Friday

6 December 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (v. 3)

Psalm: Psalm 50:1-15

Background

We use the word "holy" a lot. We talk about the Holy Bible or the Holy Spirit, a holy place, or a holy person. Roman Catholics call their pope "His Holiness”. We sense that when some things or some persons are called "holy", there is a different aura about them. Somehow, they seem set apart from our profane, everyday life, and we are tempted to speak in whispers about them. We are not wrong in the way we treat holiness. The root meaning of the word, "to be holy," is to be set apart, to belong to the realm of the divine. A holy person or a holy place is one set apart for God's purpose. Holiness belongs to God.

Our passage from Isaiah records one of the most notable confrontations with God in scripture. The prophet sees the Lord, high and sitting on a throne, and it is a confrontation with the holiness, the ‘otherness’, of God. There is a tendency in our era to over-familiarise and patronise God. It is true that God is our friend. We sing hymns extolling that friendship. I am excited to know that I am special to him. But we come to God in worship and in awe of who he is.

Our worship begins in his holy and glorious presence spotlighting him and not us. Each time we enter his presence through meditation or with the community of believers, we should be struck with his greatness and our unworthiness. Our worth lies in him. He reaches down and brings us up.

It is only after being touched by the burning coals of God’s glory that Isaiah is made worthy to serve God and enabled to respond to the call. It can only be in relation to God that we can make good our claim to be God’s people. The psalmist knows it when he announces that God will judge the earth and will gather all the faithful ones. “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving … call on me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:14-15).This is the call to holiness.

As Methodist people we are called to social holiness, it is a significant feature of our way of being Christian. Holiness transcends race, ethnicity, sex, denomination, or any other barrier or excuse that keeps us far away from God. Holiness draws us toward Jesus with a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, it is a demand for right living. It is an expression of complete obedience to God. Even in human "jars of clay" we are called to be pure, clean and holy. Holiness is seeking Jesus because I understand that I need him. After Pentecost the disciples were transformed from self-seekers to God-seekers. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to live life to its fullest. Holiness is the fulfilment of fullest! It is not done in our own strength but in God's strength. Holiness unto the Lord truly becomes our watchword and song. As we consider our Advent theme of justice and sacrifice, we acknowledge the call to social holiness; we can respond no other way than the manner in which Isaiah responded, “And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” (v. 8)

 

To Ponder:

  • We have read about the call of Isaiah to become a prophet. What experience of a sense of call, or vacation, have you had in your life?
  • How should the church support those who are called to a life of service in a secular context or through their daily lives outside the church? Have a look at the Methodist Chaplaincy Everywhere programme –is this something your local church could get involved with?

 


Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon

The Rev Dr Adrian Burdon is Superintendent Minister of the Shaw & Royton Circuit in the Manchester & Stockport District. Adrian has been a presbyter since 1988 and, in addition to urban Lancashire, has worked on the Fylde Coast, in Leeds City Centre, the North East of England and as a mission partner in the South Pacific. Adrian is Chair of the CTBI Writing group, which writes material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and serves on the liturgical subcommittee of the Methodist Church.

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