This week’s guest devotion comes to us once again from Rev. Dr. Wayne Braun. Pastor Braun is an LCMS Career Missionary sent to serve the English-speaking congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. Pastor Braun serves expatriates from many different countries, as well as native Germans. Pastor Braun’s devotion is based on the readings for Trinity Sunday in the one-year lectionary.
–By Rev. Dr. Wayne Braun
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:5-8 ESV).
I have never been very good at fishing. I have wanted to like fishing. I have tried to like fishing. I have sought to learn how to fish. It has never worked for me. The problem is my attitude. I don’t like the slimy stuff you use as bait. Putting worms on hooks grosses me out. I feel the same about taking fish off the hook. Cleaning the fish? Are you kidding? Then there is all the sitting and waiting. I just don’t have that kind of patience. The only time I have ever really been successful at fishing is when I have been with someone else. What made those occasions different? The difference was the other person’s attitude. They love fishing. They can’t wait to go fishing. To them fishing is the best thing there is and it shows in the way they fish. And they have been gracious enough to do for me all the things I hate – baiting the hooks, taking the fish off the hook and cleaning the fish.
That got me to wondering – How does our own attitude affect the way we live our lives as believers in Christ? How does my attitude impact my work as a missionary, a Pastor, a father, a neighbor, a coworker? Let me give you an example of what I mean. In one congregation where I have served we had a volunteer working with our teenagers who had no patience with teenagers. In fact I even heard her say once, “I just really don’t like this age group.” Her attitude showed. The teenagers knew she didn’t like working with them. Many of them stopped attending. For me, when I am really discouraged or worried, the result in my ministry is often that I become timid in my sharing of the Word, or apathetic towards a certain project, perhaps so fearful of failure that I become fearful of trying. When I have a complaining attitude about people in the church or my colleagues or those with authority over me, my service as a missionary becomes very negative.
Take a moment to do an attitude check of yourself. Is witnessing about the faith something you fear? That attitude will often stifle your witness. Have you ever had to live or work next to someone you didn’t like? How did that impact your witness to that person? Or if that person is a fellow believer whom you don’t like – how did that impact your willingness or ability to work with that person at Church? Pause for a moment in your reading of this devotional. Consider your own attitudes in your workplace, at church, at school or at home. How do those attitudes impact your life as a believer?
When I give myself such an attitude check, I find myself in very much the same spiritual condition as the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6. He has a vision of coming into the temple and seeing the Lord God “seated on a throne, high and exalted and the train of His robe filled the temple.” There are angels flying everywhere, “calling to one another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” Isaiah is terrified. He knows he has no business being there in the Lord’s presence. “’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined. 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.’” When I consider my life according to God’s law, I come to the same conclusion. With the resentment, negativity or even anger that I harbor in my heart or that too often escapes my lips – what business do I have serving in the Lord’s presence, at His altar? I too must cry, “Woe to me! I am ruined!”
Isaiah was correct in his assessment of himself. Yet he goes on from there to become one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. What happened? Quite simply God’s grace is what happened. In response to Isaiah’s cry of repentance “one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.’” The Lord’s gracious forgiveness changes everything. You see the change in what happens next. The Lord calls out, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah’s “Woe to me” is gone. He has a new attitude. “Here am I! Send me!” The fear, the worry, the guilt have all been washed away in the tide of God’s forgiveness and grace. Instead there is a new attitude, a missionary attitude born of faith in God’s undeserved love.
That grace is not simply offered only to Isaiah. God loves the whole world. He loves the whole world so much that He gave more than a hot coal taken from the altar. He gave His one and only Son Jesus. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…” He was delivered over to death for the sins of the world and then raised to life again to bring life and immortality to life. That love includes you and me. Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification.”
Because of what Jesus did for us, every Sunday at every Divine service we replay Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord Almighty. The first thing we do in worship is to confess our sins. We are essentially saying the same thing that Isaiah said. “Woe to me. I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” No, God doesn’t answer by sending you a six winged seraph. He sends us another sinner just like us, one called to be a Pastor who says to us these wonderful words, “Upon this your confession, I by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce unto you the grace of God and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Then as if wanting to add an exclamation point to that, at the Lord’s Supper you are given the very body and blood of your Savior (in with and under the bread and wine) to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.
God is so gracious. We never deserve to be loved by Him and yet we are. As His grace and forgiveness transformed Isaiah, so He does the same for you and me. God’s grace is why you and I can go joyfully about our lives as believers in Christ – whether in the role of father, employee, pastor, teacher, parent, etc. God’s grace is the fertile soil that produces the eager missionary attitude, the one that answers, “Here am I! Send me!”
Let us pray: Lord God, Like Isaiah I am not worthy to serve as your ambassador for I am a person of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips. So today I pray with King David, another unworthy servant – ‘Create in me a clean heart O God and renew right spirit within me.” Give me the eager attitude of a life transformed by Your grace that I might answer Your calling in my life as Isaiah did – ‘Here am I! Send me!'” Amen.