Sunday’s sermon on the Holy Trinity from Community Lutheran Church!
It’s Holy Trinity Sunday. The day when it is incredibly easy to try to explain the mystery of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to end up either committing heresy or making everything even harder to understand. As a result, there is a picture the Episcopal Church has made that has been circulating around the Internet this past week. It features an adorable kitten and has these words: “How not to commit heresy on preaching the Trinity: Say nothing and show pictures of kittens instead.”
While this sounds like a wise plan, I think I’d be shirking my pastoral duty if we just watched cat videos this morning. They might make us say, “awww,” but I want to focus on a different type of awe.
The call story of Isaiah, our first reading, is one of my favorite passages. Isaiah, the prophet of God has this vision, in which he finds himself in the throne room of the Lord. There, the Lord is sitting upon a throne and the Lord is so huge, so powerful, the hem – just the edges of God’s robe – fill the Temple! That’s a big robe. Flying around the Lord are Seraphs or Seraphim. Usually we think of these as mighty angels, some sort of winged, human-like figures, but in the Ancient Near East, these were understood to be fiery serpents with wings. Yes, flaming, flying snakes! In Egyptian culture, these terrifying beasts were thought to protect the gods, but here, in Isaiah’s vision, they are serving God and covering their faces to shield themselves from God’s glory. Now if I were Isaiah, and I saw terrifying fiery serpents with wings flying around and sheltering themselves from the power and might of God, I would know that I was in deep trouble. And if I were there when the Temple started shaking because of the sound of their voices, I know I would have been looking high and low for a place to get out of dodge. And then all the smoke! Oy veh!
With all this going on, Isaiah cries out, “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 knows he’s unworthy to be standing there, filled with awe in the presence of the LORD, and he’s worried about what is going to happen. No one can see God and live. The holy and the unholy shouldn’t mix. But amazingly, God overcomes his fears, forgives his sins, and asks who will go out into the world on God’s behalf. Forgiven and empowered, Isaiah says, “Here I am; send me!” and sets off to declare a difficult message to God’s people.
Isaiah is filled with complete awe as he stands before the Lord, bathed in the glory of the Lord of hosts, the Lord whose voice alone shapes, shakes, and remakes creation. I know I’d be petrified if I were in his shoes, but even if we aren’t standing before God, aren’t there plenty of moments in our lives when we are filled with awe, wonder or a sense of the holy? Think about it. How did you feel seeing a magic trick when you were a child? Or what about accomplishing something you didn’t think possible in school or sports? How about visiting a new place? Or surveying the wonders of nature? What about on your wedding day? Or when you saw your children born? What about at a joy-filled baptism? Or coming forward to receive communion? How about the sense of the holy at the bedside of a dying loved one?
Each of us has had moments that have taken our breath away, and filled us with a sense of wonder, awe, and a glimpse of God’s glory. As the Seraphim say, and we sing every week during Communion, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The whole earth is chock full of the glory of God. God’s presence and work in the world inspire fear, respect, awe and a sense of wonder. But do we cultivate that in our lives? Do we pay attention to all of the wondrous things that point to the awesome majesty of God? The chirping of birds or the miracle of beautiful flowers springing forth from bare earth. The smell of sweet honeysuckle in the cool night air. The laughter of children playing outside. Music or dance that send your heart soaring. The unexpected kindness of a stranger. Being invited to the table to receive the body and blood of the most holy, magnificent God, humbled and broken for our sake.
There is plenty of bad news in the world along with plenty of distractions, but the mysterious, triune God we have invites us into lives of wonder and awe. And we practice living those lives by being in worship together. We listen to Scripture that tells us of God’s glory and love. We are wondrously forgiven and fed. We sing words of praise. We look with awe and joy on the things God is doing in and through each of us.
We are a people who seek answers. We are, after all, a Google people who have access to the world’s information at our fingertips. We want proof. We want certainty. We want the concrete. We want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt. But maybe, just maybe, in the divine mystery of the Trinity, we’re invited into the shadow of a doubt. We are invited to be like Nicodemus, searching for answers in the darkness and asking, “how can these things be?” We are invited to slow down and revel in the mystery of God and embrace that which is so much bigger than ourselves. To delight in, find joy in, and swim in the amazement of this God who cannot possibly be put into a box.
That’s the kind of God I want to worship. A God that’s bigger than anything I can come up with on my own. A God that continues to challenge and push us beyond our comfort zones, to cross boundaries, to take risks and to love with abandon. We cannot do that on our own, but we can do it with God’s help.
You see, that’s the truly wondrous and amazing thing about God. God is not only the God of Isaiah’s vision – awesome and powerful, seated on a lofty throne. No, God is also a God of relationship. Not only relationship in the sense of God as three-in-one and one-in-three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but as a God who desires relationship with us. As Paul explains, this is a God who has made us God’s own beloved children. We are children of that Almighty God on the throne, able to come to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. God is our loving parent and Christ our brother and, even more, we’re co-heirs of everything God has to give to Christ. Wow. That’s incredibly good news!
It’s news that means that God wants to be present and active in our lives and in our world – not distant, but near, and at work bringing about transformation in and through us. When I really slow down and think about the fact that the God who commands the Seraphs, whose voice is thunder and lightning, who reigns over the heavens and all creation, wants to be at work in each of us, in you and me – that’s an extremely humbling thought that fills me with awe. It’s the same thought that I have when receiving Communion – “thank you for using something so ordinary so that we can know your presence and your love.”
It must have been the feeling Isaiah had standing before God. An everyday man, forgiven and cleansed by the purifying power of a hot coal, empowered to proclaim God’s word. He wasn’t able to do this on his own, but through God at work, he was able to bear God’s message. The holy touched the ordinary and transformed it. So I ask you, in awe of God’s action in your life and the world, and forgiven through Christ, is the Spirit stirring up something in you? How might you spend time cultivating a sense of awe, wonder and even mystery toward God in your life? How might that affect your worship? And how might that affect how you live each day?
Holy Trinity Sunday invites us to think about the awesome God that we worship. To step back and behold with humility, wonder and awe the glory of a God we cannot possibly pin down or understand completely. May we see with eyes of faith the glory of God that fills not only the heavens, but earth as well. Amen.
© 2015. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.