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LSB Holy Trinity Sunday B Sermon – Isaiah 6:1-8

June 1, 2015

May 31, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

And one [seraph] called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”

Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty.” That first sentence from the Collect for the Festival of the Holy Trinity carries a lot of significant words and terms. It speaks about a grace that has been given to believers. It is a particular grace that permits mortal people to have an understanding of the Godhead. God’s creatures are given to know the glory that their Creator possesses. That knowledge is confessed and worshipped.

This might not seem like such a significant thing. We might not dwell on the matter with great frequency. And for many of us, we have had a knowledge of God from youth, since we have been raised within Christian households. Some of the knowledge of the Christian faith has been put into super-approachable ways that can seem juvenile and cartoonish. There are the Precious Moments figurines of Jesus’ Nativity or the Fisher Price Noah’s Ark set or the VeggieTales videos about Biblical characters or our Arch Book rhyming Bible stories. These are legitimate and fitting ways to put the Christian faith into the hearts and minds of children.

But we must not come to the conclusion that the depth of the Christian faith is only at that level or that God is a minor, trivial being. Remember how the Collect spoke about grace being given to us by the “almighty and everlasting God”. When that phrase is used, a situation is revealed that there is a gap that must be bridged. A privilege or favor is being extended where it is not actually merited. Sometimes the Church calls this the condescension of God, coming down to our level and making Himself accessible to us.

What the Collect mentions is illustrated quite well in the Old Testament Reading for today. You heard Isaiah’s vision: “I saw the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” This vision of the LORD reveals the fullness of His majesty. It is so great that even the seraphim cover themselves in His presence.

And what overtakes Isaiah as he witnesses this vision? “And I said: ‘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 is filled with great dread, for he understands that he is standing in the divine holiness. He acknowledges that he does not belong there. His imperfection should be cause for his destruction, as it should be consumed by the LORD’s glory that does not let anything challenge it. When considering this vision, we have moved quite far from the figurines or cartoons. No, the gravity of the LORD’s glory and majesty is no trifling matter.

But note what is done for Isaiah. Grace is given to him: “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.’” There is no destruction of this mortal man. Instead, the LORD provides for Isaiah to be cleansed. His sin is purged away. He is permitted to know the LORD’s glory. And when the call for someone to be a spokesman goes out from the LORD, Isaiah is granted the ability to use his formerly unclean lips to be the mouth that speaks divine words: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.’” The gap between the holy and majestic LORD and the unclean and cowering Isaiah was bridged.

The grace that the LORD grants to Isaiah is not limited to this sole man. No, that grace is bestowed upon the entire world. That great truth is heard in the two readings from the New Testament that were presented today. Think first on the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus from John’s Gospel. Jesus speaks about grace that is shown and a gap being bridged: “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” He notes that salvation has come down from heaven in the person of the Son of Man. And the Gospel Writer includes the commentary about that sending: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

But how did that salvation come about? The answer to that question is seen in the preaching that Peter makes on Pentecost, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”

Peter speaks in startling terms about what transpired concerning Jesus in Jerusalem. He points out how the people took this Son of God who was sent into the world and demonstrated His divinity through miraculous deeds and crucified Him. They killed Jesus who had come down from heaven. Yet, Peter state that this was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The grace that the LORD shows to the sinful and unclean world is to give salvation to it, even if it takes the death and resurrection of the Son of God to do so. That is how deep, broad, and high the LORD’s grace is.

When confronted with the LORD’s holiness and majesty, each of us is meant to have our own “Isaiah moment.” The words that flow from his mouth should be spoken by ours: “Woe is me!” But the LORD’s grace changes that for us. His presence in the world is not to condemn it, but to save it. The Son of Man brought the fullness of deity into the creation to provide for its salvation, not its destruction. And that continues to be so to this very day.

Recall what Peter preached concerning the Godhead: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing…. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Jesus makes it possible for people to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by sending out the apostles to proclaim the record of what has been done for them by Him.

Recall what Jesus says about entry into the kingdom of God: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Jesus makes it possible for people to be born of water and Spirit in Holy Baptism, so that what was once only born of unholy flesh is now born of the Spirit. This makes people His disciples.

Recall what the seraph said about Isaiah’s sinfulness: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Jesus makes it possible for people to have their guilt and sin purged away in the Lord’s Supper, as they eat and drink of His body and blood that were given into death on the altar of the cross for them. They can encounter His holiness and righteousness and have it made theirs.

Each of these are ways that the Holy Trinity shows grace to us by making Himself accessible to us. They are how the divine continues to come to humanity. We have not been discarded by the LORD. We have not been left in our sin and ignorance. We have not been given just a superficial, juvenile understanding of the Holy Trinity and His majesty and glory. No, the LORD has bridged the gap between Himself and us. He has brought salvation to us. He has mercifully let us know who He is and what He has done. We can even know the great mystery that God is Three-in-One, so that “in the confession of the only true God, we worship the Trinity in person and the Unity in substance, of majesty coequal.” 

Having received this work from the LORD, we can then rightly understand what we stated in the Collect of the Day: “Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty.” Like Isaiah, we have been graciously brought from a fate of woe to a destiny of everlasting blessing. So we are bold to ask the LORD to continue to show that favor to us: “Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities, for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever.” And since the Father has sent His Son into the world to save it and the Son’s saving acts have been made known and their merits given to us by the Spirit, it shall be so.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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