us.  With all of this rain, the fields and gardens can’t get planted.  Windows of opportunity to mow the lawn between the rainfall is rather small.  And if your house is anything like ours, you are certainly sick of sucking up and bailing water out of the basement.  Maybe you’re exhausted.  Maybe you’re frustrated.  Maybe you’re impatient.

Well, I have some good news for you.  No matter how unimportant and insignificant this world says that you are.  Know that you are loved by someone.  And not only are you loved by God, but Jesus is also praying for you.  You know, it seems culturally okay to ask for prayers around the time of death, or when you or someone is in the hospital.  But when you are stressed and scared, when you are beyond tired, when you are overwhelmed and worried, then it appears that asking for those types of prayers is not culturally acceptable.

Thankfully for us, Jesus says that He does not belong to the world.  Which means He does not belong to whatever the world has deemed as “culturally acceptable.”  Jesus also says that WE do not belong to the world.  He says that we are still in the world, but as God’s children, chosen and called, we are not of this world.  One way to think of this is that you are an ambassador for Jesus.  Throughout the world, our country has U.S. ambassadors all over.  As a U.S. ambassador in say, Italy, that ambassador is still considered a U.S. citizen, even though they are living in Italy.  So the ambassador is subject to any and all U.S. laws.  But the ambassador is also living in Italy.  And in order to create and maintain healthy relationships with the people in Italy, it would be wise for the ambassador to follow the Italian laws in addition to the U.S. laws.

We are God’s ambassadors in this world.  We are in the world.  The world that God created for us.  But we are not of this world.  This world is not our home.  As my son said this weekend about making cards for Mother’s Day, “Don’t forget to make a card for Grandma.  We can bring it to where she will come back with Jesus.”  This world is not our home.  We are not of this world.  We are simply God’s ambassadors, living in this world, following both God’s laws and the laws of this world, doing what God has called us to do until the day comes when Jesus does return for my Grandma and for all of us.

No matter what crazy thing this life throws your way, know that Jesus, your Savior, the Son of God Himself is praying for you…His beloved ambassador!  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All Rights Reserved.

[1] John 17:20, NRSV