By Rev. Stephen Baldwin

OT: Isaiah 6.1-8

NT: John 3.1-17

When I was 13, I met Shaquille O’Neal. The 7’1”, 325 pound giant of a basketball player, better known as Shaq. He was so big and famous and cool that I was frozen like a popsicle that’s been at the back of the freezer for years. 

My buddy Tom asked for his autograph, and Shaq said, “No problem, my man.” I wanted his autograph, even had a jersey for him to sign, but I couldn’t speak. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t do anything, as Shaq walked on by. 

When we meet people who are larger than life, we are often left speechless, mumbling and awkward, unsure what to do or say. Has it ever happened to you? 

Imagine meeting God. What would you do? What would you say? Would you be 

able to move or speak, or would you be in complete and total awe? 

That’s essentially what happened in both of our stories today. Isaiah and Nicodemus both come face to face with God, albeit in very different circumstances. And it’s an experience so powerful that it changes the rest of their lives.

Let’s start with Nicodemus. As a Pharisee, or a religious leader, he is supposed to have the answers about God. Yet he comes to Jesus for answers. He comes at night, so no one can see. He fumbles over his words and mumbles about being born from above, born from water, and being born again. He makes so little sense Jesus even seems confused for a moment, before setting Nicodemus straight, eventually telling him, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him shallot perish but will have everlasting life. God did not send the son into the world to condemn it, but that the world might be saved through it.”  

Niceodemus came face to face with the son of God, and he was so overwhelmed he didn’t know what to say. 

If you met God, would you know what to say? What would you do? Could you speak at all? Could you move a muscle? Or would you be anchored in awe? Frozen in fear? Nicodemus is just like the rest of us. 

Unless you have the courage of Isaiah. He too came face to face with God, and it went…a little differently. 

His people, the Judeans, had 99 problems. Chapter one tells us they’ve forgotten and forsaken God. Their worship is meaningless, without any passion or real belief. Their leaders are corrupt and filled with greed. And then, in chapter six, their long-time king, who has always kept things moving despite the problems, dies. 

It was a tumultuous time for Isaiah and his people. It’s a tumultuous time for us today. When is it not? When has it not been? 

And in the midst of the turmoil, Isaiah has a vision. He sees God sitting high on a throne in the temple, with clothes so large they take up the entire room. The words in Hebrew evoke a sense that only part of God can be seen, due to his immense size. Isaiah sees seraphs, terrifying, winged creatures. He sees smoke. And he speaks, telling God he is unworthy to stand before him, for his lips are unclean. 

One of the seraphs picks up a hot coal, brings it over to Isaiah, and places it on his lips. It tells Isaiah that his sins are forgiven. 

God says, “Whom shall I send? Who will go out for us?”

Isaiah says, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”

Taken together, these passages challenge our very notion of God. The God of “In the Garden,” who walks and talks with us like old friends is not in this story. God is imposing, powerful, and transformative. 

Like Isaiah’s vision, God is so large that we can’t see all of him. What we can see are the pieces. We meet God in strangers. We meet God in old friends. We meet God in sacred moments. We meet God in old routines and in new experiences. We meet God everywhere. 

Maybe the question isn’t what we will say or what we will do when we meet God. Maybe the question is: How will it change us? 

It changed Isaiah completely. He was ready to do anything God wanted after sitting at his feet. 

It also changed Nicodemus. In the beginning, he didn’t know what to say or do in the presence of Jesus. But by the end, after Jesus was crucified, it was Nicodemus who helped bury him, risking his own body to honor the Lord’s. 

We all wonder what we would do or say if we meet God. Maybe that’s the wrong question, because God is all around us. Maybe the question is how will meeting God change us? 

 That’s up to you. Amen. 


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