Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17
- Seraphs certainly are strange creatures!
- Note that even though Isaiah says he "sees the Lord", it is the other things that are described in detail, not what God is like in God's self.
- Isaiah expresses a deep sense of unworthiness, "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips." He doesn't feel worthy to be seeing God.
- The imagery of the seraph taking the hot coal to Isaiah's lips is very powerful. We read nothing of pain for Isaiah, but it make sense that this cleansing and purifying would have burned him, been painful. That resonates with how we experience being made pure. It takes work and pain. I think of the image of Eustace Scrubb in The Voyage of the Dawntreader in the Chronicles of Narnia, when he is turned into a dragon. His skin must be painfully torn off by Aslan before he is made clean.
- "Whom shall I send?" "Here am I; send me." Isaiah has felt unworthy, but he still has the courage (and good sense) to respond to God's call. Can we do the same? Even when we feel unworthy, can we trust that God knows better than we do??
- "The Voice of the Lord" - I guess I've never noticed this psalm before, which speaks primarily of God's voice.
- It is also visualizing God creating or in relation to a strong and powerful thunderstorm, which may be based on a psalm to the Caananite god, Baal (see Chris Haslam's comments on this) God over the waters, God's glory thundering, breaking the cedars, flashes forth flames of fire, "the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness."
- What imagery would you use to describe/envision God's voice in your life? I like the process theology metaphor of God's lure, God slowly luring me with God's voice until slowly, step by step, I followed.
- This psalm also appears in the lectionary every year on Baptism of the Lord Sunday - would reading it in the context of that calendar day change your understanding?
- "spirit of adoption" - As I said last week, I'm always torn by Paul's language of adoption. On the one hand, I'm hesitant to think that we're not born into God's family, God's children. I shudder to think that God only adopts some as children, and not others, which is an unfortunate and often drawn conclusion of such theology. But on the other hand, there is a special-ness about God going the 'extra mile', as it were, to make us God's own. Out of God's deep desire to have us as children. I guess I just want to make sure God has no limits or special qualifications for who is adopted!
- But, here, maybe I can read Paul's words in a new way. He's not talking adoption vs. natural children. He's talking adoption vs. slavery. Our relationship to God is as children instead of slaves. In this light, his adoption language is more meaningful to me. We're brought right into the family, not kept in God's home for service but out of God's heart as slaves.
- This passage includes perhaps the most famous and most memorized Bible verse in all the world. When I was little, I had one of those little New Testament Bibles that had John 3:16 in the front in about 20 different languages. Many consider "for God so loved the world" the verse to know if you're going to know any.
- However, I find the rest of this passage much more meaningful. We throw around the phrase "born again" a lot in the Christian community, sometimes as a state to be desired, sometimes with a roll of the eyes for the implication the word has come to have. But what is Jesus really saying here when he says we must be born again, born of water and the Spirit? Actually, I think we are all constantly being born-again. We're always renewing and remaking ourselves as we grow. The question is not whether we are born-again, but how we are born-again. Are we born again through water and Spirit, as Jesus says we must be, or something else?
- If you didn't do a renewal of baptismal vows on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, this is another good day to do this as a congregation. I've always found it very meaningful.
- :17 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." This is an important verse, and I think it helps us ground verse :16, instead of using verse :16 as an exclusive litmus test type verse.
- I admire Nicodemus, even if he didn't get exactly what Jesus was talking about. He was willing to ask questions that would set him at odds, no doubt, with some of the other religious leaders. He had to take risks, and taking risks means having some faith. How are you or can you be like Nicodemus?