Holy Trinity Sunday – May 27, 2018
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8)
We have seen a lot of seasons as we walk through the Church Year, each one headed by a Church Festival. The Advent season begins the Church Year, simultaneously preparing our hearts for Christ’s first coming at Christmas as well as his second coming on Judgment Day. The high festival of Christmas celebrates Christ’s birth as Immanuel, God with us.
Epiphany follows, focusing on the the word and works of Christ for all people. It ends with the high festival of Transfiguration, when Jesus revealed his glory. Then we descend into the sobering season of Lent, focusing on Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his institution of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, his suffering and death on Good Friday. Then comes Easter, the grandest celebration of the entire year when we cry out in joy, “Christ is risen!” Just last week, our Sundays of Easter gave way to the great festival of Pentecost, the reminder that we are all missionaries for our Lord to the ends of the earth.
And then comes today: Holy Trinity Sunday. It is the final great celebration in the Church Year. It is also different from any other church celebration. Trinity Sunday, today, is the only Church celebration that doesn’t celebrate an event. It celebrates a reality. That reality is the revelation of who our true God is.
This morning we see our Triune God all over again through the eyes of a rookie prophet. As far as we know, it was his first day of ministry. But instead of being ordained at the temple, or anointed by another prophet, the Lord marks the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry by revealing something extraordinary, something astonishing. The Lord shows Isaiah…the Lord!
The young prophet recalled the memorable scene for us this morning: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” Quite a way to begin one’s ministry! As far as we know, Isaiah became the first person ever to behold the very throne room of the Lord! Of course, there was more than just the throne of heaven. “Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” And here is what those strange-looking, flying seraphs sung in the presence of the one, eternal God: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’”
The sight of God in heaven was so awe-inspiring that “At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.”
Of course, it was all too much for Isaiah to take. God’s prophet cries out, “Woe to me! I am ruined!” The throne of the Lord, the seraphs flying and singing, and the presence of the Lord himself would be enough to make anyone shutter in fear.
But that isn’t why Isaiah cried out the way he did. His fear didn’t really have anything to do with the singing or the flying or the angels or the throne. It had to do with himself. Isaiah had good reason to fear for his life. In fact, he realized that he was about to die! And here’s why: “For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Isaiah had seen the “Kavod Adonai”. It was the glory of the Lord. And for a sinful, “unclean” person to see such a sight meant instant death. In the presence of the Lord Isaiah had nowhere to hide. He reveals his sins completely as he states “I am a man of unclean lips.” And yet he admits “My eyes have seen the King.”
What if that happened here this morning? All of a sudden in the middle of our church the wooden frame begins to shake. Smoke descends from the roof and fills the room. We begin to see six-winged angels flying above us. Their strong, powerful singing floods the church with music so beautiful that we feel unworthy to hear it.
What would happen? It would simultaneously be the greatest scene we have ever beheld…and the last. And you know why. Like God’s newly-minted prophet, we too admit in the presence of our omnipotent, perfect, holy God that we are people ”of unclean lips.” No sinner can stand in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and live. Isaiah had seen the Lord, and he fully expected to die because of it. In fact, he should have died. We deserve that death, too.
That reality illustrates just how important Jesus’ incarnation was. The fact that God himself, whom even the heavens cannot contain, came to be Immanuel – God with us, defines love. And being among us, Jesus became a light for Jews and Gentiles alike. Then he allowed himself to face the punishment reserved only for sinners who dare to stand in the presence of God. God the Son faced the eternal punishment from God the Father – and he did it all so that he could send God the Holy Spirit into your heart to give you faith.
Isaiah should have died the day he saw his Triune God. But all at once his eternal punishment was exchanged for a beautiful blessing. “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.” On this altar were burning coals, which symbolized the purification for God’s people. “With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’”
Isaiah no longer needed to fear the wrath of the Lord. Neither do you – not even when the storms of this life threaten you – or when you sins seem too awful to be forgiven. Do not be afraid. The tongs holding that live coal, forged in the furnace at the cross, have touched you, too. You stand forgiven.
There was once a father walking with his 1 year old son on his back around a wooded lake. They were both wearing hooded jackets because the weather looked like it might rain. Then, as they were on the far side of the lake, about half way around, the rain came. Now what the father didn’t realize was that his little child had taken off his hood earlier. So when it began to rain the baby started to cry. As the rain started to fall harder and harder the father heard the now screams of his son and took him off of his back and held him in his arms, under his coat to protect him against the rain. But this wasn’t enough as the child continued to scream, becoming more and more frightened of the loud thunder and rain. So for the rest of the walk, the father whispered in his son’s ear, “Everything is okay. Your safe. I’m right here with you. I will not leave you.” By the end of the walk that baby knew the love his father had for him.
Your Triune God who washed your sins away at baptism now asks you the same question he asked Isaiah so many years ago: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And you get to answer with the words of Isaiah: “Here am I. Send me!” And in the midst of it all remains your Triune God’s everlasting promise: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And you know what? He will be. Amen.