I find the phrase ‘unclean lips’ from this reading incredibly haunting. What an evocative way of speaking of a jumble of feelings of shame and inadequacy. Two words - one deeply intimate, and one coldly distant. It’s a strange spiky phrase that resonates down to us through the years.
Dry, cut, chapped,
Burdened, bloodied, broken
mouth hanging open —
with unclean lips.
Lord clean our lips
of blood and sweat and spit and shame,
clean them again
of words casually and lazily insinuated
and lies confidently and shamefully propagated.
In our neighbourhoods bless our lips
that we might lift
1 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. 2 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. 3 And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 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!’
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 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.’ 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!’