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Archive for February 4th, 2010

Encountering God

Seems like most of us would expect an encounter with God to be an affirming experience.  We expect that we’ll be affirmed as good sons and daughters, that we’ll be given a warming of the heart, or even that we’ll be inspired to ecstasy in God’s presence.  We never expect to find a word of judgment in an encounter with God.

Isaiah got lost in the sights and sounds of worship in the temple and found himself caught up in God’s presence.  The smoke of the sacrifice became a smoke filling God’s house and the chanting of the priests became the songs of the seraphs.  He saw God in all his holiness and it wasn’t an altogether affirming experience.  “Woe is me!  I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people with unclean lips.”

Then after Isaiah’s famous willing capitulation to God’s calling, “Here am I; send me.”  God proceeds to ask Isaiah to deliver one of the most damning judgments in all of scripture.  “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking but do not understand… until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away…”

How do we receive such a message of judgment?  Well, for me the answer is… not very well.  I don’t want God to judge me.  I’m not sure I’m ready to have hot coals placed on my lips if that’s what it takes to be made clean.  I’m not sure I’m ready for an encounter with God if it’s going to look anything like Isaiah’s.

Greg Brown’s song is rolling around in my head as I think about writing a sermon about this sort of encounter with God:

Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart

among the rags and the bones and the dirt.

There’s piles of lies, the love gone from her eyes,

and old moving boxes full of hurt.

Pull up a chair by the trouble and care.

I got whiskey, you’re welcome to some.

Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart, but I don’t reckon you’re gonna come.

I’ve tried to fix up the place,

I know it’s a disgrace,

you get used to it after a while –

with the flood and the drought and old pals hanging out

with their IOU’s and their smiles.

bare naked women keep coming in

and they dance like you wouldn’t believe.

Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart, so take a good look – and then leave.

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