WHY WE ARE HERE

WHY WE ARE HERE
A sermon based on Isaiah 6: 1-8
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
June 6, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.


I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah 6:1


We’re going to begin the sermon this morning by the singing of a short song that most often
serves as a choral call to worship. (Since the pandemic put the brakes on our choir, then the whole
congregation can be the choir for this one…!) I have chosen it because it seems to capture the essence
of the opening verses of today’s passage from Isaiah 6. Please take your hymn book and turn to #594,
“The Lord Is in His Holy Temple.” Let us join in singing it together:
The Lord is in His holy Temple;
The Lord is in His holy Temple;
Let all the earth keep silence,
Let all the earth keep silence before Him,
Keep silence, keep silence before Him.1


This morning we are going to be centering our thoughts on the topic of worship. After all, that is
the main reason that we set aside Sunday mornings and come to this building—to give God our praises
and thanksgivings and to connect with him through the various parts of the service. It is really the
reason why we are here…
But worship has somewhat fallen on hard times in recent days. It is no secret that many people
have decided that weekly worship is no longer an important part of their lives. Consequently there has
been a noticeable decline in church attendance and in worship participation. This is true not just of our
church, but it is a trend of churches across the nation. Listen to these words from a prominent scholar
and writer on the state of affairs concerning church and worship:
Friends and critics tell of the wane of public worship. The news is old: every generation prints that
premature death notice. A magazine article on the decrepitude of organized religion is a sure stimulant
for declining circulation…[The truth of the matter is that] the ever-present magazine article on “Why I Do
Not Go to Church” usually betrays the littleness and ignorance of the writer more than it demonstrates
those same faults in the Church.2

1 Words from Habakkuk 2:20, music by George F. Root.
2
George A. Buttrick, Prayer (Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1942), 268, 282.P a g e | 2
Those words sound like they could have been written yesterday, don’t they? But they weren’t.
In fact, they were actually written in 1942. Their author was George Buttrick, one of the outstanding
American ministers of the 20th Century. And what is really ironic is that those words were written in the
decade before what was probably the high-water mark of church attendance in the United States. That
would be the 1950’s and 1960’s. In those days, everybody seemed to be a member of a church and
historians tell us that roughly 7 out of 10 Americans were regular church attendees. With the “baby
boom” of the post-war era, and the influence of popular TV evangelists like Billy Graham, church
participation grew by leaps and bounds during those years. And yet, if Buttrick’s words are to be taken
at face value, there were already those pointing out the decline in worship attendance, even as it was
about to dramatically increase in the next few years…
Isaiah 6 is one of the most mysterious passages in all of the scriptures. It tells of a vision that the
prophet had, and in that vision, he saw a vision of God in all his power and glory. What happens in the
course of his vision is fascinating and awe-inspiring. And the end result of his vision is that he received a
commission to speak to the people on behalf of God. He was to warn them of the consequences if they
did not come back to their first love—if they did not come back to love, worship and obey the Lord their
God.
What we are going to do during the rest of the sermon is to examine Isaiah 6 in a little bit
different light. We are going to look at it as a model for what worship ought to be. This pattern is made
up of FOUR elements that are essential for authentic worship. It is a pattern that applies to all kinds of
worship—whether it be “classic worship in a historic setting,” a phrase that we use to describe what we
do here at First Baptist …or whether it be worship that contains all the latest “hot off the press” worship
songs, praise teams and bands, copious use of various computer-driven technologies, and all the other
trappings of what some churches use in their worship. Let us take a few moments to briefly examine
these four elements of authentic worship…
The first element of worship is ADORATION. At the root of the word adoration is the word
“adore,” which means “to love” or “to worship.” In Isaiah 6:1-4, the prophet sees the Lord and is struck
in awe and wonder by what he sees. He writes that he saw God seated on a throne, high and lifted up.
Angels—mysterious six winged creatures—were flying around, singing songs of praise. At the sound of
his voice, the doorposts shook and the whole temple was filled with smoke.
Isaiah recognized who he was in the presence of—it was none other than God Almighty, Maker
of heaven and earth, the Ancient of Days, the One who was…and is…and is to come…the Creator of
unnumbered galaxies and constellations far beyond the wildest of human imaginings, the God who
stands outside of space and time, the One who is “perfect in Power, in Love and Purity.” It is a God
whose ways are inscrutable and far beyond human comprehension and understanding…The beginning
of worship is the recognition of the majesty and mystery of who we worship…
I think that this is often a missing element in 21st Century worship—the lack of recognition as to
the identity of the God we worship.P a g e | 3
Oftentimes, it seems to me that people—and that includes a lot of Christians—have gotten a
little too comfortable with the God of the universe. Consider this example from a gospel song that was
popular a few generations ago. It was a fixture of the Billy Graham Crusades of the 1950’s and regularly
sung by George Beverley Shea at those meetings. It’s called “My God and I.” Perhaps you have heard it a
time or two. Here are some of the words:
My God and I go in the field together
We walk and talk as good friends should and do.
We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter
My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.
My God and I will go for aye together
We’ll walk and talk just as good friends do
The earth will pass, and with it common trifles
But God and I will go unendingly.3
2 Corinthians 5:19 tell us that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” I get that.
God was in Christ in order to draw us close to himself. That is the essence of why Christ came. But can
one get too familiar with God? Does it sometimes happen that we—maybe unintentionally—to try to
pull God down to our own level—to make God in our own image? That we treat him something akin that
favorite uncle of yours who comes to stay for a few days whenever he’s in town? I cannot imagine that
Isaiah would have responded to his vision of God “high and lofty” with anything approaching the
sentiments contained in the song “My God and I.” We need to keep in mind who the God we love and
serve really is. That is the start of worship. God isn’t the kindly old “Man Upstairs,” as some refer to him.
And it is a mistake for us to treat him as such…
The second element of authentic worship is CONFESSION. After seeing this mysterious and aweinspiring vision of God high and lifted up, Isaiah comes to deeply recognize the depth his own sin. In
verse 5, he cries out, “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!” He knows that, as a sinful man, he is
unworthy to be in the presence of a holy and righteous God.
Confession is a difficult requirement of worship. No one likes to admit that they are failures—
neither in life nor in the life of faith. No one wants to own up to their own sense of weakness and
helplessness. But it is a necessary part of what it means to be a member of God’s family…
Every Sunday when we worship together, we spent a portion of our time in prayer. And during
that time of prayer, we set aside a time to get honest with God…to go one on one with God in the
silence…to drop our pretenses…to confess our sins to God in prayer…and then to ask for forgiveness.

3
“My God and I,” words and music by Austris A. Whithol under the pseudonym I. M. Sergei. P a g e | 4
That is not an easy thing to do, isn’t it? We come to feel that everyone else has advanced farther
in the faith than we have. We can feel isolated and alone in our sin. We cannot bear to reveal our
failures and shortcomings to others—not even to God. We imagine that we are perhaps the only ones
who have stepped off of the narrow path of following Jesus and have gone wandering in the wilderness
of our own desires and willfulness. Therefore, we will sometimes hide what is really going on inside of us
and in our lives. We conceal our hypocrisies from each other…and sometimes we try to hide them from
God as well…
But that is why confession is such an important part of worship. Part of what it means to be in
the community of believers is the recognition that we are all in the same boat. From the best of us to
the worst of us, all of us are sinners. All of us continue to struggle with sin, even in spite of our best
efforts to follow Jesus. There is no shame in acknowledging our faults because, wherever we are in our
spiritual lives, we are all in this together. The fear and pride that seeks to hamper us in the life of the
Spirit hampers others also. Sin affects us all….
One of the most brutally honest passages in the Bible concerning the life of the Spirit occurs in
Romans 7. There the Apostle Paul confesses his own sense of sin and failure when he writes, “I do not
understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but instead I do what I hate…I have the desire
to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out…When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in
my inner being, I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging
war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work with in my
members.” Let’s just tell the truth: If someone as advanced in the life of the Spirit as the Apostle Paul
can describe his life in those kinds of terms, then we are self-deceived if we think that we are somehow
doing any better…There is a lot more that could be said—and probably needs to said—about the
importance of confession in worship and in the life of the Christian believer…But we need to move
along…
After Isaiah confesses his sin, a seraph—one of those mysterious winged creatures that Isaiah
describes—flies over to him in verse 6. The seraph is carrying a live coal from the altar and, with it, he
touches Isaiah’s lips. That signifies that his sin has now been purged.
The next element of authentic worship is to found in the first half of verse 8. There Isaiah writes,
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” The third
element of authentic worship is the hearing of a word from the Lord. This is PROCLAMATION.
Proclaiming the good news of God in Christ is vital for what we do in worship. In Baptist life, it
seems to me that proclamation has been invariably equated with the sermon. But that is inaccurate.
Yes—preaching IS proclamation. There is no question about it. But so are the songs that we sing, the
scriptures as they are read, the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and baptism—all of these things should,
in one way or another, point to Jesus and proclaim him to be the Savior…P a g e | 5
In many Baptist circles, Baptists have taken proclamation to mean evangelism. That is true as far
as it goes. Evangelism IS an element of proclamation. It was true during the early days of the church in
the New Testament and it still is today. But there is more to the proclamation of the Word than simply
an evangelistic emphasis. Proclamation should also be beneficial to those who are already believers—to
those who have already made a profession of faith, been baptized and are seeking the narrow road that
Jesus promises leads to eternal life.
In response to hearing the word of the Lord in the first half of verse 8, Isaiah gives his reply in
the second half when he says, “Here am I; send me.” The fourth and final element of authentic worship
found in Isaiah 6 is RESPONSE.
To worship is to experience reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel and to experience the
resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. In the final analysis, it is responding to the
overtures of love from the heart of God the Father. It involves an opening up of ourselves to the
dangerous life of the Spirit.4
Here is a truth about worship: If worship does not change us, then it has not really been
worship. Isaiah’s experience in this chapter surely changed him. He received a commission from the Lord
to give a message to the people. It was not a pleasant message. It was one that foretold the coming of
disaster. Isaiah would announce that the people would be carted off into slavery once more. The land
would soon become ruined and ravaged. And yet, at the end of his message, he was to tell the people
there was hope, for the Lord had not entirely forsaken them. That was the message that God had given
him…
Worship should propel us to greater obedience to the Lord. We may not be given a task on the
order of Isaiah’s commission. Few of us ever do. But just as worship begins in praise and thanksgiving, it
ends in holy obedience. Worship enables us to hear God’s call more clearly. The point of worship is not
just simply to enjoy our relationship with God as an escape from the pressing needs of our lives. NO—
the purpose of worship should be to equip us for the days ahead. It is to give us strength to face the
trials and troubles that we will inevitably have to confront. It is that we may receive his orders for
service, so that we may do our part in being co-laborers with God, helping to bring about the new
creation of the Kingdom of heaven. It is to empower us to preach and teach to others all that Christ has
taught us…
The four elements of true worship: ADORATION, CONFESSION, PROCLAMTION AND RESPONSE.
This is why we are here on Sundays. This is why we come. This is why we worship…
Few people have expressed the need for authentic worship in the life of the Christian more
eloquently than William Temple, a former Archbishop of Canterbury. These are his words:

4 Much of this section is adapted from Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline—The Path to Spiritual Growth
(San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978), 138-149.P a g e | 6
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to
purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will
to the purposes of God.
And now that we have worshiped God together, we sing a final hymn indicating our response to
the call of the Lord. The song is included as an insert in the bulletin. The hymn is We Are Called to Be
God’s People. We are called to be God’s people…we are called to be God’s servants…we are called to be
God’s prophets. Let us stand as we sing together…
And to God alone be the glory! Amen