Sunday, 19 October 2014

Jesus' face on a bank note

Reflections on:
'Give to the Emperor what is the Emperor's and to God what is God's'*

I want us to begin our reflections by thinking about putting Jesus on a banknote.

How would you feel about seeing Jesus’ face on a bank note or a coin?

What would you think? What does it mean?

What does your reaction tell you?

So, let’s think about: where do we see Jesus’ face?

This conversation between the Pharisees and Jesus opens up a huge space for us, helps us, if you prefer, see the difference between God’s kingdom and the kingdom of the world.

Where does the Emperor’s glory lie? It resides in his worldly wealth, power and status. It is present in his possessions and in the people that he controls and governs. He has to make present his glory in his armies and in his ability to exact taxes from the people.

Where does God’s glory lie? Well let’s turn to Moses. There is something about God’s glory and name that is hidden and mysterious. His glory is much harder to define and understand. He reveals it to whom he wishes. And we cannot take on the full extent of his glory, or we would die.

God’s glory rather than being defined in what he owns and controls is to be defined in what he gives freedom to and where his grace is at work. God owns nothing in any way that we understand it. He creates, gives life and sets us free. We can only voluntarily choose to put ourselves back in relationship with God; it cannot be forced upon us.

Yet, he never stops loving us and he wants to see that loved returned, he seeks us out. As Moses wandered the wilderness with a disobedient and unfaithful bunch of exiles he learnt over and again about God’s resolve to be merciful, be lenient and to give them another chance. God would rebuild the tablets of stone and in so doing rebuild his relationship with the people. He would offer them a chance to come back in relationship with him. He would not give up on them. So it is with us. God has made us and loves us and has set us free, but he desires us to recognise him and to live life to its fullest by living with his laws and in his kingdom. It is ‘we’ who can choose to make ourselves God’s possessions, he never forces us. We are free to choose. 

If the Emperor chooses to put his face on a coin, on the system of exchange and control that serves his kingdom and his ends the best, where does God choose to put his face? God’s face can be seen in the lonely and vulnerable being invite into community; in the poor and downcast being raised up; in the merciful and humble rejecting the misuse of power; in a community being created out of the fragments of people’s lives; a home being formed by the lost and the frightened, by the rich and the proud. In its fullest it is seen in the suffering servant, the holy one Himself - in Jesus we see God’s name and glory revealed.

Being part of a Christian community then is about being transformed and being re-formed in the way of the Cross and Christian discipleship. It is about letting go of the things that control us and define us in an oppressive way and stepping into the generous and grace filled rule of God. Where God allows us to discover and make our own choices – to set us free from all sorts of slavery.

What do I owe to or give to God – my allegiance, my faithfulness, my devotion, my everything.

What do I give my country, just my taxes….

We have to keep asking ourselves which kingdom do I want to be in? Where does my allegiance lie? Where is salvation to be found? What will I do with my freedom?

Matthew 22: 15-22      The Question about Paying Taxes

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the   emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Exodus 33:12-end    Moses’ Intercession

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favour in my sight.” Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’

 The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Receiving and Giving in Balance

What has God given me?
What do I give to God?

We can’t give if we haven’t received. The first and most important practice for any of us is to let God love us and fill our lives with His goodness. Each of us needs continually to be reinvigorated and re-inspired spiritually. We need to be fed by the ever-flowing waters of God’s grace and abundance. Our lives of discipleship can get out of kilter if we are only giving or if we are only receiving. We need to seek that balance in our lives where we are both fed and in turn we turn outwards and feed others.

Reflect upon your own spiritual health: do you need to spend some time with God and let Him rebuild you, refill you and nourish you? Without that source renewing us we become dead in our faith and practice. In turn if we only get fed but never give from our own abundance we are betraying the grace that we have been freely given.

God wants us to live lives of abundance and grace; God gives good things that never run out: faith, hope, love, charity, forgiveness, joy, mercy, peace, compassion and everlasting life. God invites all of us to share more and more in his Kingdom and he calls each of us to leave behind the burdens, fears and possessions that weigh us down.

As we travel through life we can accumulate fears and burdens. We may put our trust in the wrong places even in the wrong people. What might God be asking you to leave behind in order to travel light with Him? God calls us all to leave behind the transactional and commercialised values of this world and to enter into the free grace and mercy that abounds in God’s generous kingdom.

Our financial giving must flow out from our giving of ourselves to God. God doesn’t just want our money; he wants us, all of us. He wants us to give financially not out of guilt, but out of thanksgiving and joy.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Do we ask for help enough?

We put limits and boundaries in all of the roles that we as humans occupy. None of us can be everything to all people. In Matthew 15:21-28, we notice Jesus doing just that. He has a clear sense of what his purpose is and what it is not: ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. This sort of role clarity we are surprised at in Jesus because we see him as our universal saviour. But at this point in our history and story Jesus is also a human prophet, and it is only progressively that it is revealed to us (and perhaps even to Jesus himself) that Jesus is to be so much more than a first century Jewish prophet.

Within this context then Jesus’ refusal to respond to the woman’s request, makes limited historical sense. She is an outsider, a nameless non-Jewish woman. Jesus has no relationship to her and feels no sense of duty towards her.

What is fascinating about this passage then is how this woman refuses to be dismissed and ignored by Jesus. Even though she knows that in the Jewish sense of order and hierarchy she is a ritually unclean-impure woman –- indeed Jesus compares her kind to dogs - she persists. She will not let Jesus push her aside, she will be heard, and she will make her plea.

Yet, we are shown exactly what she has to battle against:

o       Jesus did not answer her.
o       The disciples urged him – send her away.

She kneels down before him saying: ‘Lord, help me’.

She is humiliated, she is begging, she is pleading, she is being shooed away like a dog, and she is being rejected and pushed aside. Yet, she kneels before Jesus. She makes herself totally vulnerable. She has no pride. She is disarmed.

‘Lord, help me’.

With this action she at least gets a response from Jesus, she has his attention. But his response is to defend his position: ‘I cannot give to you what is meant for the children’. It is not until she replies: ‘Yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table’, that Jesus is himself wrong footed.  Her persistent and courageous faith, together with her humility is rewarded – her daughter is healed.

This unnamed Canaanite woman has shown audacity - to desire the healing that comes from God and from the Jewish faith of which she is not a part. On the other level she has been totally humble, she has not fought against her cultural position, she has simply appealed to Jesus’ mercy in reflecting that, even the smallest amount of what is good and holy can heal even the least and unworthiest of people. It is that extraordinary faith in the goodness of what Jesus represents that compels Jesus to give where he had not planned or even considered giving. In hope and faith she dared to ask for help where she knew it would not be easily forthcoming.

I just want us to reflect on the ways that we approach God as we think about this woman’s approach to Jesus.

What she reveals to us is that we can draw and invite God into our lives by our approach; that persistence in prayer will be rewarded. She says to us: put your hope in God and ask for what you need. Go out of your way to knock on God’s door, to keep asking, especially when things get really bad for you or for people that you love. Then is the time to sit before God and beg him, plead with him.  The things that bring us low so low that we put aside our pride are the very things that will, if we persevere, let God heal us, renew us and save us.

What is it in our lives that might bring us on our knees, imploring God for help? Those moments when we have to approach God out of desperation or need are moments of opportunity – for they enable us to cross the boundaries that usually separate God from humanity. And it is the crossing of boundaries that forms the basis of our living relationship with God. When we have to change in order to reach God, then God will change in order to reach us.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

War and Religion

St Paul is a man who experienced a seismic shift in his understanding of how God relates to His people and to him as an individual. That shift in thinking is dramatised in the road to Damascus episode, which as a story has become synonymous with the experience of dramatic conversion.Paul provides us with a paradigmatic example of the effects of conversion on an individual. His passion for and evangelical zeal for his new found understanding is second to none. Yet with the advantage of hindsight we know that the division between Judaism and Christianity has led to some pretty awful consequences. Paul’s continuing comparison between what he used to believe and what he now believes necessarily casts the Jewish comprehension in an unfavourable light. So much of Christian history has been about casting the Jewish faith as one that has been superseded by the superior Christian one. What can we do about this? We can’t read Paul’s words innocently after the holocaust and we can’t speak uncritically about Scripture as we learn to interpret and live out Paul’s experience of and understanding of Jesus Christ.

These questions are worth raising as we watch with horror as the crisis in Gaza continues to unfold before our eyes, and the implications of national and religious identities make competing claims; claims and counter claims that come directly from certain ways of reading Scripture. Is it worth being for anything anymore? Or should we throw up our hands in disbelief and declare ourselves atheists or humanists? If belief only divides us, what is the point in maintaining it? Has Paul’s definite crafting of a new religion from the old that he so dearly loved caused some of the worst atrocities in the history of the world? Has the birth of a new religion (Christianity from Judaism) just caused needless division and at times hatred?

We have to ask these difficult questions of ourselves, because if religion attempts to construct versions of human community that claim to be better, we need some proof that indeed they are.

I have had a pretty seismic shift in my thinking as I’ve taken on more civic duties here in Rugby – and that is about the necessity of finding a language that is good news for everybody. We need to avoid creating theological communities that talk in a cult-like way that exclude and create barriers for joining. One of the seismic idea shifts that I’m sure St Paul experienced was the revelatory idea that God is the universal creator of all people, therefore One God who loves and redeems all people, creating a world wide family, brothers and sisters together beloved and sustained by One God: ‘For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, and is generous to all who call on him’.  When we consider that at least the three Abrahamic faiths profess one God, we seem to get into some mighty strange tribal battles about how we understand our experience of that God and how he orders us to behave. Perhaps St Paul didn’t help, because as Christians laboured their difference in relation to how they experienced God in Jesus Christ, they forgot the similarities between the old and the new; similarities that we would do well to remember.

Now, I’m not saying that we aren’t emphasising different things in our various religions, nor am I saying that they are unimportant, but sometimes religious zeal borne of the experience of radical conversion of heart and mind, can lead us to jump ahead into the importance of the difference at exclusion of the similarity. Those of us who study and read the Old Testament know that we can talk both about continuity and discontinuity between it and the New Testament. Similarly we know there is continuity and discontinuity between Christianity and Islam.

Faith is common to all these religions and it’s important to ask how faith affects who we are and how we relate to others. For us as Christians, it’s fundamental I believe that we learn to be people of peace, who speak of God’s love and concern for all – the Father of all creation, who unites us, who yes may ask us to give our lives for what we believe, but not in violent attack, always in peaceful resistance. Jesus was led to his death, a life he willingly sacrificed to declare the Father’s love for the whole world, and unite people in his concern for our redemption.

Faith means that we believe in our brothers and sisters, that we always keep believing that they are made in the image of God, that they therefore are sacred and holy, and that we should honour them, as God honours us. Only that sort of faith can maintain peace worldwide and can put an end to the violent destruction of one another that comes from the idea that the others persons gain is my loss, rather than seeing that human flourishing comes when we recognise that the good of the other, is my good too. This sort of faith takes courage, the courage needed to walk on water and not look down and doubt! (cf. Matthew 14:22-33)

Religion is about conversion, a change of heart, a change in understanding and these conversions can be dramatic as well as slow. What is important to reflect on is how we communicate that conversion to others; it has to be done with integrity if it is to be in harmony with the God we profess. Conversions that powerfully demand cult like commitment to alternative communities set apart from others, to me are ones to be avoided and resisted. Christians are the salt of the world, living among everyone, at one with everyone - critical friends often, yes, but divine lovers always first. We are called to be with God’s people whoever they are, and to love them as they are, as Jesus first loved us, coming among us.

Scripture References: 

Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

Sunday, 3 August 2014

WW1 Centenary Commemoration Address

Looking back helps us to see who we have become – and so it is as we look back to the start of the First World War. Britain was very different in its national character compared with today – a time however no less complex and demanding, despite our tendency to be nostalgic about the past – the political atmosphere in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was tense in 1914, Home Rule and the threat of civil war in Ireland along with the suffragette movement were urgent questions.

As war was declared, almost without warning, despite the trepidation, no-one could have predicted how the First World War was to change the Western experience and consciousness. World War Poetry has become a part of our national imagination, with stark clarity it has spoken deeply to us of the suffering and sacrifice that war demands and exacts. For some of those men facing their own violent and brutal death and seeing it happen to their friends, comrades and enemies, the words of the Bible offered them a way of understanding and putting their suffering into the context of God’s justice, protection and care.  Every member of the British armed forces received a New Testament as part of his standard kit, alongside uniform, gun and boots. It’s another indicator of the difference between 1914 and now and how a part of normal life the Bible and Christianity was then.

For those men, the sacrifice they were being asked to make was not entirely voluntary – they did not know the nature of the war that they were to be involved in as they signed up, nor the scale of the casualties, on both sides. Yet, the Bible at least enabled them to put the context of their experience into a wider framework of understanding. Near misses could be seen as God’s providence and protection, whereas death of friends could be put within the context of everlasting life. For example, a William Gooderham who joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (lying about his age to be accepted) at 17 years of age found himself lying in a shell hole in no-man’s land, injured, terrified and alone. He lay there for three days unable to move. In the end two German soldiers rescued him, and were horrified by his wounds: one of the two Germans took his own helmet and got water to bathe his wounded ankle, and bound it as best he could. They took it in turns to carry him back to a German field hospital, three miles away. The German surgeon operated straight away and saved his ankle and foot. William called these Germans his guardian angels and they made him feel that God was with him. This story and many others like them reveal how God is met indiscriminately in acts of mercy:

As General Lord Dannatt has written movingly -

Some may choose to argue in the coming months about on
whose side was God in the First World War, but that is an arid
argument. God does not take sides between countries, however
he is passionately concerned for the people who live in those
countries and get caught up in war. He made us, He loves us
and he wants us to love him in return. In peace or war God is
interested in us as individuals.

General the Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL
Chief of the General Staff 2006-2009

Such words from a former British Army Chief are powerful and moving. God is not on any side; he’s on the side of peace and on the side of each human being that he has made.

Tim Dean (priest) writing a sermon for Remembrance Sunday has written:

'The Christian understanding of ‘peace’ is more than the avoidance of war, more than the absence of conflict. It is about building relations between people, between communities, between nations, which positively and constructively creates a love and care for others founded on justice for all. Just as the people of Coventry did after World War 2, when led by its Cathedral it acknowledged the devastation our country brought to cities like Dresden, and worked to build a new relationship of peace.'

If our remembering is to be useful for the purposes of peace then we have a duty to be people who build relationships with those who are different from us. Nowhere is this more needed than in a global world where different religions and world views are coming into contact with one another more frequently.  Peace comes not from working with those we agree with but by working with those we don’t and seeing how we manage it. Do we become obstinate, aggressive, and more trenchant in our views? Or do we become gentler, more patient and accommodating with a greater appreciation of the other? We can hold strong beliefs and views and be willing to die for them, but how we die is just as important as our motives. If we die angrily then how can our lives be a testament to peace?

As we work for peace each one will bring their own stories religious and other in attempting to build bridges. For example, Jesus Christ is revered by his followers as a man of peace who died offering words of peace and forgiveness.  His teaching included the command to ‘Love your enemies and pray for people who persecute you’. His followers were expecting a triumphant leader who would perhaps use force to overthrow the Roman oppressors, a liberator and King – instead they got a humble victim who denounced violence, spoke of forgiveness, love and charity to all and showed that God was not partial, but loved all people. This message remains as needed today as at any time; for it is a message that teaches us not to see our neighbour as an enemy but as a brother and sister in God’s world, whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or atheist.

As we remember the start of WW1 and look back we give thanks for what WW1 has taught us as a nation; a different nation in 2014 in comparison to 1914  –nonetheless we are connected to our ancestors by a common land, history and a continuing desire for peace, freedom and self-determination. We give thanks for the sacrifice that others made so that we may live in peace and security; we pray for those who are suffering today in armed conflict and war especially as the cries of suffering from Gaza and Israel reach our ears, and we recommit ourselves to the need to work for peace and all that that means. AMEN

Address preached at St Andrew's Church Rugby, 3rd August 2014 as part of the town's commemoration of the start of WW1. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Peace and Unity: Civic Sunday Service

The Mayor has given himself a challenging theme for his Mayoral year that of peace and unity. In our current national context where fears around religious fundamentalism, or fundamentalism of any kind are rightly feared, it is so important to articulate a hospitable and generous account of what it means for people of different faiths and none to work together for the common good. This is something that the new Mayor, Ramesh Srivastava has committed himself to, which is a truly noble task.

This year provides a great opportunity for the people of Rugby to be further united and to work for peace; we have come together today to witness to what it means to be people of difference who work for peace and unity.

Thich Nhat Hanh, an internationally known Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk, writes that:

'The practice of peace and reconciliation
is one of the most vital
and artistic of human actions.'

Jesus says in the Bible reading we have just heard:

'Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.'

and Dorothy Thompson, an American journalist writing and broadcasting in the 30’s and 40’s, famously known for interviewing Hitler comments, that:

'Peace is not the absence of conflict,
but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict-
alternatives to passive or aggressive responses,
alternatives to violence.'

In a multi-faith, no faith and multi-cultural society we need to find a common language which is enriched by many traditions and perspectives, but which can unite diverse peoples in common goals. Religions have always sought to encourage people to look beyond the basic materialism of our existence in talking of the soul and the spirit and inviting people to raise their expectations of what human well-being looks like. Humanists may eschew such language and yet they too yearn for human flourishing and well being. How might we as a nation with a strong Christian heritage creatively intertwine other faith and non faith perspectives in our language of the common good?

The language of values has been adopted in many areas of public life to attempt to do just that. The Christian values of faith, hope and love have been accompanied by the secular values of tolerance, equality and inclusivity. They are in many ways in creative tension with one another and the different perspectives challenge one another. How is tolerance challenged by the concept of love, for example, and how is the concept of faith challenged by the idea of inclusivity? Perhaps if we could have a real dialogue between the varying world views each one of us would be enriched and so too would our society. The Church of England for example is rightly challenged by the value of inclusivity as its exclusion of women and gays has been criticised. Christianity similarly often challenges politicians about their concern for justice for the poor. Together the world views can critique and refine the particular ideologies. For that to continue to happen we have to value practices of peace and unity, where dialogue is not about winning the argument, but exploring the implications together of different understandings and perspectives.

Some of the criticism being levelled lately at the nature of the dialogue in our parliaments is about a desire for a more virtuous debate. One in which ideas can be robustly debated for their merits and weaknesses. Such a dialogue may perhaps serve the common good better, but for it to work practices of communication across the political world and the media world would need to be reformed.  All of us sitting here no doubt know the limitations of reported communication. For society to move forward we all have to learn to listen better and condemn less. Unity requires a generosity of spirit, a willingness to accept the validity of another’s viewpoint or argument.

Another key element of this Mayoral Year is of course the Commemoration events for the start of WW1; we are particularly reminded in these of the need for people who practice the art of peace making as we remember the cost to human life when nations engage in war.  Peace making in a violent world is deeply costly. Speaking peace into conflict situations takes courage and it also means accepting our weakness and vulnerability. Power, strength and invincibility are the values opposing the practice of peace (yet ones which are propagated mercilessly by movies promoting violence and super power) -Peace making makes us vulnerable, for the peace makers are meek, gentle, persevering and courageous: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’. Their power is the power of steadfastness and inner virtue.

I am excited by The Mayor’s ambitions for his year and deeply moved already by his ability to bring people of different faiths together. He has shown his commitment to peace and unity and I will be praying for him and his team as they seek to promote and influence the town and council this year through their hard work, dedication and most of all determined commitment to the values of peace and unity.

I commend The Mayor’s year and his intentions to you all and to the mercy and blessing of God. Amen

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Lifting our imaginations beyond what is seen and known

As Christians we all the time stand in the presence of the one who is glorified; we always have God as our background, as our strength. We look elsewhere for the ultimate means of knowledge, for the ultimate means of consolation. This marks us out in a secular world, for a secular mindset rejects the idea of there being something greater and better than us who teaches us who we really are and what our real end is. Everything is reduced to what humanity can see, understand, categorise.

The Vision that Isaiah* has of God, sums up in many ways the story of God that is told from the start of the Old Testament to the close of the New – God alone is worthy of honour and praise – a true encounter with God brings us to our knees in recognition of our own unworthiness – God forgives us and calls us and sends us to do his work. This Vision of God is a Trinitarian vision as God is seen to work in the ways that we understand God to work as Christians – The Mighty Creator and King worthy of honour; the one who draws us to Himself and forgives us, the Son, and the Spirit calling us and sending us, equipping us to be messengers and ministers of the Gospel.

A religious or spiritual encounter is that which is about seeing what is greater, seeing what alone can teach and guide us, empower and enable us to be better, do better and reach for better.

We do really live in an impoverished culture that glorifies fame and wealth, power and success; a world that refuses to see with its imagination and its heart that humans are called to so much more than that alone which we can dominate and exploit. It’s so sad to see human life reduced so much, because what we believe really does impact on human well-being and lived experience. So, those of us with a religious imagination have a great duty to encourage others to step beyond the reductionist mindsets that dominate the grand narratives of our day – to encourage people to enter into the glory of God’s presence – to open their eyes to the transcendent reality.

How, do we do that? By living lives that reflect the glory of the one we worship. If it really does matter who and what we believe in, then it really will impact on who we are as people. If God exists and knows what is best for our well-being then Christian communities must be places when human beings can flourish; where the weak and vulnerable are supported; where the sad are comforted, where the sick are healed and so on. We must be people who dare to live what we proclaim. If our faith makes no difference to the way we behave, to who we are as people, we of all people are to be pitied – for being given a vision of God that is so glorious, we fail to actually see, we fail to inhabit the glory which is our inheritance and our delight. How might faith make more of a difference for you?  How might you and I reveal something more of God’s glory today, tomorrow, next week? What specific things is God calling us to be and to do, to glorify and honour his name in the world?

As Trinitarian people we are lovingly created, humbly brought back to God and empowered to be the light and salt of the world. Let’s re-affirm our commitment to that vocation together, today.


Isaiah 6:1-8

A Vision of God in the Temple

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!’