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Getting Outside Yourself
February 9, 1975

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

ISAIAH 6:1-8

When you feel boxed in, hemmed in, claustrophobic, you need to get outside yourself. When the children have been especially trying, the fuse blows, the cake falls, one of the kids get the flu, and your husband comes asking, "Why, something wrong dear?” you need to get outside your­self (or at least out of the house). When you feel uncreative, your mind a complete blank, weary, tense, depressed, decisions increas­ingly difficult to make, feel like you're going around in circles, going over and over the same material, think you're losing your mind, you need to get outside yourself.

'l'he self is often a narrow, confining box that occasionally needs opening to the sun, to fresh air, new ideas, new relationships. Music helps many to get outside themselves. When a music lover gets caught up in a moving symphony, he feels transported, lifted, carried to another plane. A good drama can transport also, or scenery—to sit enraptured with God's artistic handiwork in a place like Yosemite, enables many to get outside themselves. Or, some with psychic talents claim they have had out-of-the-body experiences where their spirit has left the body for a time, and they look down and back at their body. Some of them claim that all of us when we dream, sometimes leave our bodies and take trips, soaring through space in no time at all. I think I'll stay awake tonight just to see where I go!

There are many ways to get outside yourself, but this morning I commend to you the freeing, ecstatic experience of the prophet Isaiah. We are looking at Isaiah's window today; actually we are looking at the first lsaiah window. Scholars tell us there are probably three different men whose messages are included in our one book Isaiah. Our windows depict two of these Isaiahs. Today we are looking at the first Isaiah whose works are included in the first 39 chapters of the book of Isaiah.

No doubt our windows are helping you considerably to keep the chronology of the Old Testament clear. You remember at the death of King Solomon, the nation split into two--Israel in the north, Judah in the south. Amos and Hosea prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel, warning them of the impending judgment of God through the nation of Assyria.

Isaiah lived in Judah at the height of Assyria's power. Assyria swept across the northern kingdom conquering it, subjecting it to their law. They had skirmishes with Judah, but as Judah lay back in the mountains, Assyria was more intent on reaching Egypt, so Judah was bypassed. These were difficult times for Judah. Under King Uzziah they had reached a stability and prosperity, second only to Solomon's, but at his death, the nation feared the powerful Assyria. It was in the year that King Uzziah died, that Isaiah was called to be a prophet. His experience was read in the Old Testament lesson this morning.

Isaiah had an ecstatic experience in the temple. Ecstasy means to step out of, get outside of yourself. Isaiah had such an experience as he found God in a transforming, powerful, experience that had tre­mendous impact upon him and the future.

He had a vision of God, sitting on a throne. He saw a mythological bird called a seraphim which has six wings. The impact of the vision on Isaiah was an overwhelming sense of the majesty, grandeur, wonder, beauty of God's presence, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." To catch a glimpse of the glory of God is to be transported, transfigured, illuminated. Our history tells us of those with radiant shines. Tradition puts a halo around the saints heads, symbolizing the shine that emanates from those who have had a vision of the glory of God.

In Isaiah’s vision, after sensing the majesty of God, he is made aware of his own sinfulness, his own unworthiness to have been blessed with such an experience. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of un­clean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” To see the Lord is to see one's self in startling reality—to see the needs, shortcomings, sins.

But in his vision, Isaiah was forgiven. "Your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven." He was made whole. Here is an experience moderns are craving and seeking--to be forgiven, Have you ever really been forgiven, to feel in the deepest part of your heart, that you are okay, to feel the cleansing, freeing, forgiving spirit—the Holy Spirit?

Isaiah was forgiven and then he was comissioned to serve God. "Who shall I send? Who will go?"the Lord asked and Isaiah answered, "Here am I! Send me.”

Our order of worship is patterned after Isaiah's experience. Most Christian worship is indebted to this event for its order. We begin with a call to worship and singing a hymn of praise. We celebrate our oneness in God. We celebrate our togetherness with each other as we greet and remember our common life. We then confess for Isaiah then felt his own needs deeply when he praised and caught a glimpse of the glory of God.

After we confess and are assured of God's forgiveness, we hear the word of God. We hear God speaking to us through the scriptures, the creed, anthem, and hopefully the sermon.

Our service closes with commitment, with the offering of ourselves, our tithes and offerings, our lives, as we answer God's call with "Here am I! Send me." We offer our gifts, our lives, and our prayers for the world. We begin the service by looking at God, then we look at ourselves and our relationship to God, and we close the service looking at God's call to serve the world, looking at the needs of others,

Isaiah got outside himself through a worship experience, through an awareness of God's presence. To really get outside oneself, one needs to get in touch with another world, another plane, with God himself. There is a world of reality far beyond what we have chosen to limit ourselves to.

Our awareness of reality is usually limited by our five senses--what we can taste, see, hear, touch and smell. But there is so much more. To get outside ourselves is to touch that world which we see every now and then as through a glass darkly. That other plane of existence is all around us and especially is it in us. For to get outside yourself, to get in touch with the glory of God actually puts you inside yourself, in touch with your own deepest self as God works in your unconscious to give peace, joy, love, glory as only he can.

Have you had an experience similar to Isaiah's? Have you experienced the overwhelming sense of the presence of God that transported, transfigured you, got you outside yourself?

How can you have such an ex­perience? Two ways: First, realize the need. Realize, admit there is something missing in your life, admit there is an emptiness. Admit you are hungering and thirsting for God, We know we crave a lot of things. We spend our lives looking for happiness, looking for things, status, prestige. We search for someone, something to forgive us, to take away the heavy guilt most of us carry, to receive some kind of assurance that we are okay, important, needed, loved. What we don't realize often enough is that we are really seeking God, seeking his wondrous, glorified presence. There is another existence, another plane where there is peace, power, joy, radiance that only occasionally we are given the gift to see. But only he who has eyes can see. Only they who admit.

Secondly, desire, seek. Realize the need and then desire, seek. Come to Sunday worship ready. Come to service seeking, looking, believ­ing that God will meet you here. The preacher can't do it. The choir can’t do it. The organ can’t do it. Only you can let God touch you. Come all prayed up, asking God to meet you. Concentrate on the hymns we sing. Let the words fill your mind, the tune fill your spirit. Allow yourself to sense the majesty, the grandeur of God. Our sanctuary is a beautiful place to sense his glory. My favorite place to pray is at the chancel with the lights of the windows filling the space with beauty. Seek, come to worship prepared.

Let your desire also cause you to seek help. Very few of us can do it alone. Isaiah had a vision, but he was in the temple. Was he alone? We don't know. Most of us need help. We need a group or a fellow seeker. Our church will soon be organizing groups to enrich our spiritual growth. We need them. The promise is "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for you shall be satisfied."

Isaiah got outside himself and found himself in a new, vital, powerful way as he caught a vision. We can also. Seek and you shall find.

© 1975 Douglas I. Norris