Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday, 2019 - Isaiah 6; Romans 11; Matthew 28
I am always afraid when Trinity Sunday comes around. It’s the Sunday where we take time to try and explain this thing that is a mystery. Something that cannot be explained well. The Trinity. One God in three persons. God having a name - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And yet we say, not three gods, but one God. Then we try to use examples of things we find in nature. Water being solid, liquid and gas all at the same time. The egg heresy of the shell, the white and the yolk. The apple with the skin, the flesh, the seeds. Even what I did with the kids. Three stuffed animals, one Eeyore. No, they are three Eeyore's. We can see that. And so this Trinitarian understanding of ours that we confess our belief in, that we opened the service with, and even close it as I bless you in that Name. It is this mystery. This playfulness of God. Three persons, one God. This thing that I have come to consider to be the evidence of the newness of God. Because we use that word God, we may talk about Jesus and the Spirit, but every time we try to meditate on the idea of the Trinity, it should come to us as newness. As something new because we cannot explain it with science or math. Three things cannot occupy the same space at the same time, independent of one another, and yet God does.
This last weekend I smelled newness. We were at Synod Assembly in Moorhead and it was hot. Sticky. Sitting in the Auditorium at Concordia, the doors were open on the North and south sides to the outside, so that all in attendance might receive the cross ventilation of death that that was. Right Julie? Amy? At a point in the late afternoon it started to rain. Hard. And this smell came wafting in. I’m not talking about the smell of rain, which is awesome. I’m thinking of that smell of rain hitting hot concrete. Hot asphalt. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s indescribable but you know what it is when you smell it, and I love it. I love it because growing up in California I spent the majority of my life under drought conditions. It was rare for us to get rain ever. The couple of years we had considerable moisture were an anomaly, so that smell is the smell of newness to me. Something was hot and dry, almost dying, and here comes water to pour down upon that surface. To give it a drink. To moisten its lips, kissing the earth and you expect to see steam coming up like sighs of contentment. Such a memory fits from a weekend where the Spirit moved, we elected a new bishop, and we talked a lot about building a bigger table in the church. Looking to the future paths of renewal, new ways of doing old things.
As an historian I love old things. I love tradition. I love the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the creeds, old books, all of it. I could take the time to punish you by having us recite the Athanasian Creed, which is the tradition on Holy Trinity Sunday. This long confession that was the attempts of the Church Fathers to explain the Trinity and the necessity to get it right or you are damned. Head knowledge.
But then my artistic leanings creep in. The times where function trumps tradition. Where I would much rather see how God has been working or is working in the Scriptures rather than to force some sort of cognitive knowledge that does not save you. Where we are confronted by God doing his work as Father, Word and Spirit, all throughout the Bible with little to know explanation apart from seeing the transformation of individuals happen. Where God the Father finds you in the dark, speaks a word of comfort and forgiveness in Jesus, and the Spirit opens your ears to hear that Word and be made new. Where Paul has spent 11 chapters in Romans explaining Sin and Grace. Explaining why we are estranged from God and how God has been the one to reconcile us without that pound of flesh. Without us doing anything to deserve his love or grace. And it is a foreign concept to us. And so he gives us his Doxology - O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? Where our life with God bring us to a point of unknowing and caught into the mystery of his newness so that we just dwell in his playfulness. No answers just awe.
Or, another way, dive into Isaiah 6 and tell me you aren’t struck by something artistic. Something beyond you. Beyond me. Isaiah comes before the throne of the Lord and he is struck by awe. God on his throne in all his glory, with angels zooming around, and smoke and flowing robes. God filling every space that Isaiah could possibly be. The hem of his robe, which is less than his robe, just the hem, filling the entire sacred space of the Temple. Many of our denominations will start with the image of this holy God. This altogether-different-God. This too-above-you-to-ever-care-about-you-God. Our churches and teachers might even get to Isaiah’s humiliation and fear. “Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies.” Telling us that we better fear. We better shake and fall on our knees and cry out. Which we should because that is our God. This awesome and amazing God. Powerful and holy. Set apart. High above you. Unattainable. Unrecognizable. Almost unbelievable.
If we were to hear Isaiah say what he said today, we would probably send him to a doctor or counselor. Put him on some medication or something. Never thinking that he was struck by this amazing God we have, in such a way as he saw God in his glory. Some commentators say he saw Jesus, not the Father. Because the issue is that this Holy God that we should be struck by then comes to Isaiah, and comes to you in a new way, in the way of Jesus - “Now that this has touched your lips, your iniquity is removed and your sin is atoned for.” Newness. Isaiah did not lie about God. Everything he said was true. He was about to die for seeing the face of the Lord while being a sinful man. The Scriptures say that no one can see the face of God and live. Yet, God, in his mercy and compassion sends him a preacher in that angel with forgiveness in his hands, touches him by that merciful touch and atones for any sin Isaiah may have committed. Newness breaking forth by the reconciliation of God with an individual sinner.
And then God takes that forgiven sinner and sends him forth to preach with lips that are sin-filled and yet atoned for. Newness. Using someone broken, not special or perfect, aware of his brokenness, and saying, “You will do.” Isaiah’s response, only by the Spirit could he say this, “Here I am…Send me.” This is what God does to us. To you. This sort of transformation.
What would happen, do you think, if we got rid of announcements and one of you came up here each week and said – This was my Isaiah 6 moment this week. Or this was my rain on hot asphalt moment this week. An opportunity to see where the mercy and love of this God in three persons has come to slay you. To put your contented-ness or pride in knowing all things to death and to see God working in this newness. Renewal. Coming in the mystery of life out of death. In the ways that bring us to our knees in fear, but yet grants us the freedom in forgiveness and empowers us in the Spirit to see that transformation take place. Because God will transform you. He can’t help himself. Either you will be brought before his holiness to be struck by your sin only to have him forgive it right away, or the Spirit is going to find you, open your eyes and ears, strike you up the side of the head with a holy 2x4, and suddenly the only thing that will matter to you is finding this God of grace immersed in every measure of the world that can be counted. Newness coming to you each morning as this God of yours, the only one you have, makes of you a new creation. Thanks be to God. Amen.