10 July 2010

Isaiah 6:1-8

"Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said, 'Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.'" (v.6-7)


One of the most amazing scenes I witnessed when I visited Haiti was at the main Methodist church in Port-au-Prince. Next to the church lay the ruined New College Bird, the district offices next to it were a broken shell and the church was empty, dusty, lifeless and silent.

Yet in the midst of all the destruction that I had seen, surrounded by dust, behind the church's communion table, I noticed that the stained glass windows had miraculously survived. One of these was of a dove moving over troubled waters. Amidst this terrible destruction I was taken back to the scene of Creation described inGenesis 1:2.

This week's readings from Hosea have reminded us how the life experience of the prophet became a springboard for his preaching. His declarations concluded with the plea to 'return' - for his unfaithful wife Gomer to return to him, and for the nation of Israel to return to its true god. As the readings move to Isaiah today, it is as if we are hearing words that Gomer might love to have heard.

These words, describing the call of the prophet Isaiah, are words of testimony following a conversion. They identify a time, describe a vision, and appreciate the wonder of God. They speak of repentance, describe a context and express the essence of the call. "Your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out" articulates well the feelings of a person who has been forgiven and very much appreciates it. All too often guilt becomes a burden that hinders our mission. With what reluctance we appear to offer the liberation that comes with forgiveness in some of our declarations and practice.

The Church's traditions and rituals lay in the dust of disaster, yet the creative spirit of God broods over our troubles and those of others, and offers words of assurance and forgiveness. I am constantly struck by the images of people that the media reports as having achieved a victory for justice today. They come out of courts, issue statements and are greeted by jubilant supporters. It is human justice to get our day in court and to rejoice when the judge has decided in our favour. Is it divine justice? - it appears not! God's justice is creative and achieves victory through forgiveness.

To Ponder

I have heard it said many times by many people - "I cannot forgive". Under what circumstances might you find it difficult to forgive a wrong done to you?

Faced with a vision of God's majesty Isaiah was humbled, and he responded with commitment. Has commitment ever been your reaction to being humbled? What happened?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tom Quenet

Prior to his current role as superintendent in the Tynedale Circuit, Tom Quenet was partnership coordinator for the Americas and the Caribbean in the World Church Relationships Office of the Methodist Church in Britain. A deep knowledge of the Church in the region gave given Tom a passion for the insights into being a disciple of Jesus that the Spanish speaking world has to offer the world.