Trinity Sunday 2021
May 30, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Judah had known no king like Uzziah since the time of Solomon. He was an effective administrator and military leader. The county had grown in every way under his kingship. How easy it must have been to trust in such a person and in the county at the time. A country that prospers, a people who are proud of their heritage and future.
But what happens when that time is past? When the king is dead, the country is going downhill in terms of the economy, the morality, and an enemy from the East is pushing nearer and nearer? In moments like these, it is easy to lose hope and trust, at least for this life and in earthly rulers.
It is in the middle of such conflicted times, that God calls Isaiah to serve as His prophet to His people. At a time when God’s people are in serious trouble, the Lord reveals Himself. Isaiah, that great prophet of the Gospel, looks and sees the Lord sitting upon His throne. And as He is revealed, we hear the voices of the seraphim, those angelic heavenly beings, singing out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Three times the angels proclaim God’s holiness. If you remember, the word “holy” in Hebrew means “separate” or “set apart” or “sanctified.” Holiness is a state of being, from which flows an ethical behavior. In all of creation, God is the only One who is holy in and of Himself. And God is not just holy, He is thrice holy, He is completely set apart, different from His creation in His perfection, power, knowledge, glory, and loving-kindness. It is in His character. In His morality. In His very being.
Which is why the only natural reaction to being in the full presence of the holiness of God is one of fear and trembling. This is not the lovey-dovey God of pop-culture. This is not the God who can be manipulated or made into man’s image. This is the Lord of Hosts, the General of the armies of heaven, sitting on His throne where just the train of His robe fills the entire heavenly temple and His glory fills the earth! This Holy One of Israel is uncompromising in His set-apartness” and in His expectation of faithfulness from His people. Anything less brings destruction.
Isaiah understands this all too well. As the seraphim fly back and forth about the throne of the Lord singing of God’s glory, the sound of their voices cause the very foundations to shake. Naturally, this scared Isaiah. “Woe is me!” he cries out. He knows that no one can look upon God and live. Isaiah is very aware of His sinfulness, of his unholiness. The sin and guilt which Isaiah recognizes is that same as ours. Not naturally holy. Sinful and unclean by nature, a sinful nature that has been passed down to all humankind from Adam and Eve onward.
And what depts of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! Isaiah has no hope, no way out, nothing but unclean lips. Even though he does not actively seek purification, purely out of the grace of God, it is given to him. Out of the smoke comes a seraph with a purifying coal, taken from the altar of God. Isaiah does nothing. He stands there in shock and awe as the seraph touches his mouth with that which would burn away His iniquity. “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” God’s holiness delivered; God’s gift received.
While it may not be as flashy, nor as terrifying, it happens again today. In Holy Communion, a messenger from God takes from His altar and delivers the purification and shares the same holiness of God as the body and blood of Christ touch your lips. In this sacramental act of God, we see the proper work of the Lord of hosts – that God does not reveal Himself to destroy us, but to redeem us! He comes to His people to make them holy, to set them apart, just as He is holy!
This is radically different than anything else in all creation. Over and over again, we hear that the Church must change or die; that we must conform to the unholiness of the world. That we must change the way we worship, or it won’t appeal to younger generations. That we must change the way we believe about the sins of homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia. That we must join the gender confusion and submit to the evils of socialistic ideologies. The thing is, it’s all backward, and it just isn’t true, nor does it even work. Conforming to the culture will bring about death, not prevent it. The Church cannot conform to the world and be holy.
But it is true that you must conform or die. Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). It is the through the new birth of water and the Spirit, through Holy Baptism, that God’s holiness is applied to a person as they are being conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; Titus 3:5-8). The holy Christian Church lives on borrowed holiness. Holiness comes only from God-from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. It is God in Christ who conforms people to Himself. He who is holy makes others holy for Himself.
As the Lord called and sanctified Isaiah to be His prophet, so through Baptism and His Word and the Sacrament of the Altar He has called you who dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips to be purified, sins atoned for, born again from the will of God, believers and beholders of the Lord of Hosts who has been lifted up for our salvation, even Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God. He has called you to proclaim the mighty deeds of the Lord of Hosts who makes holy ones, saints, out of sinful, broken, and unholy people through that same Word and Sacraments. The answer for His people’s sinful lives, for our sinful lives, for a struggling economy, a struggling nation, broken families, hopeless situations, and an uncertain future is to receive the salvation that He offers. In His holy love for His people, He gives His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Through Jesus, you have complete and pure forgiveness of your sins, for as St. Paul declared to the Colossians, “He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Colossians 1:22).
You have been set apart by Christ, the Holy One of God, to believe, confess, and live separately from the unredeemed. You are to love more, serve more. You ought to behave better than the rest of the society. You are not of the world, so stop acting like it! Repent! Your old sinful nature urges you to give in to the unholy trinity-the devil, the world, and your sinful nature. Do not abandon the faith. When your sins burden your soul and your hope in this world is failing so that you cry out, “Woe is me!” return to the Thrice Holy God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in repentance to receive His forgiveness and power to make you holy again and again and again and to keep you in His grace. So that you, with Isaiah, with angels and archangels and all the company heaven, you laud and glorify His glorious name, evermore praising Him and saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.” Amen!