Consecrated and Ready
February 10, 2019 Speaker: Rev. Braun Campbell Series: Being SJLC 2019: Consecrated, Lord, to Thee - Part 2
Topic: Biblical Verse: Isaiah 6:1–6:8
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Isaiah 6:1-8 (Luke 5:1-11)
“Being SJLC 2019: Consecrated and Ready”
You know the shelf. It’s over there, just sitting around in plain sight. This particular shelf holds some of your books, some of your knickknacks, maybe a photo… and your Bible. How dusty is it?
Back when I was a young boy, my mother taught me the value of dusting. We’d wipe down the cabinets and tables and bedframes – along with all the shelves. (With the arrival of cleaning wands like the Swiffer, dusting’s a whole lot easier than it used to be!) It didn’t take me too long to notice that dusting is only so effective: the dust comes back, particularly when you leave something sitting around for a long time. Even when I’d clean regularly, there’d be this little patch of dust that would remain right up next to an object for as long as it sat there. Disused things get the dustiest. And the longer they sit there, the more the dust builds up.
Are we dusty people when it comes to our faith? The more complacent we are, the longer we sit around in disuse, the dustier we get. And that dust builds up. It’s a symptom of our larger problem. God’s word describes it in a particular way: we are unclean. Our sin separates humanity from God. It leaves us unclean: both active sin, when we willfully disobey God’s instruction, and passive sin, when we fail to honor God’s design for life through inaction and disuse.
In Isaiah’s time, that uncleanness showed itself in how God’s people were living. They had experienced years of prosperity and relative peace, becoming complacent. They were merely going through the motions in outward displays of religion; they weren’t living out their calling in faith. They had allowed themselves to become dusty.
Isaiah recognizes that – not just in the people of Judah, but in his own soul. He knows that he is dusty, unclean. He knows that doesn’t deserve to be in the presence of God. God is holy, and Isaiah is not. Neither are you or I. God’s holiness is impossible for us humans to experience on our own. It should wipe us out, like a bright light switched on in a room that had been filled by darkness. Isaiah despairs, calling out, “I am destroyed!” But that’s not what happens.
The Lord sends His angel to cleanse Isaiah with a hot coal from the altar of the divine presence, a purifying fire that burns away the uncleanness of sin. Isaiah’s guilt is wiped out, its price is paid. Instead of destroying them, the holy fire from God’s altar makes His people clean. Isaiah is consecrated, made holy and set apart for service.
You are consecrated. That’s what we’ve been celebrating in this Epiphany season in this year’s Being SJLC emphasis of Consecrated, Lord, to Thee – Part 2: God has set you apart for a holy purpose. Our Lord has cleansed you from His altar; not with a burning coal but first in the waters of Baptism. He didn’t simply dust you off; He made you fully clean. He made you His own.
In place of a fiery angel bearing a coal from the divine altar, you get the very Son of God, bearing a cross. In place of fire, you get the water of Holy Baptism. You who have come from people of unclean lives are made clean in Christ. Your uncleanness is washed away by the blood of Jesus. Your sin has been atoned for by his life, death, and resurrection. You have been made holy.
God’s Word brings about a new creation, something more than we might ever imagine possible, even as that Word gave Peter and his fellow fisherman an overwhelming catch of fish in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, came to be with us so that you and I could be in the presence of the living God. He came to make us clean, and he continues to make us clean. Through Confession and Absolution, through Holy Communion, God takes away uncleanness and consecrates you to be His own.
You have been consecrated for service. You’re not here on this earth to be dusty people; you’re here, like Isaiah, to deliver God’s gifts to the world around you. That’s what stewardship is about. God shapes us as stewards, people who have been entrusted with resources that can make a difference in the lives of the people with whom we share this planet. That’s why He has given you time and abilities and wisdom: to care for your neighbors, near and far. God doesn’t need your service; your neighbor does.
We are called to follow; we are sent to serve. Your gifts are meant to be used. You and I serve Jesus by serving others in his name, the name that was put upon you in Holy Baptism, when you were washed clean and set apart. As Christian stewards, then, you carry Christ’s name out into the world. To put it in terms that go along with what we heard happened in Luke 5: Jesus is in the boat! The Lord of Creation is here now among us, and he leads the way out.
You are ready. God has seen to it. You have been made clean in Christ, and he has equipped you for the mission on which he sends you. Jesus goes with you each day, leading the way, bringing the kingdom of God into the lives of the people you encounter. Christ sends us out to be people of contagious consecration. He sends us so that everyone else might be set free from the dust that has covered their lives. Give the gifts God has given you to others. Witness to His love through word and action, confident that God is preparing you and equipping you for the opportunities that He puts before you.
This weekend might mark the conclusion of our Being SJLC emphasis for this Epiphany season, but my prayer for you is that this is a fresh start for you as a steward of God’s gifts of grace. We’ve done a good number of things together as a congregation to use our time in service to our neighbor: financial stewardship training, the hypothermia shelter at St. Mark’s, the Rise Against Hunger meal packaging event, the Haiti servant trip… but there are so many more opportunities out there, most of which we have yet to even realize. Being SJLC is, by God’s grace, who we are as God’s people at St. John’s Lutheran Church. We serve Jesus by loving our community, giving them what he richly and daily gives to us. This identity continues beyond Epiphany, through Transfiguration and Lent and Easter, on into the rest of our lives as followers of Christ.
How dusty are we in living out our faith? As of today, you’re not. You have been made clean. You are consecrated for a holy purpose as God’s people, serving in Christ’s name. And by God’s grace, you are ready.
[i] Passage for memory:
And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” – Isaiah 6:7