First Lesson: Exodus 34: 29-35
Responsive Reading: Psalm 99
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 3: 12 - 4:2
Gospel Lesson: Luke 9: 28-36, (37-43a)
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
In 1918, a boy was born in a small town in Rural Oklahoma. The boy grew up on a tiny farm milking cows. As he got older, this boy did everything he could to try to make ends meet from delivering newspapers to waiting tables. The young man eventually gets into college. His first job is with JC Penney for $75 a month. He then serves his country in World War II. He uses money from his time in the service along with a loan from his father in law to purchase a small variety store in Newport, Arkansas. The business quickly grew increasing sales three hundred percent within the first three years. His business model was simple; he didn’t want to own stores in big cities, but instead small towns. He wanted to have a wide variety of products at the lowest prices possible. He realized he had only one boss the customer to whom he had to answer. In 1962, he decided to open another new store; this new store had his name “Walton” in the store’s name. Within five years, Sam Walton’s store had annual sales exceeding of over 12 million dollars. Today, Walmart has become the world’s largest company by revenue. Growing up dirt poor in Oklahoma, Sam Walton could never imagine the direction that God would take his life. Walton though is not unique.
Second story, in 1928 a boy is born outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The boy had a difficult childhood. He had health problems such as asthma. He was bullied by other children. He was made fun of for his weight. The boy was shy. He spent much of his time alone in his room. Since he didn’t have any friends, he became a puppeteer to try to create friends within his make-believe world. He spent the rest of his free-time becoming a talented piano player. He eventually gets accepted in Dartmouth College, which he couldn’t stand for its hyper-macho environment. He drops out to transfer to a school far away from home. He eventually becomes a seminary student back in Pittsburgh. He felt he was being called to a ministry like no one else in the Presbyterian Church either before or since. He believed his ministry was to be an educational T.V. ministry to young children. His church body balked at his request. He eventually begins his show on Pittsburgh’s WEQD. Forty years later upon his retirement, he’s considered one of the most influential T.V. stars of all time. Perhaps the most significant influence in Early Childhood Education this country has ever known. Mr. Fred Rogers’ ministry had been born in some of the toughest days of his childhood and ended up becoming an influence to tens of millions of children of this country because of it.
The third and final story, 385 A.D. a young man is born within Roman Britain. He grew up in relative prosperity and comfort. In these days, the Roman Empire in these parts was on the verge of collapse. The British Coast would often be attacked by Irish pirate ships. In 401 A.D. the young man was captured in one of these raids. He would spend the next six years of his life living in Ireland as a slave. His task as a slave was the most miserable of all. He was ordered to be a shepherd. The young man would be isolated in Ireland’s cold mountains for months on end. Food was always challenging to find and he was unable to speak the native language. The young man with no other place in the world to turn begins to embrace his Grandfather’s Christian faith. The young man would start to spend his days praying for God to save him from the land that he hated. The young man eventually does escape Ireland and return to his native Britain. His parents begged him never to leave Britain again. God would have other plans! The young man continues studying Christianity! One night he has a vision that he is to return to Ireland so that he may become “The Voice of the Irish.” The young man returns to Ireland; his missionary work is so successful that he comes to be known as the “Saint of Ireland.” By the time of Saint Patrick’s death, a little over thirty years after his initial capture Ireland, had transformed from a pagan nation to a Christian one.
What these three stories have in common is God taking people from unlikely circumstances and using them to help transform not only people but ultimately nations.
Today’s Old Testament lesson tells a similar story. To understand the life of the Prophet Isaiah let me give a little brief background.
King Solomon died about 170 years before Isaiah’s birth. Solomon’s death left Israel divided into Northern and Southern Kingdoms over the question of who should inherit his throne. Isaiah lived in the Southern Kingdom which was compromised two of Israel’s twelve tribes.
So the Lord would frequently call prophets to try to get the people to turn from their false worship before their inevitable destruction.
In our lesson, Isaiah is standing in the Temple of the Lord. He looked up and saw a vision. The Lord was sitting on his throne, the back of his robe is filling the Temple, surrounding the Lord are Seraphim which are six-winged angels singing out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The impact of the Heavenly Choir is such that Isaiah is in awe. Isaiah knew this vision meant that God was calling him to be a “prophet” among the Northern Kingdom. Isaiah thought he felt deeply unworthy. Isaiah’s unworthiness had nothing to do with growing up poor like Sam Walton, being shy and socially awkward like Mr. Rogers, or not wanting to have anything to do with the people of the Northern Kingdom like Saint Patrick. Isaiah’s reluctance instead had to do with his tongue:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
A few months back, I was lifting weights. The previous lifter had forgotten to take their weights down, so before I could begin, I would need to do so. The problem was the rack had been moved, so I didn’t have much room to maneuver. I bumped my leg, and I proceeded to drop a 45 lb. — barbell right on top of my pinky finger. The finger soon turned black, and just this week the nail would fall off. The mark was quite noticeable. I was down at Zup’s a when Kathy the cashier says she was discussing my finger with another customer. She then asked me: “Did I cuss when the accident happened?”
To which I answered that I didn’t, but that the pain was such that I could easily forgive anyone that did.
You see the reason Isaiah felt that he was unworthy of God’s calling is he had used too much R-rated language throughout his life. Isaiah believed there were all sorts of people that could throw this fault in his face; thereby God could certainly find someone better to serve as a Prophet to the people of the Northern Kingdom.
God’s response to Isaiah’s excuse is noteworthy. The Seraphim grabs a piece of coal, flies over to Isaiah, touches his lips, and declares Isaiah’s “guilt is taken away.” And “sin is atoned.”
Isaiah’s attitude would soon do a 180-degree turn. The Lord would then ask: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” To which Isaiah would reply: “Here am I. Send me!.”
Isaiah would serve as one of Israel’s longest prophets with a ministry that lasted upwards of sixty-four years. What Isaiah’s ministry centered on was a coming judgment that would fall upon Israel’s kingdoms as long as they persisted in their sin. Isaiah though speaks even more forcefully though of a great hope to be given to the people in the Messiah that is to come.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”-Isaiah 53:5.
It was Isaiah who would quote the words later spoken by Jesus:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;1 he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
Without God calling the previous foul-mouther Isaiah the story of our salvation is never written. It reminds us that God’s promises of forgiveness are more powerful than our excuses. Abraham was already an old man, yet he eventually became the father of a great nation. We might claim we’re too shy, too broken, too young, or too old. Here’s the point of our lesson made clear by the stories of Sam Walton, Fred Rogers, and Saint Patrick: “God calls us out of our imperfections, rather than for our perfection.”
A few weeks ago, I was at a Basketball game at William Kelley. A group of students was cussing loud enough that I had to tell them to quiet down. Isaiah reminds me that this is never an excuse to seek to inevitability run from God’s calling upon our lives. Amen
 Sharma, Arun. “Rags to Riches: Sam Walton.” Wisdom Pearls. 21.Mar.2017. Web. Jan.29.2019.
 “Sam Walton.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 18.Jan.2019. Web. Jan.29.2019.
 “Fred Rogers.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 24.Jan.2019. Web. Jan.29.2019.
 I recently read Maxwell King’s biography: The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers published by Harry N.Abrams in 2018. King’s book heavily informs this analogy.
 “Fred Rogers.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
 “Saint Patrick.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 28.Jan.2019. Web. Jan.29.2019.
 Higgins, Scott. “St.Patrick.” Stories for Preaching. Web. Jan.29.2019. Higgins’ source is Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilisation (Hodder, 1995)
 Higgins, Scott. “St.Patrick.” Stories for Preaching.
 Higgins, Scott. “St.Patrick.” Stories for Preaching.
 Saint Patrick.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation
 Isaiah 6:1-13.
 Butler, Amy. “Marching Orders.” Sermon Writer. 2006. Web. Jan.29.2019.
 Isaiah 6:3.
 Isaiah 6:4.
 Isaiah 6:6
 Isaiah 6:7
 Isaiah 6:7.
 Isaiah 6:8.
 Isaiah 6:8.
 Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1-2.