O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Holy, Holy Holy!
"Holy, Holy Holy!"
Based on Isaiah 6:1-8
Preached on June 3, 2012
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Grace to you and peace, from God our Father, and from the Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, and from the Holy Spirit, the one true Triune God. Amen.
Fellow baptized saints, and children of the Triune God, have you ever been in a situation where you are expected to speak for yourself in front of someone important? There you are waiting just before the big moment. On the outside there may be few signs of how you feel, perhaps you can't sit still, or perhaps you are flushed and overheated, and your palms feel clammy and moist. But on the inside, on the inside you are restless, nervous and uncertain. You feel lost and anxious. Maybe this is a big job interview, or a public speech to an important audience (as you can see, I'm suffering from this right now). Perhaps however, you have been called to account by your boss, your teacher or your parents. But regardless of who it is, you are intimidated and vulnerable. And you are curious how it will turn out.
Today in our text, the prophet Isaiah finds himself in a similar situation. Without notice, without preparation, Isaiah finds himself seeing something that perhaps he shouldn't be watching. Isaiah is looking at the Lord of hosts! The Lord of all things, sitting on His throne, high and lifted up. The sight of whom is indescribable. When Isaiah sees the Lord of hosts, he is able only to describe His robe. A robe which fills the entire temple. He marvels at the mere robe of God, for wherever his eyes look he sees the splendid robe filling the space. And we think that a job interview is intimidating. In this job interview there isn't even any standing room. The seraphim are forced to fly above the robe. God's glory is so intense that they cover their faces from it. And these seraphim are sinless. Perfect beings. Yet in the presence of the Lord of hosts, these seraphim can see the glory that is hidden from us, and they cover their eyes. They can see the eternal completion of our Triune God's Holy Plan. They can see the beginning and the end of God's glory. And so we hear them cry out, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!"
Consider the mystery that is your God! He is three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one unified divine name and substance. One God, Three Persons, a perfectly unified being. No wonder the creatures cover their eyes. And when they open their lips, all that can be said is "Holy, Holy, Holy." That is what your God is. That is the best way to describe Him. All analogies and illustrations will always fall short. Just as Isaiah could not see the entire robe, they can never fully show the fullness of the Trinity.
However, your God makes Himself known through His Word. He tells you about Himself. He is without beginning and end, unchangeable, all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere, sinless and hating sin, perfectly fair and impartial, faithful, kind, merciful, gracious, forgiving and loving. This is your Triune God. He is the One and Only. He is a God before whom you are guilty of sin. Yet He is a God who sees you as His special creation.
So you can picture Isaiah seeing this mysterious scene. You can begin to imagine the wonder and awe that would accompany the sweaty palms and the anxiety. However, when the seraphim call out, "Holy, Holy, Holy", everything shakes. The entire area fills with smoke. And it is here that Isaiah realizes his true predicament. If these beings who shake the foundations of the thresholds when they speak cannot even look at God, (pause) how can he, a lowly man who shakes nothing but his beard when he speaks, stand before the Lord of hosts? As Isaiah says, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips." He knows his unclean sin cannot be with God's glory, or it will destroy him.
But what does that mean for you and I? Here we see Isaiah, an upright prophet breaking down. How are you and I to stand? How are we to face the Lord of hosts?
Poor Isaiah is not feeling very confident. He feels small and weak. As sinners, it is so easy for us to feel small and weak. Perhaps its with your boss, in a job interview, with a bully at work or school. There are a whole host of worldly enemies that want us to feel small and weak. But the Lord of hosts, the Triune God is different from the world. For Isaiah's lips do not stay unclean. The seraphim flies over to him, and touches his lips with a burning coal and says, "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." The almighty Lord of hosts has made Isaiah clean. He has relieved all of his stress, removed all of his burdens. He has made him able to stand before Him. No more fear, no more guilt, no more sin.
The best thing is that you too are clean. You are forgiven. Touched with the burning coal of your Holy Baptism. In those waters, your name is permanently connected to His Holy Name. The Triune Name, the Name that causes angels to call out "Holy, Holy, Holy." This is your eternal name, and His your eternal family. Even though the Lord of hosts is beyond description, and His glory fills the whole earth, He has chosen to dwell in you through Baptism. He has chosen to become a man and take your place on the cross. He has chosen to bring Himself to you physically in the simple elements of bread and wine. He has chosen to bring His weak, worried child a peace that surpasses all understanding. For in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ he can be perfectly just, hating and punishing your sin, yet loving and gracious, saving you by granting you forgiveness.
All of this Christ endured, because God does not want you to feel small, He wants you to feel confident. At peace with yourself and also with Him. No matter how small you feel from time to time, you are His. You are the chosen one of the Lord of hosts. How can anything in the world He created possibly bring you fear? For He has chosen you, and nothing can occur without His express permission. In the end you will know that despite your sin He has worked all things together for your good.
Look at what happened to Isaiah. He hears the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send?" And hear what jumps out of his newly cleaned lips. "Here am I! Send me." And that is exactly what Isaiah did until the Lord called him back into His glory. Isaiah spoke the Word of God to the Israelites for many years. He constantly called their rebellious hearts to repentance, and warned of the approaching exile. But, as tradition holds, the rebellious people hated the Word of God and sawed Isaiah in half just outside Jerusalem. Then the exile came. But Isaiah is standing confidently with the Lord of hosts in heaven.
Each of us is just like Isaiah. We are clean, touched with the burning coal. God has put His saving message on your lips. He has sent you to the bullies, and the bosses and the masses. It doesn't matter who is in front of you. You are speaking for the Lord of hosts, the Triune God. He gives you the strength. He gives you the words. He prepares you to speak the truth in love and with confidence. Thanks be to God.
Now when you stand before the Lord of hosts, He will be proud. Because He has made you holy. He has taken away your fear. He has given you the strength you need and prepared you to speak. Knowing you are His child forever, may you yearn to do His will. When you hear the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send?" May you confidently say with Isaiah, "Here am I! Send me."
In the name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr