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"From the Pulpit" - May 25, 2024

"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church Vero Beach, FL

Isaiah 6:1-8

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

 the whole earth is full of his glory.”

4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

from our first reading for Sunday, May 26th, 2024 - Holy Trinity Sunday

"Jesus Loves Me, This I Know"

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ.

No, go ahead. Read the reading above again. Don't worry about thrones, seraphs with six wings, lumps of coal on Isaiah's lips and all.  I know it sounds weird, but it ties in nicely with this Sunday - Holy Trinity Sunday.  For years, for centuries even, clergy have struggled to try and define what the Holy Trinity means, how to describe it, and such, to little or no avail.  Simply because the Trinity is, and remains a mystery - the mystery of our faith.  Three in one, and one in three - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. How would you describe the Holy Trinity to someone who might ask you about it?  Tough isn't it?

Well, I've decided that our first reading for Sunday may best describe how I might describe the Holy Trinity. Less of a "concept", and more, maybe, of an experience. An experience like Isaiah has in our first reading today.

King Uzziah had ruled for nearly 50 years. He started out as most rulers do in their reign - well-intended. Probably following up on some campaign promises and such. And then, as so often happens when someone is given such authority, power began to corrupt him and his reign.  And things went south for King Uzziah. And then he died.

And so we find the prophet Isaiah standing before the throne of God - high and lofty, with the hem of his robe filling the entire temple.  Seraphs (celestial beings around the throne of God; the very highest order of celestial beings, often portrayed with a child's head), who may have been used to being around this holy space, covered their faces and their feet. And remember, Isaiah is witnessing all of this.  

The seraphs could only muster, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of your glory." Isaiah is only able to get out, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips..." Both, in this scene, can simply confess our (human) sinfulness, and the seraphs simply can only muster their confession that Holy is the Lord.  What else could they do in the presence of such divine majesty? And then, a seraph touches the lips of Isaiah, and "his sin is blotted out".

So what?  What does this have to do with Holy Trinity Sunday?  Here's my take on it all.  We've tried for centuries to convey the meaning of the Holy Trinity, with no success. It remains a mystery to us even now, in the midst of AI, algorithms, and sophisticated technology. I think that all we can do in the mystery of the Holy Trinity is to do just what the seraphs and Isaiah do - they confess their "otherness" when it comes to knowing the divine, and simply ask for forgiveness from the One who is indeed, holy. God alone.

It reminds me of all of  us, and all Christians who, Sunday after Sunday, make that weekly journey from our seats to the Communion rail/altar, etc. to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We come as sinners, as needful people, as broken vessels, hoping to hear some words of healing and forgiveness. And, just like Isaiah in our reading for Sunday, we leave a different person. Changed.  Forgiven. Cleansed if you will.  Fed and sent into the world. Just like Isaiah as he is called and sent.

Can you explain it all? Can you tell a friend who might not be a Christian how you are different returning to your seat in church after having received the Sacrament? Probably not.  And yet, once you do return to your seat, you pray, you thank God, you maybe join in the songs while the Sacrament is being distributed. And then, you stand, and thank God in prayer, only to go out into the world a new creation.

It's a mystery how it all works.  Just like the prophet Isaiah must have felt in that encounter with the Holy One in that encounter. But you, and in some way, the world is changed in that encounter.

In our gospel for this Sunday, we hear the famous story of Nicodemus encountering Jesus in the middle of the night, asking him questions like "how can a person be born again"?  He hears Jesus answer, but he leaves, I'm sure, feeling not totally satisfied with his answer. And yet, he, too, is transformed in that encounter with Jesus.  In fact, he's first on the scene at the crucifixion of Jesus. His life between this encounter with Jesus in the dark of night and Jesus' crucifixion surely had transformed his own life.

And so, the "Jesus Loves Me This I Know" connection is simply this - we can't explain the mystery of our faith.  It's really all we need to know about God, our faith, and our lives.  No need to try to make it more complicated than it is. When we encounter God in our lives, God's presence simply invites us to confess our need for God, and the fact that we are made anew in these encounters.  I can't explain it. It's hard to understand. We simply confess, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Heaven. And then, like Isaiah, we are sent into the world. And that's enough.  Thanks be to God, Amen.

Pastor Greg

May this Memorial Day weekend be a time of reflection for the service of those who have served our nation in the defense of our freedom, and who gave their lives in doing so.  Hope to see many of you tomorrow, May 26th, 2024.

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