Theme: Strength in our Weakness (Sunday 9 August, 2020)
Bible Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8
Preacher: Phil Swain
Welcome – no time for an introit this morning because we have got 11 hymns to get through today in our annual Hymnfest!
Are you ready to sing some hymns today? Wesley brothers … hymns are more than just words and music. Hymns remind us of our theology and the promises of God. Hymns help us connect with God and draw us into the presence of God.
We are not just going to sing hymns. We are going to start with a bible reading that will give us a framework for today’s Hymnfest …
Bible Reading – Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 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!”
In the reading, Isaiah had an experience of being brought into the very presence of God. There are four different parts to this vision (which we are going to use as a framework for our service today).
1) Isaiah finds himself in the presence of God and notices that the response of the angels that were near God was … praise. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Praise is the natural response that we have when we draw close to God – and so our first section will be focused on Praise in God’s Presence.
2) Isaiah then acknowledges that in comparison to the Holiness of God, Isaiah is not holy and is not worthy to be in God’s presence. This is our second section – acknowledging our shortcomings and calling upon the mercy of God.
3) Then in the reading we have that beautiful imagery of the angel touching Isaiah lips with a live coal to symbolise the forgiveness that God offers us all. And so in our third section we will focus on God’s love for us and grace we receive through the cross of Jesus.
4) And then lastly Isaiah hears God’s question, “Whom shall I send” and Isaiah in response to who God is and all that God has done offers himself … here I am send me. And so our last section of our hymnfest will be “sending out” where we commit to being God’s people in the world.
Four sections – 11 hymns .. many of which were suggested by different people in the church – are you reading for this?
Section #1 – Praise in the Presence of God
I was given the advice when I was younger that if I was worshipping or praying that the best place to start is by centring yourself on the awesomeness of God. Acknowledging that God is great – not just because wat God has done but simply for who God is. God is above us beyond us, around us, within is. All who we are is from God. And when we dwell on that, then we are in the best place to connect to God in worship or prayer.
Isaiah certainly had that experience in our reading, the angels started by declaring God’s holiness … so let’s start our worship by
focusing on the greatness of God. Let’s imagine that we are symbolically coming into the very throne room of God and we are being overwhelmed by God’s power and love and holiness. In response, let us sing all five verses of Praise my Soul the King of Heaven.
Hymn #1 – Tis 134 Praise my Soul the King of Heaven
(All 5 verses)
The next hymn of praise is based on the words from Isaiah – Holy Holy Holy – and was written by Reginald Heber. In 1823 Reginald Heber was appointed the bishop of Calcutta which included Australia. He wrote 57 hymns, this is his most well known hymn is “Holy, Holy, Holy”. We will sing verses 1,3 and 4
Hymn #2 – TiS 132 Holy, Holy, Holy (Verses 1,3 and 4)
The third and last hymn in this section of going God/Jesus praise is crown him with many crowns. This was one of the suggested hymns and I looked up the story for this hymn. It was written by Mathew Bridges in 1851. Bridges was part of a movement in England called the Oxford movement – a group of hymn writers who were wanting to reflect some of the early apostolic church’s history, doctrine and liturgy in their hymns. Crown him with many crowns wasn’t immediately popular as a hymn, but in 1874 it was slightly rewritten by Godfrey Thring and published in many hymnals including the Methodist Hymnbook. It is often used on Christ the King Sunday – the Sunday before Advent. Let’s continue to give praise to Jesus by singing the first and last verses of this glorious hymn – Crown him with many crowns.
Hymn #3 – TiS 228 Crown him with many Crowns (V 1 & 6)
Section #2 – Calling on God’s mercy
What a wonderful way to start worship – by focusing our praise on God/Jesus. And that is what Isaiah did in our reading. But then he was confronted with a thought. If God is wonderful and holy … then how can a person like Isaiah, with all his shortcomings and failures, ever be accepted in God’s presence.
Have you ever felt that? If God is glorious in holiness – then how can we ever consider that we are worthy to enter into God’s presence.
The short answer is that we are not worthy. However, we are not worthless. God wants us to draw close and offers us a solution.
Scripture tells us that if we confess our sins, confess our shortcomings, God is faithful and just and will forgive us … and that through forgiveness we are made holy and pure and can enter God’s presence.
And this is what Isaiah did. “For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips”. In this second section of our hymnfest, lets us follow the example of Isaiah and come before God with a prayer of confession – followed by the first and last verses of a beautiful hymn – Dear Father, Lord of Humankind.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Merciful God, our maker and our judge,
we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,
and in what we have failed to do:
we have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves’
we repent, and are sorry for all our sins.
Father, forgive us.
Strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
who has promised forgiveness to all who turn to him in faith,
pardon you and set you free from all your sins, strengthen you in all goodness and keep you in eternal life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn #4 – TiS 598 Dear Father, Lord of Humankind (Verses 1 & 5)
Section #3 – God’s Love = Forgiveness
We have confessed our sins and await God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Good News is that God had already done what was needed to be done to offer that forgiveness. At Easter we celebrate the amazing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross – and that through the death and resurrection of Jesus we can find mercy, grace, forgiveness and life.
Let’s sing about this with another of the requested hymns … there is a green hill far away.
Hymn #5 – TiS 350 There is a green hill far away (All 5 verses)
This forgiveness that we receive points to the larger story of God’s love. That God so loved the world, that God so loved us that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
We are going to reflect on God’s love by singing the first and last verses of the great hymn “Love Divine, all love excelling”. This hymn was written by Charles Wesley. Wesley was trying to reflect his desire for Christian perfection and said of this hymn that it was just as much a prayer to be prayed as it was a hymn to be sung. He encourages us to as we sing this hymn ask Jesus to enter our hearts, set our hearts free from sin, and make us a new creation in him
Hymn #6 – TiS 217 Love divine, all love excelling (Verse 1,3)
To wrap up this section on God’s love and forgiveness … I have to include my own personal favourite hymn – “And can it be”. This hymn is special to me, not only because it was the hymn at my wedding, but also because it speaks so clearly to me.
This hymn starts with the honest question, how can it be that we receive all that we have because of what Jesus has done. It doesn’t make sense. Why would Jesus do all this for me? Because Jesus loves me! But it is the last verse is so impactful. Because of what Jesus has done, because God God’s mercy and forgiveness, because my chains have fallen off … I can boldly approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ my own.
Let’s sing the first, fourth and last verses of And can it be!
Hymn #7 – TiS 209 And can it be (Verses 1,4,5)
Section #4 Here I am Send me.
I mentioned at the start that in our reading – after this awesome experience of Praise in God’s presence, confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness, grace and love … Isaiah hears God’s question, “Whom shall I send”.
The purpose of worship is not to create this mountain top experience where we stay forever … but to strength us, empower us, inspire us to go out and to participate in God’s mission of sharing God’s love to all people. God asks us today and clearly as God asked Isaiah all those years ago, “Whom shall I send”
Our response can be reflected in the next hymn we are to sing. This beautiful hymn from the Catholic tradition … a hymn that commits ourselves to God’s way and being the hands and feet of God in the world. Let’s sing together “Here I am Lord”
Hymn #8 – TiS658 Here I am Lord (First and last verses)
One of the ways that God calls people to participate in mission in through Prayer. God needs people to intercede in prayer for us all. And so let us come to God in prayer with our prayers for others.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION
God of everlasting love, who provides all things,
we pray for all people:
make your way known to them,
your saving power among all nations.
We pray for the welfare of your church here on earth:
guide and govern it by your Spirit,
so that all who call themselves Christians
may be led in the way of truth and hold the faith
in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
We commend to your fatherly goodness
all who are afflicted or distressed
in body, mind or circumstances
relieve them according to their needs,
giving them patience in their sufferings,
and deliverance from their afflictions.
This we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Two more hymns – or three if you include our benediction hymn. This next hymn was another requested him. It is a newer hymn with a great message, that God has a plan for us, god has a future for us and is just daring us to step out into it. Let’s sing together all three verses of God gives us a future.
Hymn #9 – Tis687 God gives us a future (All three verses)
Our last hymn was requested by multiple people and it is a great hymn to finish with. If God is calling us to go … to be people that shines the light of God’s love and grace to the world around us … then we are going to need some guidance to do that. This classic hymn calls upon God to guide us. Guide me O thou great Jehoviah!
This hymn was written by William Williams. (Yes, that is him name), born in Wales in 1717. Williams originally wanted to be a doctor but was so moved by the preaching of Rev Howell Harris that he pursued ordination in the Established Church of Wales. Unfortunately he was accused of being too radical and was thrown out of the church … but was accepted by the Methodist church as became a travelling minister in the Methodist church. Drawing on his welsh upbringing, Williams would combine Welsh tunes with the Methodist theology. This hymn would be the most well known of his hymns – and you can just imagine Williams singing this hymn as he travelled around sharing God’s love with all.
Let’s sing this final hymn … which even has a little bit of welsh language at the end.
Hymn #10 – Tis569 Guide me O thou great Jehoviah (3v)
WRAP UP AND BENEDICTION
We have sung the wonderous story…
Let us go with a song in our heart
Let us go with God centred praise
And may the blessing of God…
Hymn #12 – Now unto Him
Now unto Him who is able to keep, able to keep you from falling
And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory
with exceeding joy
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty
Dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.