Tomorrow’s sermon from Isaiah 6:1-8.
Happy Trinity Sunday! After a year of attending and serving in a church that follows the lectionary calendar, the previously non-lectionary savvy inner Sara still gets a little intimidated on days like today.
Today, we recognize the vast and extreme holiness of God. Today, we celebrate the revelation of God to the world through Jesus. Today, we marvel at God’s spirit at work in our lives and in the life of our church.
Today, we invite the holy trinity to join us in our worship,to reveal to us a fresh word, to breathe into us new inspiration for the mission and vision God has for each of us.
Isaiah 6:8 has been one of my favorite Bible verses since I was 15. Convinced I was made for mission work, I held Isaiah’s bold response “here I am, send me,” close to my heart.
I would read Isaiah 6:8 th night before heading out on any mission trip, and would get goosebumps of excitement, so ready to go and to do.
Sometimes, though, I would get so wrapped up in the excitement of the response, of the chance to say “here I am, send me out to go and to do,” that I would bypass the chance to sit and to be; the chance to hear the call before the response.
Isaiah 6:1-7 presents used with a chance to sit among the angels and listen in as they worship; the chance to be in the presence of a radical holiness.
Just imagine what it must have been like to be an on-looker in such a worship service.
I picture a grand sanctuary with marble flooring, white marble with coral swirls twirling in a here – and there – pattern that mimics the movement of the spirit of God.
Intricately carved soapstone dishes house precious burning incense that smells like sweet, juicy red plums and cinnamon.
Crisp muslin sheaths hang from the lofty window valances, and the voices of the seraphs rustle the fabric with every praise they chant.
They are flying, hovering over the altar of God where a burn offering smokes and smolders.
They’re almost to the top of the vaulted sanctuary ceiling and they chant to each other with a deep resonance, calling and responding to each other: ” holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! The whole earth is full of his glory.”
The temple shakes and is filled with smoke at the sound of their voices. Isaiah is overcome by the moment: he stands in awe of the holiness of God, then shrinks into kneeling at the realization of his humanity.
He cries out in distress and begins to confess his sins and the sins of the people of Judah.
Isaiah needs this moment now, maybe more than ever before. King Uzziah is dead. It’s the end of an era for the kingdom of Judah, Assyrian domination looms over their heads. Isaiah stands at the entrance to the sanctuary captivated and awe struck; inspired by the sacred and humbled by the human.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to witness even a fraction of what Isaiah saw and heard that day. Think about entering the temple where God’s presence looms so lofty and fills so much of the space that the only part of God that remains visible from the entrance is the hem of God’s robe.
When I was growing up, my family went to a lot of weddings because my dad was usually officiating one. During the receptions,it was kind of an unspoken, socially understood practice that all the little girls in attendance would position themselves around the fellowship hall; eyes peeled and looking for the bride.
One lucky, lucky girl in a sea of romance, frill, and flower-struck peers would cunningly gain the distinct and deeply coveted honor of holding the bride’s train throughout the reception so it wouldn’t get dirty.
Hands would have been washed before leaving the house with the specialest of soaps, and lotioned with the floralest of lotions in preparation for delicately cradling their charge: a generously beaded hem of satin and lace.
I imagine Isaiah looking on in awe, like me and my little friends, just longing to be in the presence of such beauty, such splendor, such glory. Face to face with glorious splendor, Isaiah reacts to the holiness of the moment and to his unworthiness.
A seraph sees Isaiah’s distress and cleanses him of his guilt and sin with a burning coal from the altar of God. Having confessed his sin and received God’s forgiveness, Isaiah is now able to hear the voice of the Lord pleading ” who will go? Who will I send?”
With blistering lips and the fire of God’s spirit burning within him, Isaiah responds to the spirit of God “here I am, send me!”
People have been responding to the spirit of God for ages. God’s spirit is a mystery; a beautiful mystery that, like the wind, blows where it chooses. We don’t know where it comes from or where it is going, but we do know that in Christ we are people of God’s spirit – invited to respond to God’s spirit at every turn in our lives.
Like Isaiah, maybe we are at a point when we need to hear some word from God like never before.
When health begins to fail and bodies start to fall apart, when relationships that were once sweet go bitter, as we watch injustice prevail, violence threaten, hunger abound, and ageism continue to isolate society’s most neglected,
a breezy gust of holy spirit, a fresh word from God, a new encounter with Jesus is just what we need.
Like Nicodemus, maybe our questions, fears, and doubts have finally caught up with us in the dark of the night where questions live, doubts surface and fears thrive.
If there’s anything to be known from the experiences of Isaiah and Nicodemus, it’s this:
God’s spirit abounds for us at any stage of life. It blows like the wind, swirling around us with a mighty power that inspires awe and invites confession.
Today, on Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the holy three-in-one.
We stand amazed in the awe-inspiring presence of a mighty God.
We rest, redeemed in the arms of our merciful Jesus.
We listen, transformed by grace, for the call of the holy spirit.
When we come face to face with God’s radical holiness, we are reminded of our radical unworthiness. But, that’s where grace does its most beautiful work.
As we confess our sins amidst the holiness of God; as we name the sins of our time: the injustices in our world, greed, humanity’s God complex, bringing these most worldly things to the throne of a most holy God, we come face to face with forgiveness
Stunned and amazed, we let our voices join the seraphim in praise to the almighty, our burned and blistering lips uttering the only words that seem appropriate for such a moment: ” holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, here I am, send me!”