Fresh eggs. Nothing quite like them. A few weeks ago Micah gave us a dozen fresh eggs from the farm in Amber. Delicious. I asked Micah about the trials and errors of raising laying hens. He really suggested a good fence, a sturdy house and to be prepared to lose a few hens to coyotes. Despite the latter the opportunity to eat fresh eggs meant the work not nearly as difficult as one might think. Micah noted in the evening the hens find their way back to the house to roost and you simply need to lock or secure the gate. Evidently once hens find their roost they always come home.
Critique comes easy. We possess the "State" given right to speak freely. Under the guise of this right we may say nearly anything on our minds. One really need no special platform. The advent of the blog world and anyone with Internet access may well critique anything or anyone. It would not take long to peruse the archives here and discover an occasion to two where I participated in "critique." Sometimes critique, like a hen, comes home to roost.
This past week one of the Lectionary Texts came from Isaiah 6. I contend, at least in my experience listening to sermons since old enough to understand what a sermon was, most know little of Isaiah save a few verses from a few chapters and chapter 6 being one of the main sources for sermonizing in a book of 66 chapters. It is the source of songs like Dallas Holm and Praise’s "I Saw the Lord." In college a fellow student loved the King James outline based on the rhyming of "Woe, Lo and Go." Jamie would say, "That will preach."
Repeated readings of Isaiah 6 left me wondering just what Isaiah meant when he considered himself "undone" and possessing "unclean lips." Certainly we would note the complete "otherness" of God as experienced by Isaiah in this picture and think, "Who am I to get to see God in this way? I should die now." Well and good but just what connected this prophet’s unclean lips with a people who shared the same malady. After all he received the vision which unfolds throughout the book and certainly one would think to be tapped for such a challenge would mean a personal worthiness for the task. I know some want to consider chapter 6 something of a flashback, be it intentional or inserted. Yet, the penchant to lift and separate a chapter from its context and the overarching story related to the people of God means more work than pulling out the rhyming words for a catchy outline. I am left wondering if the harsh critique Isaiah offered came home to roost. He stood both outside and among the people he described as,
Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the LORD,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged. (Is.1:4)
and their practice looks like,
How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water.
Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them. (Is.1:21-23)
The atoning for sin portrayed in the coals taken from the altar and applied to Isaiah’s lips left me wondering just what Isaiah said giving him unclean lips. Could it be his participation at some point along the way with obscuring the confession, "we are the people of God"? And, just what illustrated this contradiction, this obfuscation? Dare we suggest we may well find illustration today? The very things we exhort others to avoid we ourselves do.
I am personally thinking about holiness – personal and public. There is no such thing as "private" holiness. Our lives are very public. Jesus sent and sends his people into the world not as "private" citizens but as very "public" representatives of His glory in the world. Might it be Isaiah cringed at the prophetic call he himself uttered. The reminder he participated in the very activities which would bring judgment as an act of justice may well have intensified his encounter with God. He knew he too was guilty. He stood in need of his abuse of position to be "atoned for." As a person representing the King he had himself failed miserably. Looking out for his welfare rather than others signaled complicity both active and passive. His charges rang all to loudly in his own ears.
Is it possible the pursuit of the bigger and better leaves we in the church subject to our own critique? Could we hear the charges as Isaiah may well have? Self-promotion? Self-aggrandizement? Our attempts to hold sway in the marketplace fails miserably when we care more about how polished we are than how to help the "other." Noting how well we have been kept from the stains of sin leave me feeling as though we have missed the graver issues. Seems like more than once we read God’s penchant not for personal sacrifice but for obedience; an obedience that shows up in our character toward others as much as we think it tied to what sin I have avoided.
Make no mistake personal holiness is important. I simply wonder if the expression of that holiness has emphasized less about the mission of God in favor of how well I am able to present myself. Can I reel off the things I have not done or overcome to the exclusion of living out he character of God under His rule and reign? To do so sounds hollow. Sounds like tinkling brass and clanging cymbals. I was reminded grading a paper today what Dallas Willard notes. The issue is not one or the other but both. The left presses the public with little interest in the personal and the right gives too much attention to the personal to the exclusion of the public. Apprenticing to Jesus helps us see the way of the Kingdom; the way to live as he did pointing to both personal and public holiness for the glory of God and blessing of the world.
It is painful when critique comes home to roost …