Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Only the Trinity can make known God is love. . .

Sermon preached for the Festival of the Holy Trinity, on Sunday, May 31, 2015.

    Today, as we approach the confession of the mystery of one God in three persons, we acknowledge that the Trinity is not a definition of God but His self-revelation.  This is who He is and not some logical attempt to reasonably explain God.  Our sinful nature has so distorted who God is that we can only know God is if He chooses to reveal Himself.  Apart from that self-disclosure God is unknowable.  Even within that revelation, our sin has so distorted our hearts that we misread God and His intention.
    We see this at work in the Old Testament reading.  Isaiah misread God’s intention.  His perspective of God was so shaped by sin and its guilt that He instinctively feared God.  That fear colored everything God said and did.  Our relationship with God is just as skewed by sin – whether or not we fear Him like Isaiah did.  Unless we acknowledge that sin, God remains a mystery.
    In the mirror of God’s holiness Isaiah stood convicted.  He and all who know God as holy and righteous and good, despaired before the Lord.  “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips amid a people of unclean lips and now I have seen the holy God...”  Though we live in an age when sin does not enter the conversation all that much, guilt remains a common problem.  Until sin is answered by God’s forgiveness, we run from God.
    It was sin that poisoned our lives with guilt and shame and fear and death.  We see things forever through the distorted lens of sin.  So we are suspicious of who God is and fearful of His intentions and skeptical of His ways.  That translates into a fear of personal relationships.  We are likewise suspicious of people, fearful of their intentions, and skeptical of their ways.
    Finally, when we look in the mirror, we approach ourselves with the same self-doubts.  We are suspicious of who we are and hide our thoughts and feelings.  We are fearful of our motives and second guess ourselves all the time.  We are skeptical of everything except our desires – to those we have surrendered since the Garden of Eden and what a mess it has left us.
    So what shall we do?  Shall we live a lie in which evil is called good, death is transformed into something natural, and life is what we make of it?  Do we ignore our consciences or do we lie even to God’s voice within and do whatever feels good at the moment?  Do we despair of everything and give up, confident that all is lost and nothing is really good?  Do we accept our sinful desires and lives as normal and live at peace with them – calling them normal?
    Into this comes Jesus.  “For God so loved the world. . . “ As beloved as that verse is, it is the verse that follows which is pivotal: God did not send His Son to condemn but to save.
    Our sin, guilt, fear, and suspicion have misread God and His intentions.  He desires not to condemn but to save.  The Holy Trinity frames God through His saving will and purpose.  If God is to be known at all, He will be known as the gracious God who has become our Savior, the merciful God who does not kill but makes us alive in baptism, and the hopeful God who fills us with the Spirit of hope to believe.
    Christ is the burning coal of Isaiah’s vision who touches our lips and makes us clean.  He comes not to destroy but to rebuilt our lost, broken, and death filled lives. He comes not as agent of God’s wrath but as the triumph of the Father’s love.  He looked upon us and saw us in our need and sacrificed Himself into death that we might life.  He comes to show us the triumph of the Father’s love.  This is the Trinity; love triumphs!
    Christ is sent by the will of the Father and He adopts the rescue of our fallen lives as His own life’s work.  He sends forth the Spirit so that we will not be left victims of our own skeptical fears, and He leads us home to the Father for now and for all eternity.  This is the Trinity.  Love  stronger than sin, stronger than guilt, stronger than fear, and stronger than death. 
    Look at the reading – see how Isaiah’s story changes with forgiveness. When He discovers God’s love, it leads Him to serve the Lord. “Here am I; send me.” It’s the same for each of us.  The content of God’s revelation and self-disclosure is love.  Love that cleanses us sinners from our sins, love that redeems our lost lives, love that pays for us the awful price of our redemption, love that dies so we might live, love that bestows the precious gift of eternity to a people who chose mortality. . .  If we will serve God and our neighbor, it will be because of this love, having its way with us, and leading us with new hearts to delight in His will and walk in His ways.  That God is holy our conscience already knows -- even if we choose not to admit it.  That the Trinity is love is something we learn only by revelation – love within Father, Son and Holy Spirit that becomes the saving love for you and me. . . that triumphs over sin, over fear, and even over death, for you, for me, for our now and forevermore.  Amen.

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