- "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
- the whole earth is full of his glory."
This week is called Trinity Sunday in all the churches that follow the liturgical calendar of the Christian year. All the readings have a common thread of attempting to point out something about the nature of God, as a Triune God. But, as we read through the texts none of them actually use the word Trinity, or “three persons”. Each of them have a common element; each offer some glimpse into the nature of God as being “multi-faceted” or plural. That creates a conundrum for Christians, one of the three Abrahamic faiths, all of which share the commandment to honor only One God, thus calling ourselves monotheists (worshipers of only one God).
Well, quite frankly, that makes the purpose of any sermon to be to attempt to explain the how God can be, simultaneously One in Three and Three in One. That being the case, preaching on Trinity Sunday often runs the risk of speaking more heresy than orthodoxy through the use of many less than acceptable analogies to explain how it can be. One of the better ones that is used is the example of water, as a liquid, gas, and solid. Okay, that works pretty well with children, because we can see steam, water in a glass, and ice cubes.
Now, the most explicit Hebrew text that actually names the Lord as “three” is the passage in the book of Genesis where three men come to visit Abraham, “angels unawares”, which is the basis for the Icon at the top.
Want more on what it means to be a faithful Trinitarian monotheist? Frankly, tonight I really don’t want to go there. Instead, I want to offer you a few pictures to go with the text and play around with how these passages all offer some inspiration for my life.
A section of the passage from Isaiah is used in the Lord’s Day (Sunday Morning) worship in the Episcopal Church. When it is set to music it is considered a rehearsal for being in heaven, at least for some people. Whether it is sung or spoken this passage is well embedded in the hearts of Catholics of both Anglican and Roman stripes.
But the next couple of verses, Isaiah’s conversation which is a confession followed by a response to God’s call, is a particularly important passage for myself, and many others. United Methodists like to use a song, based on this text as a song of commitment to the work God is calling each of us to engage in.
This week, as I read the text I started focusing on the description of God filling the heaven and earth.
Here is the entire passage
How is it that anyone can have live coals placed on one’s mouth and not report pain or having cried out in pain? Instead, Isaiah simply hears a summons to be sent, to go for “us” (aha, a subtle hint to God’s “multipleness”)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. 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. And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory."The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 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!"
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 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." 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!" Isaiah 6:1-8
And then, there is the complete filling of all the space; the temple with hem, the house with smoke.
Well anything is imaginable when one is in a dream state, a state of meditation or contemplation, or simply experiencing a dream/vision.
But there is a clue to each of us, to slow down and allow ourselves to experience the presence of God, a holy presence that surrounds us.
Sit and watch a setting sun, and see how the light and dark take turns in filling the space above you. In the pitch dark, here is God, filling the space with God's overflowing, uncontainable presence.
And in the cover of dark, with God’s presence guiding him, Nicodemus went to visit Jesus to learn from the teacher. Now step from that place of awareness and sit on the rooftop with Jesus and Nicodemus
Jesus takes Nicodemus up into the womb of God, in the embrace of the night sky, to teach of the spiritual things.
When do you discover the presence of holiness?
Is it in the bright of day, among crowds of people, or in the cool of the night, under the stars, at the river’s edge or the shoreline?
Are you ever frozen in your tracks, sensing that God is filling the skies with the hem of his robe, as the sun sets?
Welcome! You have just entered what the Celts refer to as the liminal space, a time when God’s presence is felt more tangibly than any other, when the world of Spirit and Matter create a holy passageway for the seeking heart.
Take time this week to experience these places when God’s presence can be received as a loving embrace, tender like a mother’s love for her child, or a grandmother for her grandchild. Does the cry of joyous remembrance arise, Abuelita, or Abba? Then you are coming near to the message that Paul was attempting to express to the readers of his letter to the Romans.
A couple semi-random thoughts to tuck away....
Using symbols express God's triune presence and activity is just as challenging for Christians as finding verbal ways to convey the concept of God as Trinity. While the use of the cross, is most customary, among christians to self-identify themselves as Christians, thus refering to the instrument of death employed in the crucifixion of Jesus, and the subsequent salviific work, there are other symbols to use. The Celtic Christians used the triquetra as a symbol of God, Father (creator); Son (logos), Holy Spirit . This is a personal favorite triquetra symbol. for God, Creator (Father); Logos (Son); and Holy Spirit.
While I was studying the readings I wondered how much you would actually know about the Revised Common Lectionary readings (RCL). RCL always contain four readings. Two from the Hebrew Bible, one is always from the Book of Psalms, one Gospel lesson and one other Christian writing.
The readings for this week can be found here: Lectionary