June 11, 2006
1st Sunday after Pentecost
"Here I Am, Send Me"
(Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 8:12-17)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
In 1974, I gave my life to Christ and was baptized by Rev Robert W Core. In 1975, God and I started having a major conflict. And it soon became apparent that God wasn't happy with me and I certainly wasn't happy with God or my pastor. I knew, without a doubt, that they were in cahoots together. You see, one night before Administrative Board meeting where I was the Youth Representative, I went to ask Bob something but when I opened my mouth and started talking, what came out was "How do I become a preacher?"
That's what started the argument. And for the next several months, I fought with God about it. I told Bob about NOT wanting to be a preacher but it seemed like all of his sermons were aimed at me.
One Sunday Bob was going to be gone. Our DS came to preach and my defenses were down. The DS preached on Jonah running form God. Well, it was like a baseball bat between the eyes. And a couple of days later I had an encounter with the risen Christ and finally said: "Here I am, send me." You see who won the argument. On June 6, 1976, I received my license to preach. And I honestly can't think of doing anything else.
Today we hear the prophet Isaiah describe his own experience of God's call in his life. I invite you to listen for what God is saying to you and to our church today as we read and encounter God's word together through the words of Isaiah 6:1-8.
 In 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.
 Seraphs 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.
 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."
 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
 And 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!"
 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
 The 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."
 Then 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!"
A. In 1956, after years of debate and discussion, the General Conference of the Methodist Church finally approved full clergy rights for women. One of my early mentors, Rev. Hazel Lee Allen was the first woman to be ordained by the Missouri East Annual Conference. She had heard the call early in her life but for a number of years was denied the opportunity to fulfill God's call in her life.
But when Hazel was finally allowed to say: "Here I am, send me!" and answer God's call to ministry, she was a ball of fire. She was a ball of fire when I met her in her retirement. So, I can't imagine what she was like when she was younger. I do know from stories I've heard, that the Bishop didn't quite know what to do with her because every church she served seemed to bloom and blossom into some of the most active in the Conference. And yet, there was still resistance to women in ministry.
Hazel was a great role model for women in ministry and being in ministry period. I was the young pup, wet behind the ears, a new Christian who hadn't grown up with all of that baggage dealing with race or sex being a hindrance to ministry. As I read Scripture, passages like Joel 2:28-29 I heard and saw a God who made no distinction in the call. If you remember Joel wrote:
 'In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
In my humble opinion, that passage makes it pretty clear that in God's eyes there is no distinction. And if God doesn't discriminate, then we better not either.
B. Last Tuesday night, June the 6th, on the 30th anniversary of receiving my License to Preach, I attended one more Ordination Service. You'd think after 30 years it would lose some of its glamour. But to me it's kind of like Christmas Eve, a moment I look forward to as I watch friends and young people I've known for years, step forward to be ordained. One of the young men being ordained this year was a freshman in High School when I first met him. I was his Camp Dean all through High School. I saw his involvement in the Wesley Foundation at A&M. I witnessed his growth and work as a member of the Camp's Summer Staff. I pray and talked with him as he too struggled with God's call in his life. I watched him attend Seminary and followed every step of his process leading up to Tuesday night.
And when he knelt before the Bishop, a part of me knelt with him. And a part of me went back to that night in 1984 when I too knelt before the Bishop and heard the words, "Take thou authority for the office of an elder. . ." In that moment I both relived and renewed the vows of my own ordination, just as I'm sure every clergy person there did. You see, it's a sacred moment, a holy moment, a time when we remember and relive that moment when we first heard God's call and we said with the same conviction of Isaiah "Here I am, send me."
C. Each of you have heard that call as well. And at some point in your life, whether it was at confirmation, Christmas Eve, a revival, camp, VBS, a youth rally or a Sunday morning it doesn't make any difference. With Isaiah, you said, "Yes" to God. You said: "Here I am, send me."
The 26 youth and 13 adults who are about to depart on the Senior High mission trip have heard that call. The 14 youth and 5 adults on the upcoming Jr. High Mission Trip have heard that call and they've all said: "Here I am, send me."
Julie Seale and Julie Dimock have both heard God's call to lead Vacation Bible School and they've said, "Here I am, send me" just like the teachers, leaders and support people for VBS. We've all heard God's call and said, "Here I am, send me."
Our Sunday School teachers have heard God's call and said, "Here I am, send me."
And God continues to call and continues to ask the same question of every individual who has given their life to God through Christ. That question is still: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
Our response should always be, "Here I am, send me."
A. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are not only children of God but heirs to the Kingdom. And remember, in Gospel of John, at the Last Supper, Jesus told the Disciples and through them, us, "I no longer call you servants . . . . now I call you friend."
Friends, brothers and sisters, children of God, you and I have a very unique relationship with God through Christ. It's one that calls for action. One that calls for reciprocity. One that calls for involvement. One that calls us to answer "Here am I; send me!"
So, where are we being sent and what are we being sent to do? "I'm glad you asked that question."
For the past few weeks, I've been praying and studying and thinking and trying to listen to God to discern where I think God wants us to Go and what God wants us to do. At both the Finance Committee meeting and at the Administrative Council meeting, I laid out the basics for that vision and a year long plan on how to get there. They've both concurred. But it's going to mean a lot of hard work and sacrifice on the part of each and every one of us.
But if, you remember back about 6 or 7 years ago, I think I might have said the same thing as we seriously began the process of building these two buildings, relocating an entire congregation and stepping into a future laid out by God. We didn't move here for more space. We didn't move here for more modern facilities. We didn't move here because it was the easiest thing to do. We moved here because we all felt this was God's vision, plan and purpose for this Church at this time.
We've done some incredible things. New ministries and opportunities are springing up left and right. Without listing every one of them, new Men's, Women's and Children's ministries have been started or will be starting shortly. Lay ministries programs have increased.
But now it's time for us to take another step into that Vision. That's the way I feel about what and where God has been guiding and directing my thoughts, my prayers, my study and even who God has brought into my life over the last three or four months.
Last year during for our Stewardship Campaign we chose the theme "Ask, Seek, Knock." I feel God calling us to continue that theme for at least the coming year. Because I believe God is specifically calling us to a deeper involvement in Evangelism and outreach to our community. We are called to reach out to others with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We're called to Seek them out, Knock on their doors and Ask them into the Kingdom and into our church.
We have some very definite plans and ideas on how to carry that out which you'll be hearing about at a later time as we begin fleshing all of this out.
I also believe God is calling us into a new depth in the area of Discipleship, growing Christians and deepening the faith of Christians. We will be working in that area too.
We will also be undertaking a new Stewardship Campaign. We'll be doing some seasonal emphasis and a sermon series or two which will enhance and coincide with our evangelistic efforts. In the midst of all of this, JUMPS, our Pre School will be opening as another avenue of ministry and outreach to the community.
We are developing a Capital Campaign to help reduce the debt so we can focus on the ministries of evangelism, outreach and making disciples and quit focusing on money.
We are still trying to raise up the musicians for an alternative or contemporary worship service either on Sunday Night or Saturday Night.
B. But the first step, the very first step, is to step back to that time when we first gave our lives to Christ, or to that time when we first heard God's call in our life. So, close your eyes for minute. Think about that moment when God was the most real for you. When you felt God's presence the clearest.
Maybe it was at your confirmation. Maybe it was at your baptism. Maybe it was the day your children were baptized. Maybe it was during a sermon. Or at summer camp. Step back into that moment.
Are you there? OK, now listen. Listen to God once again. Hear what God is saying to you today. God continues to call, even today. So, listen.
Now having heard the call of God, Keep your eyes closed and raise your hand. This only between you and God and not everyone else around you. Simply raise your hand and answer with Isaiah, "Here I am, send me."
OK, you can put your hands down and look up. By saying "Here I am, send me!" you have no idea how much power for the ministry of this church and the work of the Holy Spirit you have just unleashed. And because of that, together, you and I will step into the future to Ask, Seek and Knock for God's Kingdom.
Tony Campolo tells a wonderful story about a pastor friend of his who had a deacon in his church. The pastor had tried to get the deacon to really open up and let the spirit lead him in some form of ministry. Finally the spirit led the deacon to conclude that there was one thing he could do in service to God and to others. He could take the youth group to the retirement home. Once a month the youth group of this church went to the retirement home and put on a little church service for the residents.
Once this deacon went with the youth and stood in the back of the room. The youth were performing and an older man in a wheel chair rolled his chair over to where the deacon was standing, took hold of his hand and held it all during the service. That was repeated the next month and the next month and the next month and the next month and the next month. Then they went one Sunday afternoon and the man wasn't there. The deacon asked the nurse in charge, "What happened to that man?"
"Oh," she said, "He's near death. He's just down the hall, the third room. Maybe you should go in and visit him. He's unconscious, though."
The deacon walked down and went into the room. There were tubes everywhere. It wasn't pretty. The deacon went over and took hold of the hand of the gentleman in the bed. Instinctively, led by the Spirit, he said a prayer. And when he said "Amen," the old fellow squeezed his hand.
The deacon was so moved by that squeeze of the hand that he began to weep. He shook a little. He tried to get out of the room and, as he was leaving the room, he bumped into this woman who was coming into the room.
She said, "He's been waiting for you. He said he did not want to die until Jesus came and held his hand, and I tried to tell him that after death he would have a chance to meet Jesus and talk to Jesus and hold Jesus' hand. But he said, 'No. Once a month Jesus comes and holds my hand and I don't want to leave until I have a chance to hold the hand of Jesus once more.'" (1)
And, in truth, that gentleman had been holding Jesus' hand. Like Isaiah that deacon said: "Here I am, send me." And he didn't go alone.
Neither will we as we venture forth to share to Good News of Jesus Christ with those around us. As we venture forth on this leg of the journey of faith and the vision God has for us and this Church.
We've already overcome the hard part, we've all said: "Here I am, send me!"
So, let's get going.
1. Tony Campolo, "Being Upbeat in a Downbeat World"
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