Pastor Sherry’s message for May 30, 2021
Scriptures: Isaiah 6:1-8; Ps 29; Rom 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
Today is Trinity Sunday. Nowhere in Scripture is the word Trinity used, nor is the concept explained. It is simply assumed as “a given.” However, there are a number of direct and indirect references to the Trinity in today’s lessons:1.) Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (“Us” means “more than one.” The ancient Hebrews never used the royal prerogative of later European kings and queens, whereby they referred to themselves in the plural.) So this means there is more than one person in the Godhead.
2.) Romans 8:12-17 (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.) In verses 13-14, we are to be led by the Holy Spirit; and in verses 16-17, we are sons [and daughters] of God the Father, thus…heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
3.) John 3:1-17contains Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. In verse 5, Jesus tells Nicodemus that…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. In verse 16, He instructs the Pharisee that…God [the Father] so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Thus, Jesus mentions His Father, Himself, and the Holy Spirit.So we have these references to the Trinity, but what is it and how does it work?
Our passages today do not explain how God is 3 in 1. Since Easter, we have been studying the roles of the 3 persons of the Trinity, and especially, since Pentecost, the function of the Holy Spirit. To get any clearer, we would have to borrow a line from my Aunt Vona: She was a dear heart who would talk on the phone with her friends for hours. When it came time to end the call, she would invariably end the conversation by saying, “I would tell you more, but I already told you more than I heard myself.” It’s certainly OK to do so in human discourse, but we have to take care with God and not say more than we know. How the Trinity operates is what the Roman Catholics would call a “Holy Mystery.”Mystery.”
Since I cannot really explain the Trinity, what I want to focus on today is Isaiah’s encounter with it, especially with God the Father (or perhaps the pre-incarnate Jesus).
Isaiah 6:1-8 contains Isaiah’s call to be a prophet.
Jewish tradition tells us Isaiah’s father, Amoz, was a brother to King Amaziah (a.k.a., King Ussiah). This would make Isaiah Uzziah’snephew. Isaiah appears to have loved and respected his uncle. Uzziah had assumed the throne in Jerusalem at age 16 and reigned for 52 econd, when we are years! Under him, Judea became very prosperous. He is particularly remembered for having defeated and subjugated several long-term enemies of Israel: the Philistines, the Ammonites, and the Arabians! In fact, he was considered the last of the great kings of the Southern Kingdom–until he became proud and took it upon himself to offer a sacrifice in the Temple (a task God had ordained only priests to perform). He had usurped a prerogative of the religious officials, so God disciplined him with leprosy. This made him ritually unclean; therefore, he could no longer enter the Temple. Ultimately he died of leprosy.
No doubt Isaiah was grieved both by Uzziah’s grave sin and by his punishment and death. No doubt he thought, “He was a great king! What will become of us now?” Perhaps he feared for the nation and for himself. Nevertheless, because Isaiah was first of all a priest, he goes to the Temple to pray and he actually sees the Lord, the True King of Israel.
The Temple is filled with smoke and the building trembles—signs of God’s presence. Back in Exodus 19:18-19 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently…. The smoke was a sign Isaiah and others could see.
The trembling, like an earthquake, could be felt and heard. This was a theophany (a God-sighting), with fanfare. Biblical scholars don’t believe Isaiah really saw God the Father because no one can see God the Father and live—but what he did see was awe inspiring. He probably saw the Pre-incarnate Christ, seated on the throne, surrounded with bright light much like what St. John saw in the throne room of heaven and described in Revelation 4.
Isaiah saw the train of God’s robe fill the Temple, indicating the vastness, the immensity of God. And he saw and heard the seraphim, greatliving creatures (a type of angel) with 6 wings. He heard their loud voices proclaiming God’s holiness. The word seraphim comes from the root word meaning to burn. Their job appears to be to search out–and call out–sin. They are accompanied in the throne-room by cherubim—another form of angelic being—whose job it is to protect the holiness of God.
Since he is in the presence of the sin-seeking seraphim, Isaiah is immediately made aware of his sinfulness: Verse 5 Woe to me! 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!
He is both grieved and afraid. He fears he is in mortal danger. He knew that (Exodus 3:6) Moses hid his face from God, and that God’s presence filled Job with self-contempt and repentance (Job 42:6). Later saints like Peter and Paul are similarly struck with their unworthiness in the presence of God: In Luke 5:8, Peter asks Jesus to …depart from me for I am a sinful man. In Romans 7:24, Paul says, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? We can assume from these examples that all those who stand in God’s presence are immediately made aware of their sinfulness.
But, thanks be to God for His great grace! The Lord provides a way for Isaiah to become cleansed from his sin. A seraph brings a burning coal from the altar and touches it to his lips. His sins appear to be what comes out of his mouth as he is made aware—as though he sees his soul as in a spiritual mirror—For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…. He’s not burned, but is cleaned up! (Verse7)…See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. The coal cleanses him spiritually. Remember how I have often told you, the Old Testament predicts, or points to the New Testament? Thus the coal is seen by Biblical scholars as a symbol of both the purifying power of the Holy Spirit and the redeeming work of Jesus Christ as He took our sins upon Himself on the Cross.
Then Isaiah hears God ask, (v.8) Whom shall I send? Who shall go for us? God presents Isaiah with a call beyond being a priest. He is to be a prophet; He is to serve the Trinity, the “Us.” Isaiah obediently agrees…Here I am. Send me!
In Psalm 29, King David praises God’s voice, likening it to what we perceive in a fierce thunder storm (maybe a hurricane):
1.) Verse 3 The voice of God thunders;
2.) Verse 4 The voice of God is powerful and majestic;
3.) Verse 5 The voice of the Lord breaks mighty trees (Apparently the Cedars of Lebanon then were like the Sequoias of today);
4.) Verse 7 The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightening;
5). Verse 8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
6.) Verse 9 The voice of the Lord twists the great oaks.
What King David is saying poetically is that God is great! God is powerful!
Who can contend against Him? No one who is smart! Who can overcome Him? No one at all!
So what do these 2 passages mean for us today?
First, our God is still present to us in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In fact, when we pray, we pray to the Father, through the intercession of His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Romans that even when we lack the words to say, the Holy Spirit interprets our very groans to God in heaven.
Second, when we are upset by either national or personal events, we—like Isaiah—should pray! Isaiah provides us with the perfect example of a response to grief or fear: Seek the Lord! We can and should put our confidence in God. Governments, human beings, family feuds, all come and go. But our God is on His throne eternally.
Finally, our God is strong and able. He can manage anything we are struggling with: My spouse is unfaithful; my spouse has died; my child has tuned against me, our family, and/or God; my job is killing me! My job has been eliminated! My body is failing me; my mind (or my memory) has gone off somewhere and I can’t find it. We can put our trust in God with regard to all of these concerns. Give to Him each one. Trust in Him to be present with you and to act in your very best interests.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 He reigned for 52 years (792-740);
©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams