The word normal is getting used a lot these days. As in getting back to normal, the old normal, the new normal, and when will things ever be normal again. There is no question the novelty has worn off this whole crisis and we are all ready to get back to normal. It’s normal to want to get back to normal, especially when we are in the midst of something stressful and especially when there is no end in sight, no date to look forward to on the calendar. If there was just a date, even if it was October 1st, we could endure this a little better. Why is normal such a big deal, why do we want to get back to normal? We like normal because we know what to expect, we know what to do, how to act and feel. Its familiar, easier, comfortable, like an old sweater or old pair of slippers, like comfort food. But the question I want to explore with you this morning is, do we really want to get back to normal, do we really want to go back to our old ways? How was normal really working for you? How were your priorities, how were your important relationships, what was out of balance, how was your prayer life, were you distracted with all kinds of distractions?
If you go to Cairo, Egypt today you can visit two very famous graves. You can go to the pyramids and visit the tombs of the great kings of Egypt, the most famous of which is the tomb of King Tut. “He was only seventeen when he died. He was buried with solid gold chariots and thousands of golden artifacts. His gold coffin was found in a burial site filled with tons of gold. The Egyptians believed they could take earthly treasures into the afterlife. But all the treasures intended for King Tutt’s eternal enjoyment stayed right where they were until Howard Carter discovered the burial chamber in 1922. “The other grave is much harder to find. It’s off a dusty back alley in a graveyard for American missionaries. The tombstone reads: “William Borden, 1887-1913.” In 1904 when William Borden graduated from high school, he was already a millionaire and heir to the Borden Dairy Estate. As a graduation gift his parents gave him a trip around the world.
Isaiah has just seen heaven. Heaven is God, heaven is God in the fullness of His glory, God outshining ten-thousand suns. Heaven is consumed by the all-consuming glory of the one and only creator God. No eye has seen, no ear has heard what He is like in all His glory, splendor and majesty. Remember, Isaiah only saw a glimpse, only a veiled portion because no created being is able to bear seeing all of God’s glory. How would we respond to the vision of the glory of God? At first Isaiah must have been overwhelmed and intoxicated by the magnificent and majestic display. But then self-consciousness sets in. It’s like gazing in awe at a nighttime sky full of stars and then suddenly feeling very small and insignificant. Or standing in awe before the majestic beauty of the Cascades and then feeling small and inconsequential. Maybe it is a bit like Peter with his eyes fixed on Jesus walking on the water all of a sudden becoming self-aware and beginning to sink in fear. Isaiah is overwhelmed, he is undone, he is laid low. The staggering chasm between God’s holiness and his unholiness is laid before him. How many of us in hearing news about a serial killer feel this huge gulf or distance between him and ourselves? We can’t even fathom sinking that low and acting as he did. We see no comparison between him and his sin and us and our sin.
I love Isaiah’s vision. I see it as a model of what it means to be a Reformed Christian and a Reformed Church. Biblical Reformed theology is about glory and grace, about seeing the glory of God, feeling the conviction of sin and our lostness and inability to save ourselves, receiving the free gift of God’s grace and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit which leads us to be agents of God’s transforming glory and grace in a culture that desperately needs this vision. Our text offers us a very clear description both of our vision as a Reformed Church and the foundation under our vision. In a sense you could say that this text is both the house and the foundation. So, this evening we begin with the “the Glory of God,” the first tenet of Reformed Theology.
How you ever noticed how much time we spend preparing for things? We spend the first 18-22 years of our life preparing for the adult working world. We spend five days of practice preparing for one football or soccer or volleyball game. We spend weeks buying presents and the kids are through them in twenty minutes. We spend months preparing for a big vacation that’s over in a week. Taking a test requires hours of preparation whether it’s a driver’s test or SAT or CPA. It takes hours and days to prep a house to paint. In our worship we encourage a week of preparation before taking communion. In the church calendar we have two long seasons of preparation before our two must significant events. Before Easter there are six weeks of Lent and before Christmas day there are four weeks of Advent. This is a sure sign of how important these two days are. We should not come to the manger or to the cross and empty tomb without taking some time for serious reflection and self-examination and preparation. It is worth noting that it is our custom to always begin the advent and lent season with communion. This reminds us to prepare, to examine ourselves, to take stock of our spiritual lives, to give attention to our souls.
Some of you may have noticed I have skipped over faithfulness as we take up the fruit of the Spirit of gentleness this morning. When I read I Timothy 6 and how it combining man of God and gentleness it seemed like a good fruit to talk about on Father’s Day. Of course doing this has caused me a bigger challenge because gentleness is not often thought of as a masculine trait. Gentleness in men is often equated with being wimpy or weak. Gentleness and tenderness are associated more with women. These are false distinctions, hurdles we have to get over if we are going to understand how gentleness is a fruit of the spirit all of us are to cultivate. So let’s start with the character of gentleness.
This morning is the second of three sermons on worship and why we worship and do what we do in our worship. Isaiah 6 is one of the great texts in Scripture on worship and how we worship. The flow of the text sets a pattern that we use in our worship and I want to unpack that with you this morning.
In India cows are holy. Muslims wage Holy War. Catholics have holy water. Monty Python searched for the Holy Grail. Israel is called the Holy Land. We observe holy week. What is truly holy today? What is truly sacred? Is anything sacred anymore? Have we lost a sense of what is holy? Have we become so familiar with what is unholy that we have made our peace with it and become comfortable with it? Does anything make us blush or ashamed? With easy divorce, marriage is no longer sacred. With abortion, life is no longer sacred. With sexual immorality, sex is no longer sacred. With casual familiarity toward God, worship is no longer sacred. The more our culture banishes God from the public square, the more it also throws off any sense of what is holy or sacred. When we lose a sense of the holiness of God then nothing is holy or unholy. And with this goes any notion of sin, that anything is against a holy God. What can be done? How do we recover a sense of the sacred, of reverence and awe? The best place to start is at the source, at the beginning, with the One who is holy. We need an encounter with the Holy God like Moses and Isaiah and Peter and Paul. When talking about the holiness of God the classic text is Isaiah 6:1-8.
The LCS Chamber Choir is going to conclude our service with the great hymn “How Firm a Foundation.” It is powerful hymn for anyone going through a serious trial in life, which we will all do at some point. The author of this hymn remains a mystery. When it first appeared in 1787 it simply bore the initial “K.” The hymn tune, Foundation, is also of unknown authorship, dating at least to 1832. This hymn was sung at the funerals of American presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. It was loved by Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel. It was sung at the funeral of General Robert E. Lee. We have no idea who wrote this hymn or what he suffered, but every stanza breathes firsthand knowledge of God’s presence and provision in the difficulties of life. What we hear is God’s abundant and sufficient and intervening grace every step of the way. There is something unusual about this hymn that I want us to notice. All hymns have a point of view. Someone is speaking and someone is being spoken to. Most hymns are sung by us to God and in them we are either offering worship and praise or we are making a request. “How Great Thou Art” is praise to God. “Be Thou My Vision” is a request of God. Many hymns we sing are about God and what He has done. “Amazing Grace,” “This is My Father’s World,” “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” Sometimes we sing to each other. “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Come, Christians, Join to Sing.” Sometimes we even sing to
Well, what are you seeking for; what is your desire & determination & delight to do in life? or to put it as someone says, “What is your quest? [For] without a quest, life is quickly reduced to a bleak black & wimpy white, a diet too bland to get anybody out of bed in the morning. A quest fuels our fire. It refuses to let us drift downstream gathering debris. It keeps our mind in gear, makes us press on.” th'fore, we all need to be on a quest for someone or something to make life meaningful. But, you see, to find genuine, everlasting happiness & peace, satisfaction & success & security, we must never try to seek in the wrong ways the world gives us. it will never be found by seeking them just through higher education or a good paying job. 2 o or by owning a lot of clothes & cars, a big home or a large bank account. o nor by a chemical dependency, or substance abuse, or by a 1 night sexual affair. that's because all these possessions & pleasures don't last. o &, if these temporal things of life are only the gods we love & live for, then at death we are going to be left without anything, not even God, for eternity. And so there’s a lot more to life & living to be able to experience true, eternal joy & well-being. & that is, that, above & beyond & besides all the other good quests in life, we must engage in the greatest quest of all. we must do what Isa.55:6 & 7 commands: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (OVER) Today then, we want to look at that passage & what is to be OUR GREATEST QUEST in life. 1st, the godly object of that search. &, 2nd, the necessary manner in which we must carry out our quest.