On the first day of General Assembly today in Ridgecrest, N.C., The Rt. Rev. Rennis Ponniah, diocesan bishop-elect of the Diocese of Singapore, presented a fresh vision of God through an exposition of Isaiah 6:1–13. Ponniah’s teaching at Assembly 2012 is emblematic of the support and encouragement the Anglican Church in North America continues to receive from Anglican brothers and sisters around the world.
“Many of us from the wider Communion are here to encourage you as you contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” he said. Praying that God would “reveal His glory,” Ponniah laid out his agenda to explore a fresh vision of God, the Church, and the times over the next three days as he leads the Assembly through the book of Isaiah. “The goal is that through this fresh vision of God, the Church, and the times, we might be renewed,” he said.
Ponniah compared the opening of the book of Isaiah to a State of the Union address from God’s perspective, in which the people of God are in a state of “hardened waywardness.” Pointing to the death of King Uzziah (Isaiah 6:1), Ponniah noted that Israel was left wondering, “Who is going to protect and fulfill the destiny of God’s people?”
The answer comes through a powerful vision Isaiah receives of God as king on His throne. “The vision Isaiah receives leaves no doubt who is the majestic king. The center of power is not Washington D.C., Beijing, or Canterbury.” Presented with this vision of God, Isaiah is “undone by the stunning holiness of God” and acknowledges his sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5). Ponniah called upon the Assembly to follow Isaiah’s example in acknowledging our sinfulness before the “totally unique moral majesty of God,” instead of comparing ourselves to others.
God’s response to Isaiah, according to Ponniah, is also applicable to us today. God cleansed Isaiah from his sin by means of a coal from his altar (Isaiah 6:7), “pointing us ahead to the Lamb of God…to Jesus” who made atonement for the sins of the whole world. Like Isaiah, we are “amazed by the sheer grace of God” because He has cleansed us from our sinfulness.
Isaiah responds to God cleansing him by volunteering to be sent, without knowing what God is asking him to do. This is because he is captivated by the salvation purpose of God, according to Ponniah. “[Isaiah] doesn’t know the task because it doesn’t matter. He is captivated by the salvation plan of God,” he said. “The last word of God is salvation. God’s purposes are always for salvation.”
Ponniah closed by inviting the Assembly to pray, “Here am I, Lord, to be broken, to be cleansed, and to be sent anew to do your will.”
Ponniah was consecrated as an assistant bishop for the Diocese of Singapore in 2005. He has served as a vicar for one of their largest Anglican parishes, St. John’s-St. Margaret’s Church, since 1993. He is widely regarded as one of the leading Bible teachers in the worldwide Anglican family. In October, Ponniah will become the ninth Bishop of Singapore.