First Lesson: Isaiah 6: 1-8
Responsive Reading: Psalm 29
Second Lesson: Romans 8: 12-17
Gospel Lesson: John 3: 1-17
Grace and peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Tim had a foul mouth. Tim knew every bad word a person could say and would often say them just to see how people would react. Tim walked around town with a perpetual scowl on his face always looking down on the ground. People that knew Tim joked that they had never seen him smile. Tim never had a positive word to say about anybody else. Tim was the guy always complaining about the food at restaurants. Tim was the guy who would go to the local school’s basketball game and leave in a foul mood because of how much this year’s group of kids disappointed him.
Tim didn’t think much of his local church. Sure, Tim had gone to Sunday school as a child when his parents made him. Tim’s parents marriage was all kinds of messed up, and if they told Tim to do something, he probably resented them years later for it. Tim didn’t think much of the church crowd. Tim thought they were all a bunch of hypocrites. Tim heard of choir members cheating on their wives. Tim heard tales of Sunday school teachers getting so drunk that they were unable to stand at the bar. Tim heard tales of the pastor yelling foul language at his neighbor. Tim didn’t think that church people looked all that different from anyone else. Tim would laugh whenever one of the holier than thou Christians stumbled in front of the town.
Tim’s life would one day change forever. Tim ran into Roger at the supermarket. Roger was the church’s janitor. You see years ago when Tim was in confirmation; as part of their confirmation the kids were assigned ways to serve the congregation. Tim was assigned to help the janitor, so this is how Tim knew Roger. Tim had gotten quite strong since he was a scrawny little confirmation lad. Tim looked like a linebacker. Roger asked Tim if he would consider helping Tim move some stuff that he was having difficulty moving at church. Tim would always say “no” to such a request. Tim would say “no” to the Pastor, Tim would say “no” to his drunken Sunday school teacher or the philandering choir member. Tim saw Roger though different then he saw the others in the church crowd. When Tim was a child, Roger seemed to be genuinely concerned about him. Roger would always ask Tim about his day. Roger would always buy Tim a pop after they got done doing their work. Roger and Tim would tell each other stories about their latest hunting or fishing adventures. Roger was one of the few adults that Tim actually liked growing up. So Tim said “yes” to Roger’s request.
Roger probably wasn’t the idle church member. Roger talked kind of slow. Roger didn’t have very much money. Roger was bald and heavy-set and not much to see. Roger was a lifelong bachelor. No one would mistake Roger’s wits of a champion debater. Day after day, Roger kept coming back to church with the attitude that his job keeping the building clean was the most important thing in the world.
As they were moving furniture that day, Roger asked Tim, why Tim was never in church?
Tim started to complain about the people that went there. The complaints all ran together. People there were fake. People loved power more than helping others. Tim was tired of all that flawless hair, the shiny white teeth, and the people that acted all high and mighty?”
Roger listened to Tim’s every word before finally asking him “What about Jesus?”
Roger confessed something to Tim on that day. Roger too had been disappointed with the church. Roger had the pastor yell at him for things that weren’t his fault. Roger had seen kids acting carelessly on the church grounds figuring that’s why they paid Roger. Roger realized something about the church though at these moments. These moments that would disgust people like Tim were the moments where grace came into the cracks of people’s broken lives. Roger had been around the church for a long time. Roger had seen Pastors come and go (some who he liked better than others). Roger had seen people get mad and take their ball and go home. Roger had seen plenty of church members fail to act like good church members are supposed to act. Roger still kept sweeping, mopping and vacuuming the floors because he believed that Jesus is bigger than all that.
Roger went to church because people were hypocrites because people fell by the wayside. Roger came to realize that no toilet was ever going to be truly clean. People like this were why Roger needed to follow a God that would promise to deliver people from the mess of their lives.
Jesus came for the sick and the hurting. Jesus never went through a day of his ministry expecting to encounter the spiritually healthy.
After talking to Roger that day, it was almost as if some spirit was trying to reach Tim. Everything Tim had previously thought about the church and its members was being challenged.
Tim’s story reminds me of a Bible story. It’s the story of Isaiah.
Isaiah lived in a land where he saw the followers of God continually disappoint. Their worship was dead. They neglected the needs of their neighbors. Everywhere that Isaiah looked he saw disappointing followers of the one true God all around him. Isaiah heard God cursed in every way imaginable. Isaiah had started out with the best of intentions. As Isaiah saw wicked king after wicked king tries and fail to lead the people of Israel the jadedness got to Isaiah. Isaiah soon became as bitter and pessimistic as anyone else. Isaiah figured that he was a failed preacher and that opening his mouth anymore was pointless.
One day though God came into Isaiah’s life in a way that he could not have previously imagined. Isaiah was in the temple when he looked up to see a vision of the Lord sitting on his throne. The Lord was surrounded by Seraphim (the highest ranking of all angels). The Seraphim had six wings. Two wings are covering their face, two wings covering their feet, and two wings with which they flew. As soon as Isaiah saw this scene, he came to realize that he was just as dirty as anybody else in the nation of Israel. Isaiah wanted to flee from the Lord’s presence at the very moment.
“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.”
As Isaiah stood in the Lord’s presence, he knew that God could destroy him at any moment. What Roger had to tell Tim about the presence of God is not to obsess about his fellow church members. Tim was not worthy! Roger was not worthy! Isaiah was not worthy! No one is ever worthy!
The Thing is God’s forgiveness is anything but ordinary. For once Isaiah dreaded his future standing in the presence of almighty God. A Seraphim grabbed a burning coal from the fire, and touched it to Isaiah’s lips and said “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for;”
Isaiah’s pessimism had quickly turned to hope as soon as he received that touch of grace. When Isaiah saw the Lord everything changed for him.
Isaiah quickly gained a new outlook on those that he was called to serve as he proclaimed
“Here am I. Lord Send me!” Let me be your vessel to the people of Israel as imperfect as they may be.
There is a church that has a sign as you leave their parking lot that says “The mission field starts here.” The mission field is the hypocrites, sinners, and just flat out curmudgeons like Tim that you shall encounter in your daily life. Anytime spent discussing this fact is already time wasted.
Back to the story of Tim and Roger, as Tim was talking to Roger that day he saw that there were things that weren’t quite right. Tim had gone through life always blaming others from his parents to his bosses to his neighbors. Tim didn’t want to admit the truth about himself. Tim was a sinner no different than anybody else at the church that he resented so much. Tim started going back to church. Tim went because he needed Roger’s support. Tim began to look at people through “new” eyes and saw that he could use their help also. What Tim liked most of all was hearing the promises of the Gospel given to him both orally through the proclamation of forgiveness and physically in bread and wine.
You see the problem with too many of us is that we go through life only seeing the world one way.
A few weeks ago, the actor Ed Helms gave a commencement address at the University of Virginia where he discussed human nature’s tendency always to try to simplify complex people living within a complex world.
Helms said, and I quote: “We’re all guilty of this. How many times do we label people with our first impressions only to be proven wrong? The tattooed motorcycle guy who turns out to be a teddy bear, the buttoned-up co-worker who actually knows how to party, or the mousy librarian who takes off her glasses to reveal that she’s a bloodthirsty alien from a distant galaxy. We try to define others with simple labels because it makes the world easier to understand.”
Perhaps the hypocrites that Tim thought defined the church were there because they knew they could not escape their imperfect self. Perhaps Isaiah was called to preach to the people of Israel because his lips were just as unclean for a time as anybody else’s.
Today is Trinity Sunday. The story of the Trinity is the story of salvation as played out in Tim’s life. A love was given from each member of the Trinity for Tim’s sake. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all equally vital in Tim’s salvation story.
The Father identified Tim for salvation before the beginning of the world. The Son died for Tim’s sins on the Cross. The Spirit worked through Roger in proclaiming to Tim why he needed to hear the Gospel.
In the months ahead, Tim’s attitude slowly began to change. The next time, Tim heard about the stumbles of the people in the church he saw them differently. Tim came to realize without people’s stumbles; there wouldn’t be a church in the first place.
 Piatt, Christian. “The Real Reason Christianity is Still in Decline”. Patheos. 20.May.2015. Web. May.22.2015
 Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17
 Isaiah 6:5
 Tanner, Beth. “Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13) Commentary”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 07.Feb.2010. Web. May.22.2015
 Isaiah 6:7b
 Isaiah 6:8b
 Schneider, Matt. “Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015 (So Far).”Mockingbird (MBird). 21.May.2015. Web. May.22.2015.