The joke goes, “Trinity Sunday”… Must be the Deacon’s turn to preach”.
My first sermon at St. Paul’s Senior Home was set for Trinity Sunday.
So, after reviewing the Lectionary sources for that day, I began to prepare for the homily. I don’t know if it was because Richard and I are so immersed in working in the Memory Care unit, or at the Villa where there are definitely memory problems…but as I looked over the Gospel (John), the Psalm, Epistle (Romans) and Isaiah…I was struck by Isaiah’s reaction to being brought into the presence of God the Almighty in his vision; and his utter remorse for his people and himself because of how they had forgotten how much God loved them, how much God instructed them to remember who they were: God’s chosen people…the light of the world…they have forgotten the promise (Covenant) they made with God…how they had simply turned their backs on God and his all-forgiving love. We (as they did ) begin to believe we are in charge. We are calling the shots. It’s through our own hands that we are who and what we are and what we acquire is only through our own efforts … I am so glad that God is God …and we are not!
In today’s readings,( Isaiah, Psalm 29, Romans and John) we are treated to the distillation of the Christian story to the “irreducible minimum”. In other words, God’s Mission for the world, told through the eyes and pen of Isaiah, David, the Psalmist, the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle John.
We couldn’t ask for a more illustrious group to send their stories down to us through the ages …for us to take to heart, be inspired, and feel the gracious love and mercy of God in our lives, today, right now, in our hearts.
In these brief passages, we see through their eyes, God’s immeasurable love, Jesus’ death, and new life (re-birth) through the Spirit: in other words, The Trinity.
The Prophet Isaiah sets the” ancient tone” for us in the first reading.
In no uncertain terms, Isaiah tries to describe how the Holy One of Israel, in all his power and glory, loves his people- and wants their hearts to return to God- for they have turned their backs on God ; they’ve forgotten who they are – and worst of all, forgotten about the covenant they made with God.
In this passage, God is “calling for someone to send” to tell his people to return to Him.
I’ve always wondered why God gave Isaiah this vision, inviting him into God’s presence, to look into the very face of God…
It is thought that Isaiah was of royal blood, because of his continued access to courts and kings throughout his prophetic career. In his vision, Isaiah is positioned as a royal adviser, standing next to the King of Kings by the column at the entrance of the Temple, where he could see the interior of the Temple. . .
Isaiah’s vision begins with the description of the incredible magnificent splendor of God: “…sitting on a throne , high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple”. ..and what grandeur he envisions!…think of it, just the hem of God’s robe FILLS the Temple! How small, insignificant and unimportant this former royal adviser must’ve felt when he saw this!
…Seraphs attended God. Surely, Isaiah had seen king’s royal attendants, servants, in his days as an adviser before…
But, these aren’t just servants. They aren’t sweet little chubby angels smiling benevolently and whirling around the throne of God.
These are celestial beings at the top of the angelic hierarchy, these are beings of fire and power, according to Christian/Judean tradition.
In the reading today, they call to one another and say, “Holy, Holy, holy is the LORD of hosts”.
Most of us here have heard this prayer many times throughout our church life. But I didn’t realize what the Seraphs were really saying until I read the verse in “The Message” Translation of the Bible, in this translation, it says,
“Holy, holy, Holy is God-of-the-Angel-Armies”!
God of the ANGEL-ARMIES!
Just the sound of their voices shook the foundation of the temple and the temple filled with smoke! Wow.
I imagine Isaiah, going over in his stunned mind how the people of Israel had reduced God to something MUCH, MUCH smaller (into their own terms, to the pagan idols surrounding them)- to be ignored and set aside. And to think this most Almighty, glorious God had loved his people so much as to make a promise to them that he was keeping, but they were not. He must’ve been devastated when he realized this…
Indeed we see that he responds, in utter guilt and remorse both for himself and for his people before God,
“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 has seen the splendor and power of God, and he feels he and his people are unforgivable, not worthy of God’s love.
How could he ever hope to be welcome in God’s presence, being so sinful?
I don’t know about you, but I know there are times when I feel so far away from God, how could I ever measure up or be “good enough” to have God love me, just as I am. And yet, throughout the Scriptures, and lessons in the Bible, we learn that is exactly where God meets us- right where we are, when we realize how far away we’ve wandered…
when, just like Isaiah, we give up hope of getting things right and full of “woe”, believing we are unforgivable, unlovable.
We feel God is far from us…on his “throne” in heaven, looking down at all the evil, sin and corruption… disgusted, ready to give up on us.
We, like the ancient people of Israel, make the mistake of thinking God is like a human king, powerful, strong, but human, with human ideas of right or wrong, sin and mercy;
full of laws, rules and punishment.
We project our human flaws of resentment and revenge over wrong-doings
because that is how we humans think.
This is a barrier between us and the presence of God in our lives.
But, I THANK GOD, that God is God and we are not. 🙂
Because, what happens to Isaiah just after he laments for himself and for his people over their sinfulness against God?
God chooses Isaiah to show him God’s unfathomable love by a sign to wipe out his sins- and return to the presence of God in his life.
He sends those fiery, powerful, celestial beings with 6 wings, to find a way to show Isaiah he is forgiven- and they touch a burning coal to his lips, and say,
“Look, Isaiah. This coal has touched your lips. Gone is your guilt, and your sins wiped out.”
It’s like God says to Isaiah,” My touch on your lips, has removed all your tainted and blasphemous words from your mouth. All is forgiven. It’s time to begin anew”.
“Now, I am looking for someone to send – to speak my words, to tell all my people to return to Me, to turn from their evil ways, to mend the broken promise that they made to me.
Love and mercy can be theirs also, Isaiah.
Who shall I send? ”
Isaiah, moments before this happened, probably didn’t believe that he was worthy to be in the presence of God, much less be the VOICE for God.
But now, still filled with joy , he stands strong and shouts with conviction, ” Here am I, send Me!”
God sent the Prophets to tell his people to return to their promise, their inheritance, to God’s heart. He sent his only Son (John 3:16), as the revelation of God’s love to the world, he sent the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts and minds of Jesus’ disciples so they would tell the whole world how much God loves them, throughout generations and millenniums, he is sending his voice to the world.
I don’t think God is done yet. Who will he send today? AMEN