Reasons and Excuses

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.

Reasons and Excuses Is 6:1-8, Epiphany 5C, Feb 10, 2019

If you are anything like me, I expect you have your reasons for not doings things you would rather not do, and if you are like me, you probably have your excuses as well. Back when I was a dairy farmer I had a built in reason/excuse for almost anything and everything I didn’t want to do, and that was…”I’ve got to milk the cows”. As someone who has been around 6 decades and counting, I’ve given a lot of reasons/excuses for not doing some things, and probably heard even more (especially as a pastor). What are some of your “go-to” reasons/excuses for not getting involved? What are some of the most common ones you have heard from others?

We’ve seen this excuse/reason dynamic at play in several of the Bible texts in the last couple of weeks. Last week we considered God’s call on Jeremiah. Jeremiah didn’t need to think long before the words, “no can do…I’m only a kid” came out of his mouth. Today we look at the call of Isaiah, and amidst the smoke and fear and trembling as winged heavenly creatures flew about, Isaiah squeaks out something like, “I’m too much of sinner to speak for God”. Although the call is implied in the book of Luke, Peter has a similar response to Jesus. Moses passes on God’s call to him with the simple fact that he’s not a good public speaker, and in the case of Jonah it was simply that he wasn’t on board with any message that wouldn’t see the Assyrians get what they had coming. All kinds of people with all kinds of calls, and all kinds of reasons and excuses.

Often its hard, if not almost impossible for us to tell the difference between a reason and an excuse. Having to milk the cows is definitely a reason, but it could be just as much an excuse. Being a kid, or being a person of unclean lips, or being a poor speaker are all valid reasons to be sure, but they can also be excuses. With each of the Biblical characters above, God persists past the initial reason/excuse, and either acknowledges the individual’s limitations and makes accommodations (as in the case of Moses), or provides the necessary promise and action for the person to begin their ministry despite their limitation (or unwillingness). Isaiah got his unclean lips cleansed by the burning ember (and his sins forgiven, a prerequisite for all our callings btw), Jeremiah got words given to him by God, and Jonah got a bit of a “time out” in the belly of a gigantic fish to consider his call.

I’m not entirely sure if my cows were a reason or an excuse toward pursuing ordained ministry, but that all changed 19 years ago when the cows and quota were sold, and I registered for a course in psychology to see if my brain was still working after being out of school for over 20 years. There were still barriers to be sure (not the least of which was a disabled, dependent son), but with the call came the provisions to live out that call.

Pending on whether we meet the requirements for quorum or not, soon we will begin our annual meeting for another year. I’m not exactly sure what God may be calling you to regarding the ministry here at GVLC. Parts of my own call are still being discerned to some degree (as I will meet with the CALC National Council this coming Saturday). As I mentioned to our prayer group last Thursday, there are many things that I have become accustomed to over my 61 years in this place. I very much like my home and farm at the end of RR 123. I very much like the fact that at least some of my family are close at hand, and I very much like this church and this community. These are all “reasons” for me to stay just were I am, but I must be careful that they do not become excuses for me not to be open to the continued call of God on my life.

You serve the very same God that I serve, and He likewise has a call on your life. I’m not sure if that is teaching Sunday school, serving as a deacon, ministering to the sick or disadvantaged, going into politics, or selling your cows and heading off to seminary. What I do know is that our lives belong to God, and when He calls, our job (once we’re done with all our reasons and excuses), is to say something like, “here I am Lord…send me.” Amen.

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