Trinity Sunday (B)
May 30, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament text from Isaiah.
I’m a guy who doesn’t give a much thought to how things work, I just know they do. It’s impressive my phone can do a thousand things, but if it makes calls, I’m happy. While I don’t understand how planes fly, I appreciate the convenience they offer. I don’t understand gravity, but when I’m on a ladder, I hold on. Today is Trinity Sunday which brings up a similar question: How does the Triune God work? How can there be three persons in one God? How can each of the persons be God and yet there be only one God? In the Athanasian Creed, we confessed what we believe about the Triune God, but be honest, did you understand all of it? A Lutheran theologian, John Mueller, wrote in a textbook that because Christians fall into error when trying to explain the Trinity, the Christian theologian must refrain from presenting the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in such a way as to make it understandable. It’s so hard to comprehend that anyone who tries to explain it will make it worse. But does it matter? I certainly don’t need to know how the Trinity works; just that it does.
If you were to ask people to describe God, or one of the persons of the Trinity, you’d get a lot of different answers. Some would say the Father is a kindly grandfather type figure. The Son, Jesus, is usually depicted as a smiling shepherd, or a man dying on the cross. The Holy Spirit, that one’s a little tough. Maybe you imagine the dove from the baptism of Jesus or the tongues of fire we heard about last week. These pictures are fairly harmless right? Not all that scary, not scary at all if you think about it.
But now compare what you imagine God to look like to what Isaiah sees. You get a completely different picture, don’t you? “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple.” Here is God in all His majesty and glory. Not a weak little baby or a gentle man, but God reigning in Heaven, filling creation with His power. When Daniel had his vision of God he saw “His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before Him.” That’s not how we picture God at all!
Isaiah goes on to describe the seraphim, the angels that stood by God’s throne and they’re not the cute little cherubs they’re often depicted to be. Isaiah’s description furthers the importance of God’s holiness. “Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” Angels are perfect creations; they praise and serve God non-stop. Still, they cover their faces and their feet to show that their holiness can’t possibly match up to God’s for God’s not just holy, He’s supremely holy. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” It’s no wonder Isaiah was shaking in his sandals.
What is unmistakably clear to Isaiah is that he has no business being where he is, and he knows why: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Isaiah confesses the unholiness that belongs to him, both because he is a sinner and because he lives among sinners. God’s holiness must be protected at all costs, and Isaiah is certain that he has desecrated God’s holiness. Isaiah all knew that God had told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” Isaiah thinks he’s a goner, and he should be.
I don’t believe that any of us would want to trade places with Isaiah, I sure wouldn’t. We know that when we die, we’ll see God, and we look forward to that day. The difference is that when we die, we’re made holy, while right now, we’re not even close. So maybe you’re breathing a sigh of relief because you haven’t been called into God’s presence to face His overwhelming holiness. Did you maybe forget that you’re always in God’s presence? And I don’t just mean here in church. He’s everywhere you go. You can’t escape His eye or hide from Him in the dark. You can’t pretend He’s not watching everything you do.
And what happens the most when we’re in His presence? We sin! We confess our faith in the Holy Trinity, but we tend to worship unholy trinities like “me, myself, and I” or “the Devil, the World, and our Sinful nature.” God is Holy, we’re sinful beyond belief. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we work towards being better, living as Christians, but we’ll never match up with God’s holiness. In all His Holiness, God should be unapproachable. We should tremble like Isaiah when he heard the song of the seraphim. We should have a lot of apprehension when it comes to God who is so perfectly holy that the angels take steps to honor His holiness. I keep saying “should”, but the truth is that you don’t need to be afraid of God or apprehensive or anything like that. God wants you to come into His presence! He wants you to know that yes, He watches you, and yes, He is disappointed and angry when you sin, but more than that He wants you to stand before Him as His baptized, chosen one.
God did say that no one could see Him and live, but if God makes the rules, can’t He change them? Sure, He can! The elders who ate with Him on Mount Sinai didn’t die, and neither did Isaiah. Isaiah says, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’” Isaiah watches as the angel takes a coal from the place of sacrifice, the altar, to purge Isaiah’s sin and unholiness. With his sins forgiven and his guilt taken away, he can joyfully stand in the presence of God.
Other men got to stand in the presence of God or gaze into Heaven and Moses, Daniel, John, and Paul were never the same after their experiences. We’re not going to see God as they did. Rather, we see Him as He has revealed Himself to us. You want to see the Holy Trinity? You look to how He has revealed Himself – in Jesus. Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”. Paul says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” To see Christ is to see Him with eyes of faith. To look at the cross and the empty tomb and know that it is there at those two places where Jesus touched you with the burning coal of His body and blood so that your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. He is the one burned upon the altar for you, He touches you and purges you of your unholiness.
You will not understand how the Trinity works, but believe that He does work, for you. The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and it’s the Holy Spirit who presents our prayers to God. The eternal Son sent the eternal Spirit who guides you in the faith and in the way of peace. In faith, we join the angels in their song extolling the holiness of God, praising Him for His glory that surrounds us everywhere we go. You sing rather than cower before Him because your sin has been atoned for and your guilt have been taken away. God put aside His heavenly glory to come to earth and give you His perfect holiness. You’re not perfectly holy yet, but that’s okay, for the Son’s holiness covers you completely, so in God’s eyes you are indeed holy. And throughout your entire life, the Holy Spirit conveys that holiness to you again and again so you may boldly approach God without fear of death and damnation. You do so only because Christ has made you holy.
So, now you understand the way the Holy Trinity works? Nah, and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter how it works, it just does. The Bible teaches that our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God in three persons and what God says in His Word is good enough for me. What really matters is that He works for you, for the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit call you to faith and keep you in that faith until you join the seraphim and all the heavenly hosts in the song of Heaven.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen