“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!” (Is 6:5)
Let us pray: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14) Amen.
Today is Trinity Sunday where we celebrate the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the tri-unity of God as we have sung in our first hymn: “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” (Common Praise #1), three-in-one. Our readings from Holy Scripture testify to the Triune presence and activity of each of the three persons of one God: God the Father Almighty, his only Son who was incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, and the Holy Spirit, who we celebrated last week at Pentecost.
But if you look at our prayer book, or in the liturgy in front of you, every Sunday is Trinity Sunday because we worship a Triune God.
At the start of the service, Canon Beth greeted us with “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” And in The Collect of the Day, we praised the work and activity of our Triune God. The Nicene Creed, that we will proclaim later, tries as best as humanly possible to summarize the core of our belief and worship in one Triune God.
So, let us hear the presence and activity of our Triune God in today’s Scripture readings:
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes that “all who are led by the Spirit of God [that is, the Holy Spirit] are children of God” (Rom 8:14). The Spirit also bears witness and reminds us that we can call God, “Abba, Father” (8:15). “Abba, Father” is that same intimate way that Jesus called and addressed his Father in heaven and how he taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven.” Indeed, we hear that as children of God, we are also heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ Jesus.
In the Gospel according to John, Jesus tells Nicodemus that “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (Jn 3:3). “Born from above” can be translated “born again” as we hear it in “born again Christian”. And Jesus explains that double-meaning “born from above,” or “born again” is actually to be “born of the Spirit.” This is a second birth, a new birth into a new life.
We hear a reference to Moses lifting up the serpent, a foreshadowing of how Jesus would be lifted up and crucified on a cross.
Then in the most famous verse of the Bible, a one-verse summary of the Gospels in John 3:16, we hear about God’s love, a love so great “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
In just these two readings, we hear our Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as the primary agent, the main actor, who is working and acting so that we may have eternal life. This is God’s desire: He so loves the world, He so loves us, that he desires us to have eternal life.
But what is this eternal life that God desires for us to have? What is this eternal life that God invites us into? What does it mean for us?
In the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus praying to his Father, “this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3).
Eternal life is not primarily about a life without end: an infinite life that goes on forever. Eternal life is knowing God. Knowing God is not something separate that leads to eternal life. Rather, eternal life is to know God, to know the eternal God.
So, God’s invitation to us for eternal life is actually an invitation to bring us into the eternal relationship of the Trinity. It is an invitation to know the eternal Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who have been eternally, are now, and will be eternally in loving relationship with each other. The Three persons of one Godhead are eternally in relationship.
We are invited into that relationship!
This sounds confusing and impossible, as it did to curious Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee, an expert in the Hebrew scriptures, a leader of the Jews, desiring to know God, but he was stumped by Jesus.
Or perhaps your response to God’s invitation is more like Isaiah when he saw God, the LORD Almighty, YAHWEH, sitting on his throne:
“Woe is me! I am lost.” (Is 6:5)
“Woe is me! For I am undone.”
“I am ruined”.
In his vision, Isaiah hears the seraphs calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (6:3). And the earth quakes and shakes at this proclamation.
How could we ever approach a “Holy, Holy, Holy” God, whose glory fills the whole earth? How could we ever bear to hear his powerful voice? A voice that breaks the cedar trees, shakes the wilderness, and strips forests bare – as we read together in Psalm 29.
We should naturally be fearful like Isaiah: “Woe is me! I am lost!” And immediately Isaiah confesses his sinfulness, his utter unworthiness before God, the LORD Almighty, YAHWEH: “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!” (Is 6:5)
YET… This is an amazing “yet”. YET my eyes have seen God…
When we come into the presence of God, we are no longer fearful of our condemnation, or of destruction in a flood. Isaiah had a live coal painfully touch and burn his lips, blotting out his sin, purifying him.
And we have Jesus Christ who was lifted up to be killed on a cross. Jesus is our burning live coal that touches us: our guilt is departed and our sin is blotted out, purifying us so that our eyes can see the King, the LORD of hosts.
In Paul’s letter, he encourages the Romans: They “did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” but instead they had “received a spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15). “The Spirit of adoption.” Adoption to God and not slavery to sin and flesh. With this adoption, we can at the same time proclaim “Holy Holy Holy” in awesome, fearful worship, and also intimately say “Abba, Father” as dearly beloved children of God.
The Holy Spirit bears witness that we are children of God: “if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (8:17).
Now, what do we receive as joint heirs with Christ? What is our heavenly inheritance? We receive the eternal love that is between God the Father and his only Son, through the Holy Spirit.
On Trinity Sunday, indeed, every Sunday, we do not worship a Triune God from far away.
At the Royal Wedding last weekend, there were many guests seated way back in the nave. Commoners slept on the streets, hoping to glimpse the royal carriage as it went by. Meanwhile, the rest of us watched it on TV or YouTube. That is seeing from afar.
But no, we do not see or worship God from afar. We worship a Triune God who desires intimate loving relationship with us, as a loving perfect Father to his children. We are taken from the rather impersonal throne room in Isaiah’s vision, and we are born into God’s own family.
This is what it means to be “born of the Spirit”: the Spirit births us into a new spiritual life, into a new spiritual family, into the eternal life of the Trinity.
Our eternal life, this new life does not begin at our death. We are invited into the Triune God’s eternal love, immediately. Today!
So, as we encounter the Triune God in his word and sacrament, we can follow along with Isaiah. The Scripture reading in Isaiah can be our template, our model of worship. Together with the seraphs we can proclaim, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” We tremble as we recognize our unworthiness and sinfulness. But then we receive Jesus Christ who removes our guilt and blots out our sin.
And finally, we hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Is 6:8)
We are invited into God’s eternal life, into the Triune God’s eternal love. Let us have confidence as children of God to respond saying, “Here am I; send me!”
At the Royal Wedding last weekend, we heard a marvelous sermon where Dr. Martin Luther King was quoted, speaking about “the redemptive power of love” which “will make of this old world a new world.” That love is what unites Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and we are invited into it and then to carry and proclaim that redemptive love into the world.
When God hears his people cry out, when God weeps for love of his people, when God makes of this old world a new world, he calls to you and me. Let us hear the voice of the LORD, “Whom shall I send?”
Let us not live in fear or anxiety, in debt to the flesh, woeful because of our unclean lips. Neither should we be deterred to suffer with Christ, since we will be glorified with Christ. But let us first receive and accept God’s invitation into his eternal love. And being confident as children of God, we can respond “Here am I; send me!”
May our individual lives, lived in the Spirit, and our lives together as the body of Christ, be a foretaste to the world around us of God’s new life, his eternal life, his eternal love.
O LORD, Fill us with the vision of your glory, your eternal Triune love, that we may always serve and praise you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.