Sunday, May 31, 2015
Homily for The Feast of the Holy Trinity
John 3:1-17; Romans 11:33-36; Isaiah 6:1-7
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
To those mighty messengers, the holy seraphim, God gave six wings; with two they flew, but the purpose of the other four was to cover up their shameful parts. Even though they were charged to serve in the smoky Temple and to sing God's three-fold praise, even though they were holy, they still they had things to cover up. They still were not fit for the beauty of the fullness of God's glorious and holy presence. So, they humbled themselves, and they covered their feet and their faces, and they sang a song of praise for each Person of the holy Triune God they worshiped: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your Glory.
Unlike the seraphim, Isaiah could not abide in the presence of this majesty. He was only a man, and he was not holy. The Trinity was too much for him. He mourned for his sinful state, for his lying lips, and for his fearful heart. He was not worthy to sing their song or even to watch them from afar. He was undone, he was damned, and he was headed for destruction without defense. His guilt was too great. His sin was too shameful. He had no wings, he had no fig leaves with which to cover himself. There in the presence of the Truth, he could not lie about who he really was. He could not fake it. He was exposed, he was vulnerable, and he was undone.
But then an angel, a seraphim, flew to the altar at God's direction. He picked up a burning coal, the remnant of the burnt offering, and placed its fire to Isaiah's lips. His guilt was taken away. His sin was atoned for. For, Isaiah partook of that which was sacrificed in his place. It was put upon his mouth, and it made him clean. That which had appeased God's wrath on his behalf was joined to Isaiah so that he, too, could sing God's three-fold praise: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth. Now Isaiah, like the seraphim, was holy. The Almighty had declared it to be so. Isaiah had been redeemed. He could call the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate God of Moses and of Abraham, the only-begotten of His Father from whom the Spirit does proceed, Brother.
How unsearchable are the judgments of God! He judges men who murdered His Son, who mocked His Name, who hid and ran from Him, who stole and lied and caved in, He judges them innocent. He makes them His sons. And, He judges His perfect Son worthy of the price that Justice demands. He places the burdens of all the evil the world has withstood - genocide and slavery, half-truths, bragging, and cowardice, name-calling on the playground, and drunkenness, all the evil in which men have engaged, all their secret sins, all their violence and their vanity; all their greed, malice, and lust - He places all of it upon the Lamb, the Lamb that was born to be a sacrifice. And, the Father raised Him up from the earth on a hellish pole to cleanse men of the serpent's most deadly poison - the first heresy - the lie that God is not true, that God does not care, that we can be like God on our own. But look there! Look with eyes of faith to the agony of grace outside of Jerusalem! There the demons are cast out. There the serpents are driven away. From there proceeds the Spirit of peace who proclaims the Son. There salvation is won and the lips of men are made clean. Songs of praise ring out again: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth.
For whoever believes in Him - the One raised up in death, and raised again to life, and raised again to His Father's side, the One the bronze serpent did foreshadow, the One that all burnt offerings were burnt to illustrate, the One who received the praise of the seraphim and sent Isaiah to foretell the Virgin birth, - whoever believes in Him will never perish but will have eternal life. "Whoever," promises our Lord. Whoever - no matter how bad, how despicable, how wrong or mean or stupid or lazy or negligent or resentful or lonely - whoever believes in Jesus Christ, whoever trusts in Him, true God and true Man, whoever looks to Christ, crucified and raised, despite his past crimes, he is forgiven and finds peace, and comfort, hope, and joy.
Jesus Christ was lifted up and was sacrificed for the sins of the world, even for your sins. That is how God loved the world. And, that is how God has loved you. He gave His only-begotten over to the death you should have died. He declared the Innocent One guilty so that He could declare you innocent and righteous. He has had mercy upon you, and His mercy endureth forever! He did not send His Son to condemn the world, but to save it, to save you. And so He has. And that for free, without an examination of your past, without a searching of your conscience, without checking on your pedigree. He has saved you, not by works or righteousness which you have done, but according to His mercy. His Word creates and sustains faith in whoever believes in Him.
Today a servant of God's Word, without wings, at God's direction, takes from the this altar the fiery sacrifice of God and touches its fire to your lips. Your guilt is taken away. Your sin is atoned for. For, you partake of that which was sacrificed in your place: Jesus' Body and Blood. It is put into your mouth and it makes you clean. That which has appeased God's wrath on your behalf is joined to you. Thus you, too, can sing: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Like the seraphim, like Isaiah and Nicodemus, you are holy. You have been redeemed. You call the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate God of Moses and of Abraham, the only-begotten of His Father from whom the Spirit does proceed, Brother. You belong to God. You have been spared. You have been Named by Him. You belong to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You have been born from above through water and the Word by the intervention of Love.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.