Whom shall I send?

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Whom shall I send?

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        At the Maxwell Air Force base in Alabama, there is a statue of Air Force Pilot, 1st Lt. Karl W. Richter.

        Lt. Karl Richter was a pilot of an F-105 ‘Thunderchief’ fighter/bomber in the air war over North Vietnam in 1966. At the age of 23, he was the youngest pilot to shoot down a MiG-17 flown by the enemy.

        In order to complete a tour of duty, a pilot would need to complete 100 missions. At the time 43 percent of the F-105 pilots were killed, captured or declared missing in action before completing 100 missions in the North.[1]

        Close to completing his 100th mission, Lt. Richter requested permission to fly a second 100 missions; he was denied this request. Karl Richter was unmarried, had no children and loved flying so through politicking and shaking the right hands, he finagled his way into another 100 missions. He successfully completed those missions and the Air Force was ready to send him packing.

        But Lt. Richter was not ready to leave so he signed up for another tour flying another aircraft, the F-100 Super Sabre. By this time he had won so many medals, including the Silver Star and the Air Force Cross for heroism, that they quit trying to send him home.

        On July 28, 1967, Karl Richter’s plane suffered flak damage and went down in enemy territory. The rescue team retrieved the severely wounded pilot but he died on the helicopter before they could return to safety. He was 24 years old.

        I chose to tell the story of this Air Force pilot today, because it is a story of a man who was called upon to do something that many people would not dare to think of doing. This man knew what he was getting into from the day he graduated from the Air Force Academy. He continued to volunteer himself to do the work he was called to do until the day he died. This is why, inscribed on the base of the statue that commemorates his valor, is the eighth verse of Isaiah chapter six:

“Whom shall I send,

And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” [Isaiah 6:8]

            Isaiah was called by God to be a prophet among his people. God called Isaiah from His throne in His palace. Six-winged creatures, the seraphim, flew above the throne giving God due worship and praise.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

The whole earth is full of His glory!”      

Realizing he was in the presence of God and that he was unworthy, he feared to speak and defile the majesty of God. After being purified of his sins by the burning coal from the altar, God asked, “Whom shall I send?” to which Isaiah replied, “Here am I! Send me.” [Isaiah 6:8]

            God then gives Isaiah his mission as it were. He is told to bring the Word of the Lord to those who have shut their eyes, ears, minds and hearts from One True God. Very few people would even deign to question God Almighty in His own house but Isaiah did. He asked, “Lord, how long?”

            How long shall I serve you Lord? The answer was plain; until My word has done its work. Simply put – the rest of Isaiah’s life.

For the rest of his life, Isaiah will proclaim the word of the Lord. He will proclaim this word to Kings and nations. He will proclaim it to the downtrodden and the weak, the rich and the powerful. To those who believe they do not need to hear and to those who are begging to hear, these are the people to whom Isaiah must speak. How long? Unto death would Isaiah do what God commanded him.

For 64 years Isaiah spoke the Word of the Lord. He spoke of retribution and recompense by the hand of God. He spoke of the death of kings and the destruction of nations. He gave warning to those who rejected God and dire prophecy of woe to the disobedient children of creation.

Yet he also gave words of comfort. He spoke of God’s enduring promise to save His creation through a man of God. The remnant of the people Israel will live on. From the very beginning, in the temple of the Lord, Isaiah was told from the stump of the great tree which God will cut down will come a shoot of Jesse. This shoot will grow into a branch and from that branch will come the savior of the world.

Yes, God personally called Isaiah to do His bidding and for over 700 years they waited for the fulfillment of His word. The people of God waited for the day when they could sing and shout as the angels in heaven:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

The whole earth is full of His glory!”

            And it happened…

Luke writes and bears witness in his gospel, “And it happened…” What happened? Jesus Christ happened. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the One Who Saves, came down from heaven and into the flesh and blood of His creation. He took on the mantel of Son of Man. He spoke, with all authority, the Word of God.

Jesus Christ spoke the message of repentance and forgiveness to the people whose eyes refused to see, whose ears refused to hear and whose hearts refused to open. He speaks the words his Father in heaven commanded Isaiah to speak.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

                He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

                to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [Luke 4:18-19]

He speaks these words to let people know that he is the one of which his Father spoke so many years ago.

            Just as his Father called Isaiah to serve His will, Jesus calls his disciples to follow him. He does this by speaking the Word of God to the people. The people hunger and thirst for this word. Their ears are now open and they press in on Jesus to hear more.

            Jesus has Simon Peter take him in his fishing boat onto the lake so that he may continue to preach the word. He preaches the good news of the kingdom of God. Peter certainly heard this good news as he was in the boat with Jesus.

            He then shows Peter his authority over creation by a catch of a large number of fish. Now Peter and his fellow fishermen had toiled all night and came up with nothing in their nets, and it was out of nothing that Jesus brings forth an abundance of fish.

            It was such abundance that another boat was called to help with the catch. It was such abundance that the nets ripped and the boats began to sink from the weight. Simon Peter, like Isaiah, realizes who sits in front of him and says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [Luke 5:8b]

            Like his father in heaven, Jesus tells James, John and Simon Peter that they will now be serving the One True God here on earth.

            This is where the narrative changes from that of the prophet Isaiah. First of all, none of the disciples asked, “How long do we serve?” Secondly, they were not to prophesy about what was to come, but about the promise of God fulfilled. Lastly, they were to engage in their mission with their Savior by their side!

            How true now were the words of the angels Isaiah heard at the foot of the throne of God.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

The whole earth is full of His glory!”

            Jesus begins his mission given to him by his Father. He knows what he must do. He knows that he must live his life in total obedience to the Law. He knows that he must die a humiliating death. In this he fulfills the promise given by God. He does this because he loves the world. He loves you, me and everybody ever born, living or dead. He loves us so much that, while we were still sinners, he died for us. [Romans 5:8]

            We were enemies to him condemned to death eternal, doomed to never see God in His glory. Yet this did not stop him from giving his life for us.

Through his death and resurrection we now have a real and true life. The life we have through him is not like the life we have now. Life in him is not filled with grief and pain. It is not this warring struggle with our neighbors and all creation. No, life in him is the true life. The life we were intended to live by God.

You have been forgiven. Your iniquity has been purged. The burning coal from the altar of God comes to you through the body and blood of Jesus Christ. You have been saved. You have been redeemed. You can now speak the word of our Lord to everyone; to every nation and every people.

Your God and King has given you a mission. God gave His mission to Isaiah, Jesus gave this mission to his disciples and to you and me;

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen [Matthew 28:19-20]


[1] http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/1992/December%201992/1292valor.aspx. Downloaded 7FEB2019

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