Isaiah 6, John 16:12-15, Romans 5:-15 5/30
Isaiah 6: Image of the glory of God
Today you entered into a sanctuary, a holy place, to pray. You have been here before, many times before. You have taken part in priestly duties. This place has been your spiritual home, where you sing, cry, laugh, wonder, believe, dream, listen and grow.
Today you walked into this holy place, and you see something magnificent. Something majestic. Pens cannot create words to do justice to what you see. The building is filled with a long train of a robe, Hundreds and hundreds of feet of robe. It is the most beautiful robe you have ever seen, one that must be worn by a king.
Then you look up above the sanctuary and you see God. Your faith has taught you that if you see God, you will die. No one must see God and live. But you see God, the Lord, the Almighty One, high above this holy place, exalted above the earth, seated on a throne.
As you look up to God, you see that you and God are not alone. Heavenly angels with six wings fly above God, covering themselves out of reverence for of the holiness of God. They are not worthy to look, but as they fly to sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory”.
The song is so loud that the doorpost and doorsill shake. Smoke fills the holy place where you stand.
And you are in trouble. You’ve seen God, Your human eyes have seen perfection. “Woe is me”, you cry. I am done. I’m finished. I’m ruined. Because I am unclean, and the people all around me are unclean, the whole nation is unclean. My lips are unclean and I have seen God.
But just then, one of the angels from above God flies down, and looks around the sanctuary, and finds the coal that is used for the sacrifices. The angel takes a tong from the altar, picks up the fiery coal and places it on your lips. “Your guilt is now taken away and your sin is atoned for”. Relief. Forgiveness. Mercy. All is right again.
Before you become too comfortable, you hear the voice of God who sits on the throne. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Us?
Having your sin atoned for, your guilt taken away, your good standing with God restored, you offer to go. “Here I am God, send me.” Surely, a good assignment is now coming, you rationalize. I will go tell good news. People will gather around me to hear about my experience, and we will all change our ways. We will return to what is good and right. I get to bring good news to the people.
And then the voice responds: Go and tell this people
“This people”, you think. Uh, oh.
You’ll be hearing, but you won’t get it.
You’ll be seeing, but you won’t understand.
Your hearts will be hard. Your ears will be dull. Your eyes will be closed. Because otherwise, you might actually see and hear and understand and turn and be healed.
Ouch., you think to yourself. But God has healed you. And you have said you will go. And you must do what you say you will do.
For how long, Lord?
Until the cities lie in ruins and no one lives there. Until houses and fields have been deserted. Until I have sent everyone away and the land is utterly forsaken, until only a tenth remains of what did exist. Trees that have been cut down have left stumps. But out of a stump will my holy seed grow.
Israel, during Isaiah’s time as a prophet, is taken away in judgment by the Assyrian empire. The hopes and dreams of the people interrupted. They had not turned to be healed. They did not want to see or hear or understand.
We often will read the first part of the story, because this story in its beginning reminds us of the holiness of God. It is harder to swallow that sometimes, God calls his people to speak a more difficult message. God’s holiness demands that sin and evil be accounted for. A just God cannot and will not let evil be victorious. Isaiah had to go and speak to the people. You and I are called to go and serve the Lord. Often with good news, other times with realistic news. But even our delivery of realistic news is shared with people to bring glory to God.
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is a reminder of the majesty and mystery of God. It is a day to pause and consider that we serve a Holy God. Angels and saints and heavenly creatures, whenever they are before God, are always crying out, or singing out (with loud voices) Holy, Holy, Holy!
Trinity Sunday reminds Christians that we have a mystery at the core of our faith: One God in three persons. Not three gods. Not one person. One God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our faith should be like Isaiah in that we understand our sinfulness, and cry for help. Our faith should be like the angels who proclaim the truth: God is holy, holy, holy. The whole earth is full of his glory.
The Gospel of John: How we know
The gospel of John passage speaks to how we know God. We do not know God because of our own attempts, but rather, God’s spirit coming to us and revealing God. Jesus taught us that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth: guides into all truth, speaks for Almighty God, brings glory to God by showing us God.
There might be days of cloudiness, days of darkness, but the trajectory of our life is that the Spirit is revealing God to us. We are not without a testimony to God’s presence. The Spirit lives within us, both in our hearts and in our community.
Romans: Finding Peace with God
Paul’s letter teaches us about how we encounter God.
Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
No angel has come down and placed a burning coal on your lips to clean your guilty self. But rather, faith in Christ has made you whole. Faith in Christ has placed you right with God. We have taken Christ’s name and identity. We belong to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For every departure from God’s ways is guilt, there is no intermediate neutral position with regard to the demand of the will of God. At all times we stand either in the grace of God or under judgment.
The reality is that Christ’s grace has given us peace with God. We have…
A peace and a freedom which are independent of outward success or failure.
--Otto Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12, Old Testament Library
What is our response to the Holy Trinity? There is an ethical trinity as well. Paul identifies it in the Romans passage.
Faith in Jesus Christ
Hope in the glory of God
Love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit
(Three things endure: faith hope and love.)
Isaiah’s story is important, because of Jesus Christ, someday, we will see God. We will live and dwell in God’s presence. But the way we encounter God this day is not necessarily by vision, but rather faith. We believe.
We believe in One God. Almighty God, his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit moves us toward truth.