(I’m taking part in the Twitter #adventbookclub, reading “Beginnings and Endings” by Maggi Dawn. Some days there will just be a simple tweet; other times a blog post for longer thoughts.)
About a week ago, the cyclist Bradley Wiggins became Sir Bradley Wiggins when he was knighted by the Queen. He describes the event as a very humbling experience, and says that he can’t remember anything that either he or the Queen said.
I have the TV series “The West Wing” on DVD, and I’m one of those people who get to the end and then start again from the beginning, so I watch an episode almost every day. Recently I watched one from series 2, which included a turkey being pardoned for Thanksgiving; when the young man from the turkey farm actually met the President, all he could say was “Wow!”
We are aware of prominent people, seeing them on TV, or reading about them; but for most of us, how would we react if we came close to them? And if that would be overwhelming and humbling, how would we respond if we really became aware of the presence of God?
Today’s Bible passage is Isaiah’s vision of God (6:1-8); a glorious sight, a majesty that fills and shakes the Temple. Isaiah is awestruck, completely humbled, acutely aware of his own sinfulness, and can think only of disaster for himself.
There are different opinions about the dating of this vision; as it doesn’t appear until chapter 6, is this Isaiah looking back on his first calling, or does it represent a further stage in his ministry? Perhaps he has been hearing “the word of the LORD” for some time, and passing on the message; but now when actually seeing God, he has a greater knowledge of who God really is.
In my Twitter timeline today I saw this: “If you’re offended when we publicly celebrate Christ’s birth, you’re really not going to like it when we celebrate His return”. While I can appreciate some of the thinking behind this thought, I felt a bit uncomfortable reading it. For one thing, it feels incredibly smug: a vision of Christians saying “I told you so”; this is perhaps the difficulty of trying to get a clear and comprehensive message in only 140 characters.
But I also think that, if the Second Coming is anything like the way it is described (e.g. “coming on the clouds with power and great glory” – Matthew 24:30), all of us will be overawed and struck dumb, and become conscious of our inadequacies, however much we understand God’s grace and forgiveness in our lives now.
What would we say, if we fully experienced the presence of God?
But the story of Isaiah’s vision doesn’t end there. His initial response is to recognise his sinfulness and inadequacy, but after he experiences God’s forgiveness and cleansing, he is ready to hear God’s request: “whom shall I send” and answer “Here am I; send me”.
Our first response to God’s call may perhaps be incoherent, not really knowing what we are saying; our next should be readiness and obedience. And this should become our response more and more, as we reflect on God’s presence with us.
Where is God sending me today? What does God need me to do today? “Here am I; send me.”