Holy, Holy, Holy
Topic: Biblical Verse: Isaiah 6:1–6:8
The Holy Trinity
May 30, 2021
“Holy, Holy, Holy”
What an awesome – even a fearful – image is before us in this passage of Scripture! The Lord God Almighty is seated on his heavenly throne surrounded and attended by those mysterious six-winged creatures called seraphim. Their song of praise is one which God’s people continue to sing to this very day: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” This three-fold description of God is used for emphasis: “Holy, holy, holy…” That is how we began worship today with that beloved hymn of faith: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty…” And when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we say or sing those same words first heard by Isaiah countless centuries ago: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of pow’r and might: Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest...” On this Festival of the Holy Trinity in which we acknowledge anew the mystery of One God in Three Persons, the seraphim’s song, and now our song, becomes the theme for preaching: “Holy, Holy, Holy.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
The Old Testament lesson from Isaiah 6 begins in a curious way, at least for us today: “In the year that King Uziah died…” This was must have been clear to the people of Isaiah’s day, but it’s not so clear to us today. Most Biblical scholars believe this to be ca. 742 B.C And yet, don’t we do the same thing in our own lives today? We reckon time by significant milestones and events: weddings, births, new jobs, relocations, retirements, and deaths. Even if we cannot remember the exact day or year, we make connections linking this to other memorable happenings: “That happened in the year we moved to the new house…This was right about when so-and-so passed away… That was the year of the cicadas…” If we do that individually, we also do that collectively, including as a congregation: “That was when the church was built… That was when we acquired the Posey property next door… That happened during the coronavirus pandemic.” What will be the next memorable event that serves as a significant milestone in life and ministry? In our Triune God, all of time is sacred. All of our days and years are holy to the Lord because they begin and end with the Lord, and so we say: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Isaiah’s response to what he experienced is like that of so many others recorded in Scripture who have stood in the presence of the Lord and recognized their own unworthiness. Think of Moses (Exodus 33:17ff.), Elijah (1 Kings 19:9ff.), and Peter (Luke 5:8), just to name a few. Together with them, we see the stark reality of our own sin in the presence of the holy and sinless God. In fact, sinful humans cannot stand before holy God. And so we confess with Isaiah: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah’s confession reaches across the ages to us today, and we know it is just as true for us as it was for Isaiah; the evil we have done and the good we have failed to do. But the Lord does not abandon us in our sinful condition. Isaiah’s sin and guilt are removed by that burning coal taken from the altar which touched his lips. And so we say: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Isaiah’s sin being purged, he then answers God’s call: “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” With great enthusiasm, Isaiah’s response is one which workers for God’s kingdom still echo today: “Here I am! Send me.” The original Hebrew response here (הִנְנִ֥י שְׁלָחֵֽנִי) has been spoken by countless others in Scripture who have said the same: Abraham (Genesis 22:1, 7, 11), Jacob (Genesis 31:11, 46:2), Moses (Exodus 3:4), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4), Mary (Luke 1:38), and Ananias (Acts 9:10). Even the Lord God himself is recorded as saying that He will say this to his repentant people who seek his face (Isaiah 58:9, 65:1). If we were to read on in Isaiah 6, we would find a pretty tough job description for Isaiah (6:8-13). God says that He is sending Isaiah to people who hear, but do not understand; who see, but do not perceive. Is it because they don’t or they won’t? There is a difference between the two. Isaiah is called, as God tells him, to “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10). Yikes! And what will Isaiah’s successors in ministry find among God’s people today? Will it be the same now as then: people who see but fail to understand? Who hear but don’t or won’t listen and perceive? God willing, it will be markedly different from what was just described! By the power of our Triune God, we pray that Isaiah’s successors here and in every place find a people prepared and ready to love and serve the Lord with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength. By the power of our Triune God, may Isaiah’s successors here and in every place find people who are led to true repentance and new life; who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work for the sake of Christ’s mission to the world.
With Isaiah, we celebrate that our guilt is taken away and our sin has been atoned for – not through a burning coal, but through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 1:7). This is the message of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that we bring to the world – the world which God created and dearly loves, and for which the Lord Jesus shed his blood upon the cross. This is the message that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel lesson (John 3:1-17), that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
On this Memorial Day weekend, in the midst of family gatherings, backyard barbeques, or trips to the beach, life is starting to look a bit like it used to pre-pandemic. And for this, we give thanks and praise to God who has seen us through a very challenging year. In the midst of whatever we may be doing over this holiday weekend, let us pause to remember with solemn thanksgiving all those who have laid down their lives in service to our nation; who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in defense of the freedoms that are so precious to us. Freedom is not free, and that is true not only of national freedom, but spiritual freedom as well. Christ died that we might be set free from sin, death, and hell. Christ died that we might also be set free for that full and abundant life which he came to bring us (John 10:10); set free for loving and serving our neighbor who is Christ in our midst (Mark 10:41-45; John 13:34-35). And so with fellow believers throughout the ages, with angels and archangels, with cherubim and seraphim, we praise our Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Amen.