by Rev Charmaine Braatvedt
31st May 2015
Isaiah 6: 1 – 8
John 3: 1 -17
Today being Trinity Sunday we have two bible readings that reflect Trinitarian theology. That is the concept of God as being a community of three persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel reading reference is made to the Trinity when Jesus refers to himself as the Son who has been given to the world in love by the Father and to the autonomous Spirit that blows wherever it pleases.
Last Sunday we marked the birth of the Church when we discussed the anointing of this autonomous Spirit we call the Holy Spirit on the followers of Jesus at Pentecost,
As we celebrate our naming day we continue to look at the implications of that anointing for each of us and for the church here in Devonport.
In Genesis 1 you will recall that at the time of Creation, God spoke the world into being. “And God said let there be….”
In the New Testament, St John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is the word made flesh who spoke his church into being when he first called his disciples and then commissioned them to be his messengers and to preach this Gospel to all nations.
There are many examples in the Bible of people being called by God to be his messengers. These include Moses, David, Samuel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and of course Isaiah whose calling is described in the Old Testament reading set in the lectionary for today. Not everyone who is called responds as Isaiah did with such alacrity to that call. Some people called by God run from that call, try to hide from it, argue with God over it or take years to respond to it.
I have two dogs one called Snowy and one called Max. Snowy is a dog that doesn’t immediately come when he is called. He takes his time and often will only come if Max comes. Max on the other hand comes the instant you call him. I think those who hear God’s call can be divided into two groups: a Snowy or a Max. Moses was more of a Snowy while Isaiah was definitely a Max. I wonder which category you may fall into?
Let’s look more closely at Isaiah’s call or commissioning.
Firstly, Isaiah has an epiphanal experience. He has a vision in which he sees God in all his glory. The language in this passage resembles the language in the book of Revelation when John describes his vision of God.
Then by contrast Isaiah sees himself in all his sinful uncleanness and his society in all its sinful uncleanness.
He is humbled by this contrast and fears for his life and soul.
God’s compassion is revealed as we read that God gave Isaiah the assurance that his sins are forgiven.
Isaiah’s gratitude overflows into a commitment to give his life to serving God. In response to God’s question who shall go for us? Isaiah immediately offers to go and to proclaim the divine message His quick and positive response reflects the profound transformation that has occurred as a consequence of his encounter with God.
Both the book of Revelation and the Book of Isaiah make the point that encountering God is a profoundly transformative experience.
Now I wonder if you noticed one unobtrusive little word in the Isaiah passage which is loaded with meaning in the context of today being Trinity Sunday. It is the word “us”. Who will go for us? Us Here implies that God is in some sense plural and seems to point to the existence of the Trinity, three persons making up one God. Perhaps the seraphs calling holy, holy, holy implies the same theology?
It goes without saying that the message that Isaiah is asked to proclaim is not an easy one. As is often the case when God’s truth is proclaimed the message is a prophecy that his rebellious and stiff necked community will find difficult to swallow. Isaiah would need to equip himself with the power of the Holy Spirit with which he has been anointed in order to proclaim it.
There is much we can learn from Isaiah’s calling:
Like Isaiah each of us needs to prayerfully prepare ourselves for our own personal encounter with God. It won’t necessarily look like Isaiah’s. Take Nicodemus. His encounter with Jesus had a totally different look about it. What both men had in common was that they were hungry for God and wanted to have a meaningful encounter with God. Any Such encounter will be transformative. It will cause us to look at our own lives with an honesty that will inevitably evoke a repentant response in us and cause us to submit in humility to the saving grace of God.
This is what Jesus means when he says to Nicodemus you must be born again. He means we need to be born in a spiritual sense into a new relationship of submission to God through Jesus Christ. We are born into a familial relationship and become children of God, part of the community of God, the Trinity.
However, here’s the thing, this is not where it ends either for God or for us. God has chosen to save the world through Jesus and his church and so it is, having committed our lives to him, we are called like Isaiah to share his message of salvation with others.
The point of difference between the old and the new testament is this: Isaiah was one individual man called by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to go out, on his own, to proclaim God’s message to the people. We on the other hand are called to collectively to out in Jesus’ name, as a community of faith, anointed by the Holy Spirit. This is done through the various ministries in the Church. Everything we do or say or plan as Church has this central purpose. To take the message of the Gospel out into the world.
Whether you are a Snowy or a Max, I believe that Church is a community made up of people who have each had an encounter with God, heard his call on their lives, submitted to his authority over their lives and either immediately or eventually responded positively to the call to go out into the world bearing witness to the Gospel message of Jesus:
Who will go for us? ….. Here am I send me.
And what is this message?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It is a message of God’s love for the world expressed most perfectly in the gift of Jesus.
We proclaim it by word and deed through our mission statement as a church:
To know Christ and to make Christ known and through our vision
To be a Christ-centred community that attracts all people into a relationship with God and inspires them to serve.
We do this together as a community.
On this special day it is good to celebrate the ways we are working towards exercising the calling that God has placed on each of our lives and on our corporate life as Jesus’ church in this corner of his vineyard.