January 29, 2023
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth, we gather together in Your name. We come as living sacrifices, to offer You our worship and thanksgiving, our praise, and our prayers. Come among us, living Lord. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, transform our hearts and minds so that we may recognize Your presence, hear Your voice, know Your will, and walk in Your way. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
PRELUDE “Toccata in e minor Johann Pachelbel
CALL TO WORSHIP
Give thanks to God with all your hearts.
We will hold nothing back from our God.
Sing full-throated praises to our God.
We will join in the chorus of thanksgiving for God’s abiding love.
Glorify God’s and that Word we know as Jesus Christ.
We will worship our God with wonder and joy.
*HYMN No. 1 “Holy, Holy Holy! Lord God Almighty!”
1 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
2 Holy, holy, holy! all the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
3 Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinfulness thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.
4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
*CALL TO CONFESSION
We worship a God who stands more ready to forgive than we are to confess our sin. Our Creator, who is merciful and just, has promised to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Beloved, with such assurance, we do not need to fear confession. Let us profess our sin, first together then in silence, to our God, who has made us, who knows us, and who loves us. Let us pray:
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
You have told us what is good, O God. Your hopes for us are clear. And yet we live as though it is unclear what you would have us do. We live as though were not the recipients of grace upon grace. We have withheld what is not our own. We have judged where it was not our place. We have sinned by what we have done and what we have failed to do. We know that we have sinned. We seek your forgiveness and your reconciliation and strength that we may follow in the way you would have us go. Cleanse us and guide us. We make this and all our prayers in reliance upon our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
You have told us what is good, O God. Your hopes for us are clear. And yet we live as though it is unclear what you would have us do. We live as though were not the recipients of grace upon grace. We have with- held what is not our own. We have judged where it was not our place. We have sinned by what we have done and what we have failed to do. We know that we have sinned. We seek your forgiveness and your reconciliation and strength that we may follow in the way you would have us go. Cleanse us and guide us. We make this and all our prayers in reliance upon our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.
He gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
Believe the promise of the gospel:
In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
*RESPONSE No. 581 “Glory Be To The Father”
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen, amen.
*PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”
ANTHEM “Canticle of Hope” Joseph Matin
UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
UNISON SCRIPTURE Romans 12:1-2
12I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 6:1-13
6In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
5And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The 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.” 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
9And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ 10Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” 11Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; 12until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.13Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
SERMON “SERVE: HERE I AM, LORD, SEND ME”
In this week’s Old Testament lesson, a young Isaiah is in church, perhaps in a worship service. In the midst of great national turmoil, God gives the prophet a vision that even now has the power to buckle our knees and “blow our minds.” After all, it’s almost as if God tugs the curtain between heaven and earth open just far enough so that the prophet can peek into the heavenly realm. In it he sees “the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted” (1), whom he also calls “the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah also hears heaven’s angels crying out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The prophet reports that it’s all enough to shake the temple almost to its foundations.
So how does Isaiah respond?
Does he sing along with the seraphs?
Does the prophet turn to his neighbor and say, “Wow, the praise band and accompanist are really on today”?
No, Isaiah’s vision of heaven overwhelms him with a sense of his contemporaries and his sinfulness. When the prophet catches a glimpse of God, he sees himself as well as all people for what we really are: those whose sin has put our lives in danger. He, in other words, sees the bad news.
I want to invite you to reflect on similar experiences. Have you had a moment in worship when you realized that you had fallen short of what God intended for your life – did you see bad news? We come to church hoping to be comforted and encouraged. Yet we sometimes find that our time of confession, a song or message confronts us with the awful reality of our sin. And we find that its bad news makes us want to sink to our knees in pain.
Or perhaps it was during a time of personal or family devotions. We read a particular Scripture passage that spoke directly to our own disobedience. And it made us want to cringe in horror. Or perhaps God confronted those to whom we proclaim Isaiah 6 through a family member or friend who brought them face to face with the bad news that is the pain their sin caused someone. And they felt like crawling in a hole in misery.
That’s that context in which Isaiah 6 speaks its good news: sin doesn’t disqualify people from being God’s servants. In fact, it shows that God longs to make servants out of sinners, as it were.
- What happens, after all when Isaiah says, “Woe is me!”? I am ruined”?
- Does the Lord, in fact, let him be ruined?
- Does God tell him to “Go to hell!”?
No, God wants to, in the words of one scholar, ruin the prophet’s ruination. So, one of the angels touches Isaiah’s mouth with a burning but cleansing coal. God’s messenger then announces the good news, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Yet even then God isn’t yet done. Beyond the part of Isaiah 6 the Lectionary specifically appoints for this Sunday, the Lord also commissions the forgiven prophet to “Go, tell this people ….”
God certainly wants Isaiah to announce judgment on Israel’s sins. That judgment is bleak. Yet while the warning about it is notoriously difficult to translate and understand, it contains a seed of great hope. While God mourns that all that will be left of judged Israel is an ugly stump, God also announces the good news that that stump will also be the seed of God’s redemption, a purified remnant that, like Isaiah, God will turn into something “holy.”
The prophet’s text contains both bad and good news. We can see the text’s bad news as our sin, and it’s good news as God’s forgiving love. Knowing that the good news is about God’s love and our forgiveness, how might we respond? One of my favorite stories of a transformation is from the 1970s.
Charles Colson worked as a Special Counsel to United States President Richard Nixon between 1969 and 1973. He became known as the president’s “Hatchet Man” for his willingness to do his dirty work for him. Colson also was the first member of Nixon’s cabinet to be imprisoned for Watergate-related crimes.
In 1973, however, the Holy Spirit transformed Mr. Colson into a Christian. The forgiven former “Hatchet Man” heard and faithfully responded to God’s call to work on God’s behalf with and for prisoners. His Prison Fellowship Ministry arguably did more to raise Christians’ (as well as others’) awareness of the need for more humane treatment of people who are incarcerated.
Reflecting on his conversion, Colson later wrote: “I left [the Raytheon Company’s president, Tom Phillips’] house that night [of my conversion] shaken by the words he had read from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity about pride. It felt as if Lewis were writing about me, former Marine captain, Special Counsel to the President of the United States, now in the midst of the Watergate scandal. I had an overwhelming sense that I was unclean.”
“After talking to Tom, I found that when I got to the automobile to drive away, I couldn’t. I was crying too hard – and I was not one to ever cry. I spent an hour calling out to God. I did not even know the right words. I simply knew that I wanted Him. And I knew for certain that the God who created the universe heard my cry.”
“From the next morning to this day, I have never looked back. I can honestly say that the worst day of the last 35 years has been better than the best days of the 41 years that preceded it. That’s a pretty bold statement, given my time in prison, three major surgeries, and two kids with cancer at the same time, but it is absolutely true.”
“That’s because, for the last 35 years – whether in pain, suffering, joy, or jubilation, it makes no difference – I have known there was a purpose. I have known that I belong to Christ and that I am here on earth to advance His Kingdom.” Or as the prophet proclaims it: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” May we say “Here am I; send me!” May we serve!!
Liturgy and Commentaries provided by Doug Bratt, Church Colson, Elizabeth Shively, Jo Ann Taylor, Barron Mullis, Dan & Barbara Dick, NT Wright, Teri McDowell Ott, Stephine Sorge, Adam Hamilton, PCUSA Book of Order and PCUSA Book of Confession
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
*HYMN No. 697 “Take My Life”
1 Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days;
let them flow in ceaseless praise;
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
2 Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.
3 Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.
4 Take my sliver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.
5 Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.
6 Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store;
take myself and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Eternal God, you have laid before us a path of wholeness. You have called us to genuine community, to love and to care for one another. You give us the gift of fellowship that we might help and support one another. All creation reflects the overflowing of your love. There is no prayer that we may offer that is not already close to your heart, so we offer these prayers knowing that you will hear them, with hope that in saying these things aloud, our hearts would be renewed in love for all you have made.
We pray for leaders new in their roles, and for leaders who have led us for a long time. Grant all who serve the people discernment, patience, and wisdom that they may seek solutions rather than the gratification of individual wishes and the building of egos and political capital.
We pray for your good earth, O God. Where we have contributed to the ravishing of your creation, we pray for forgiveness and awareness. Give us the desire to live wisely as good stewards taking only what we need rather than blindly, foolishly squandering what is not ours to begin with.
We pray for those caught in the bind of economic hardship. We pray for those suffering unemployment and underemployment. We pray for those waiting in fear to see what their future will hold. Ease our anxiety, O Lord, and remind us of the care with which we are held.
We pray for our own community. If we are blind to the station of our neighbors, needle our consciences and stir us to action. Where we may be of service, lead us, O God, and give us the strength to follow. Open our eyes to people experiencing homelessness, to people living with addiction, to those who suffer from mental and emotional illness to those who are outcast and suffering. We pray for victims of violence, and gun violence in particular. Help us to bring your shalom.
To that end, we pray for your church, O God. Strengthen the ties that bind us one to the other. Speak your word to us and through us that we may give hope to a hurting world. We pray for the Presbyterian Church, and we pray for our own congregation. Make us in the image of your kingdom and help us to follow your way.
We make this and all of our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray together: “Our Father …”.
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. From God’s good creation, we have all that we need, indeed, we have more than we need. Let us worship God, then, by returning our tithes and offerings as tokens of our commitment to love and serve the Lord.
*RESPONSE N0. 609 “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully known; Creator, Word, and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
* PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Holy God, we have received from your gracious hand abundance upon abundance, grace upon grace. Accept these offerings, we pray, and bless them and multiply them, that through these gifts we might see your kingdom at work among us. We pray all these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.
*HYMN No. 69 “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky”
1 I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
2 I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?
3 I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?
Go out as God’s people,
willing to do God’s work in the world.
Go out as Christ’s disciples,
ready to serve wherever we have the chance.
Go out as the Spirit’s hopes,
eager to proclaim peace to all.