In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives a brief but full summary of the basics of Christian belief. Starting with Paul, the church has worked hard at putting into words the basics of what saving faith looks like. Listen to what he wrote, and consider our own confession of faith when we recite the Apostles' Creed. “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and... he was buried, and... he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” This is Paul's confession of faith. And I don't think there are any surprises there, we've all said this in these or similar words. But I'm wondering this morning just how much effect the words we say have on us.
Acts 8 tells us that he, known as Saul at the time, “But Saul was trying to destroy the church by going into one house after another, dragging off both men and women, and putting them in prison.” This is why he wrote this in today's reading, “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
We know that his conversion led to him being the great apostle to the gentiles; the non-Jews. And that he wrote the largest portion of the New Testament. His confession of the faith led multitudes of people throughout the centuries to embrace this strange truth—that God came to earth as a man, suffered, died, was buried and rose again... and dwells in heaven interceding for us. Big truths that too often we hear with barely a twinge of the wonder it would excite if we were hearing it for the first time..
Two aspects of what I've said so far bring me to look at our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah. Here we find a man who, like Paul, recognized his limitations and his unworthiness. Isaiah doesn't pull any punches, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” The least of the apostles, Paul, led millions to Christ. Isaiah, a man of unclean lips provided most of the prophecies about the coming Messiah! We witness examples here of God calling people who we might not recognize as special messengers. May it be that we too are called even if we don't recognize our special call by God? That's a rhetorical question; you are called. Open your hearts and minds to hear God's call.
The second aspect of these two passages that caught my attention I already mentioned, the great wonder and awe they should inspire. Isaiah's call is filled with wonderful, mysterious visions. “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs 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. 3And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.” I'd venture to guess that none of you has seen anything to compare to that! That would certainly get our attention, wouldn't it? And it is a shame that, while that would certainly bring us to our knees in the presence of the great and holy God, awe is not always inspired when we are invited into God's presence in prayer and study and fellowship.
And that brings me to a third point--one I didn't have in my outline, God is both incomprehensible and available; both high and lofty yet nearby and accessible. There is great mystery and wonder with our creator God. Isaiah says he saw God, “on a throne, high and lofty.” Seraphim sang of his glory. While we understand that God does not physically sit on a throne, the symbolism is Lordship and power and glory. And when we come into God's “throne-room” in prayer, it is good to recognize the awesomeness of our God. But at the same time, the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present Lord of the universe has invited us into a personal time of conversation! Let's take a moment to let that sink in.... And not only does God invite us into conversation, Jesus calls us into relationship with God. Jesus came to earth to give evidence of God's love for humanity. And I say humanity, but it is important to recognize that Jesus came to welcome each one of us into the family of God. Each one of us. You. Me. Each of us as individuals as well as us in the sense of the community of the church.
We are singing a new hymn today, new for me anyways. And while the tune will be familiar, I want us to note the words, “Hear the good news of salvation: Jesus died to show God’s love. Such great kindness! Such great Mercy!”
That is our confession of faith in a nutshell—the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, the mercy that forgives us our sin... salvation. And so this morning we are proclaiming our faith in song and in creeds. We are also celebrating the sacrament of communion. This holy meal calls us to remember the very things of which Paul wrote, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and... he was buried, and... he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” But let this communion and our words of the hymn and our confession of faith be more that just something adults say, something Christian say.... Let the truth of God's love; of Christ's sacrifice; of salvation-- let it all fill your being, your mind, your soul. Know the awesomeness of a God who came to save. Nurture a relationship with our incomprehensible God. Live in love that the Lord offers as you hear anew the good news of salvation, the words we proclaim today: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Amen.
Hymn: Hear the Good News of Salvation 355 PH