Trial Sermon Preached at Old Zion in Philadelphia June 11, 2006
Old Zion, Philadelphia Trinity Sunday June 11th 2006
Isaiah 6:1-8 Psalm 29 A.v.2 Romans 8:12-17 John 3: 1-17
How grateful I am that you have invited me to serve you with the word of God on this glorious celebration of the most Holy Trinity. It is my humble prayer that this congregation become caught up in Spirit of the Trinity, so that God’s holy love gives us the birth of water and the spirit and sends us out continually to carry out God’s wishes, to deliver God’s messages, to do God’s bidding. May Old Zion be the place that God chooses to bring the good news to all the lost and hopeless people, whom God loves so much that He sent the Son to die for them. May we too like him be marked with the sign of the cross forever. May God give strength to his people and bless us all with peace. Amen.
A friend of mine in Brooklyn used to say that Trinity was the only Sunday that the church celebrated a doctrine. Not at all! We celebrate the most holy and blessed Trinity today and we just pray to continue to be enfolded in the blessed presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When I first read our Isaiah lesson, it became clear that it dealt with God calling and sending his messengers. I could take it to mean me: ‘Here I am, send me’ to Philadelphia!” But it is not all about me. It is about this congregation. We are in the real presence of Christ, the awesome presence of God, and in every worship we sing,
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY” with the seraphim, those glorious angels, as the swirl of the garments from God on his throne fills the sanctuary.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.
The whole earth is full of your glory!
Yes, the heavens and the earth are full of God’s glory!
Let the people say: Philadelphia is full of God’s glory!
California is full of God’s glory! Germany is full of God’s glory! Colombia is full of God’s glory! The street where you live is full of God’s glory! Your home is full of God’s glory! Let all the people say: AMEN!
We could go on naming all the places on earth – but you and I know that people everywhere spurn, ignore, and reject the glory of God. People everywhere and to a large degree, we ourselves, refuse to let Christ rule and direct our lives and we might pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For the most part we give those words only lip-service. We live our lives outside, out in the cold, among people ruled and directed by fear, doubt, and despair. The world has lost its way. Matters call for divine intervention.
Just imagine it. Place yourself back into Isaiah’s experience and bring it into ours: the heavenly triune God takes council. They pierce the thick darkness we are all lost in. And Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord say: “Whom shall we send?”
Isaiah says, “Woe is me. I am in the presence of the Lord and I am sinful and unclean.” So one of the angels touches his lips with a burning coal and purifies him, so his heart becomes ready, and he says, “Here I am. Send me!” That seems a quite painful, like being baptized by the water and spirit.
Thus Isaiah was drawn into the love of the Father, the Eternal; and that of the Son, whom the Father sent, the pure Word of God; and that of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son.
St. Augustine tells us that in the beginning Christ sent the Holy Spirit to us twice. Once for each of the parts of the greatest commandment: love God with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind; and your neighbor as yourself! First in a resurrection appearance: Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” The second time it was from heaven, from the right hand of God, Jesus sent him for Pentecost and in that mighty out-pouring of the spirit we experienced the birth of the church.
In the first procession, which is what the first sending of the Spirit is called, the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth by which we love our neighbors as ourselves. In the second, the Spirit reveals the very moving and ever-lasting love of the Trinity for us, so that filled by the Holy Spirit, we love God in return with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind!
God was sending Isaiah the same way that God sent his Son from eternity, the way the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the way God is sending you and me. Jesus says, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you”.
So we are sent to bring the message of the glory of the love of God to a lost and hopeless people, the way the only begotten Son of the Father was sent by him to us. The Father sent the Son to bring us the good news, that God reigns and graciously moves, sends, guides and directs the hearts of the people, the people who are born of heaven, who are very near, who are at hand:
You do not have to ascend up into heaven to find them and you do not need to lift them up out of the abyss of hell. What does the scripture say:
The word is near to you- on your lips and in your heart (Romans 10:8).
So you are given a new birth out of the water and the spirit. It is the water of your baptism and the Spirit of your new birth in a Christ, calling, moving, and sending you to love the lost and live for others.
The whole world waits with eager longing for your rebirth. This sorry world knows that it is caught in violence, war and bloodshed. We don’t have to go to Iraq or into our inner cities – it is also the earth itself going through an environmental crisis in which it is floundering and lost on the brink of a disaster. It too is waiting for the response of the children of God, borne out of the water and the spirit, who say, “Here I am. Send me!” Put the burning coal to my lips so that I proclaim the coming of Jesus Christ, the Lord! Put it to my lips so that I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you who come in the name of the Lord!
Blessed are you who say, “Here I am. Send me!”
If you continue reading the Isaiah lesson and hear his assignment, you will be shocked. Isaiah is told to harden the hearts of the people. It is like an exercise in tough love. “How long? O Lord,” he asks. “Until the cities lie waste and the streets and houses are empty without inhabitants.” Isaiah could have been describing large sections of many great American cities Philadelphia included. That Philadelphia is making such a come-back, gives us hope that hearts are melting.
God never promised Isaiah a rose garden. And when the Son was sent into this world to become Jesus in the flesh, he knew he had to die to save us from the sinful and adulterous state that we are in.
But greater love has no one than this – than to lay down his or her life for her friends. Jesus Christ, God’s Son comes down from heaven to die on the cross for you and me, to save us from our sins.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. The Father sent down the Son, not to condemn the world, but in order that the whole world might be saved through him.
This sending gets us into the wonderment of the Trinity. St. Patrick’s breastplate reads:
I bind to myself today
the strong name of the Trinity
and invoke the very same,
the Three in One and the One in Three.
And he usually explained the Trinity to the Irish people to whom he was sent, by the shamrock, a three-leaf clover: one leaf for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit.
You may not know that the famous mystery writer Dorothy Sayers also wrote a book all about the Trinity, called The Mind of the Maker. An author, she explained, has an idea for a book and that is the Father. Then the idea is written down and it becomes the actual book. That is the Son. Then everybody who reads it gets the same idea, and that is the Holy Spirit. One book and the same book, experienced in three different ways, just like our God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, she explains.
What I like to use best for the explanation of the Trinity is Rublëv’s icon of the Trinity, where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are presented as three angels in a circle of light – sitting around the chalice. They compose the first circle, the rim of the chalice is the second, the circle of wine, the blood of Christ, the third. Lines, triangles, circles, and rectangles all come in threes. The Father under the “house of many mansions” is grieving that his Son will have to go down to the earth and shed his blood to fill the chalice and the Son lovingly leans his head to the Father and agrees to be the sacrifice. He agrees to be sent to lay down his life in the love that will save the lost and raise up the children of God. The Father and the Son are blessing the chalice, and the Son carries out the mission of the Trinity in the procession of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the greatest love the world has ever known.
Rublëv’s Trinity goes right to the heart of the Good News of our God. It shows the intimate picture of how the sending of the Son involves coming to us through the water and the spirit. Like Christ we also have to go through the water of our baptism. “Can you drink the cup that I will drink?” Jesus asks us? And even Jesus prays: “Father, if it be your will take this cup from me.” And with Christ we learn to say, “But not my will, Let thy will be done!”
Then in addition we are also born of the Spirit. Like a leaf blown in the wind, we are completely held up, moved, swept from our own feet, and carried by the spirit. The Holy Spirit of truth and love for our neighbor.
The Latin word for sending is “mission.” Mission comes out of the presence of God in the service, the “missa” or “mass”. Like Isaiah in this service, we feel God’s presence we say, “Here I am. Send me!” So we could read “Christmas” to mean “Christ is sent to us”. And the intimate sending of the most deeply felt love of one person of the Trinity for another overflows as Christ comes to share that love with us.
We pray that Old Zion Church becomes engulfed in the spirit of mission, the wonderful love of the Trinity, so that we can look up and pray to our Father in heaven and we can become new born Christs by the water and the Spirit, and in the sighs of the Spirit that are far to deep for words, Old Zion Church can experience a new birth in Christ and become a mission of love from the Holy Trinity where we all await the bidding of the present Lord and say, “Here we are, send us!” So we become a mission in the loving movement of the Holy Trinity, a mission out-post of Trinitarian love.
Pastor Peter D.S. Krey, PhD.
Note: if you would like to see Rublëv’s icon on Trinity for the link link.
For a detail study click on Trinity in Detail for the link.