Redemption for God’s mouthpiece.
by Mike Stavlund
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8
For Sunday, June 3, 2012: Year B—Trinity Sunday
On Trinity Sunday, the Lectionarians are showing us the wider landscape through the eyes of Isaiah: he is transported in some kind of vision to the very presence of God. When the throne room is opened, God’s power and glory are utterly overwhelming. The experience is so unsettling that the prophet seems to be torn in two. He cannot be a son of man and see God. We might imagine that the songs of the assembled hosts of heaven would be comforting (and we often sing them that way), but Isaiah comes unhinged.
“Woe is me, I am lost…” he cries as he laments his human condition. He has unclean lips, and he lives among people of unclean lips.
We see here an unexplained bifurcation between his eyes and his mouth. Or more specifically, a contrast between what goes into his eyes and what goes out of his mouth. In his mind, this imbalance is an impossible impediment to his redemption.
Now Just Hold Still…
The gulf between Isaiah’s vision of God and his practice of life is bridged when one of God’s attendants gives him the fix: a hot coal straight from the altar is touched to his lips.
In that instant, he is freed of his sin, and of his guilt. In an instant, he is authoritatively declared ‘clean’. Redemption complete, Isaiah is then given his mission and he is off.
So much for Systematic Theology
While theologians quibble over the method and means of God’s redemption of people (Christus Victor, Ransom Captive, Scapegoat, the ever-popular Penal Substitution, etc.), the Bible seems to grant God a greater degree of autonomy than we’ve been led to believe.
What model of atonement is this trick with the coal? The Direct Method? Holy Hot Coal? The Searing of the Seer?
Isaiah is delivered from his predicament and commissioned with his call, and we’re left to wonder how. Even more, we’re left in our envy of his clear outcome.
The Hardest Question
What solution can we find for our predicament– called to proclaim, but constitutionally unequal to the task? How can we speak of God when we are preachers with unclean lips?
Mike Stavlund writes from a 5-car pile-up at the intersection of his Christian faith and real life. A husband of over 15 years and a father of 4 children, he lives with his wife and 3 daughters in a small house outside Washington, DC. He’s a part of an innovative emergence Christian community called Common Table, a co-conspirator with the Relational Tithe, and a proud part of the collective called Emergent Village. He blogs at MikeStavlund.com, and his first book, “Force of Will”, will be published by Baker in the Spring of 2013.