May 30, 2021 Trinity Sunday
Trinity Sunday – May 30, 2021
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin
Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
From Isaiah, “…The Lord (said), ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ah, Trinity Sunday! That day when the Church re-affirms her belief that God has revealed God’s own self to this world in three distinct ways – or in three persons as our hymnody and Christian teaching tends to describe God. God as a Trinity is one of the most perplexing dogmas of Christian faith because speaking of God as a distinct Father, Son, and Holy Spirit suggests three gods or a polytheism that is contradictory to Christian and Jewish teaching. We do notworship three Gods, but rather, one God revealed as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. One God revealed for the purpose of drawing all humanity into a deeper relationship with God and with each other or, as our Gospel lesson said so well this morning in John 3:17, in order that all might be saved.
Now, Trinity Sunday is often dreaded by Preachers because we are tasked with explaining a belief about God that we ourselves do not fully understand. That’s why I chuckled when I heard Isaiah’s words, “Here am I; send me!” because on any other Sunday I would be glad to echo those words. But on Trinity Sunday? I find myself saying “Here am I; please send someone else!”
And the funny thing is that the more I thought about my response “send someone else” the more I realized that in so responding, the very nature of God – God in three persons – God revealed in three ways – God’s very nature as a holy Trinity is revealed not only in my response, but the fact that God asked the question in the first place, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And it is in that question itself and however you and I might answer that we can begin to understand the nature of God not as a being way out there divorced from all creation, but as a holy Trinity; as an intimate Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer who can make a difference in this world and, especially in our daily lives. And that’s where the rubber hits the road for us on this Trinity Sunday 2021.
The prophet Isaiah had an amazing experience of God. In today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah describes how God’s incredible glory appears in the Temple and it is magnificent! Angels are buzzing around crying out “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” – and some scholars suggest that the angel’s crying out, “holy” three times is an affirmation of the Holy Trinity. But I don’t believe Isaiah was thinking about the triune nature of God at that moment. He was probably too stunned and amazed at the spectacle unfolding around him to worry about theology. Besides, he says the whole temple was trembling and shaking as the majesty of God, enshrouded by the smoke of incense, filled the entire space. And then an amazing thing happened: This almighty and powerful God – the creator of all that is and ever will be; our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer asks, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Does that question strike you as odd? I don’t mean to be rude, but shouldn’t an all-knowing and all-powerful God already know the answer?
One of the issues that confronts contemporary people of God is trying answer questions like, “Why doesn’t God intervene and do something to change this world? Why doesn’t God eliminate human anguish and suffering? Why does God allow endless gun violence? Why does God allow a virus like Covid-19 to kill and maim millions throughout this world, or why does God allow people to starve to death or why does God put up with homelessness, hatred, racism, and all the other “isms” and phobias of this modern day?” I hear those questions from many of my friends and for a long time I asked those same questions. After all, if God is so powerful, loving, wise, and desirous of peace and unity, then why doesn’t God just do it! The answer is revealed in today’s reading from Isaiah. This exchange between God and Isaiah suggests that in spite of all God’s splendor and majesty; in spite of God’s power and might; God doesn’t know what to do. The Holy Trinity might be a marvelous mystery, but if it can’t deliver us from the mess we’ve created in our society, what difference does it make? Yes, we know the Bible is filled with stories of how God intervened throughout human history often through miraculous signs and wonders. But those are stories from our past. That was then and this is now. What about today? Is God powerless?
Pope Benedict, XVI was once asked, “If God is really God, why doesn’t he do something incredible and long-lasting that will grab our attention. Something … that would certainly prove that God is God and cares enough about this world to relieve human suffering.” He answered with this poignant observation, “If man’s heart is not good, then nothing else can turn out good either.” (Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth.) In other words, God can do all sorts of things, but unless we allow God to change how we choose to think, act and live – change man’s heart and mind - God’s action, no matter how inspiring it may be today, will someday be forgotten; a distant memory of days gone by.
In today’s reading from the Gospel according to John, Nicodemus has been listening to Jesus for some time now. He likes what he is hearing and yet, he wonders how can these things be? Nick learns that God’s kingdom requires action, requires our response. You must be born again, that is, you must allow God’s Spirit to change you from within the very depths of your being in order to be in a relationship with God. But, as we must also understand, our relationship with God – our salvation - is never an ending unto itself. The Christian faith is not simply about “me and Jesus.” The Christian faith is about active engagement in this world. As said throughout his ministry and as Isaiah discovered, God calls us to partner with God and be God’s active, life-transforming presence in this world. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It’s not that God doesn’t know the answer or that God is powerless. God is waiting for our response. God is waiting for us to commit our lives to God’s ways.
Sometime ago, in an address to Seminary graduates at Sewanee, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflecting on this very passage from Isaiah said, “Yes, we do have an extraordinary God. This omnipotent one who created all there is without our help, forever waits and waits – waits for us to become God’s partners, God’s collaborators, to help God accomplish God’s purposes.” See, scripture reveals over and again God does not want or demand blind obedience from God’s people. God wants a relationship with all creation. A relationship we messed up. Without our collaboration and commitment – without our response “Here am I; send me” - God is content to wait. It is up to us to start making a difference in this world. As Archbishop Tutu said, “God wants to turn the various wildernesses of our world into glorious gardens” but not without us. Like Nicodemus and Isaiah discovered, our faith requires action.
That is the message of Isaiah: God, the Holy Trinity, the creator of all that is and ever will be, is waiting for us to step out of our shadows like Nicodemus and grasp that we cannot be disciples from a distance; God is waiting for us to stand up and, as St. Paul says in our reading from Romans, take our rightful place as adopted children of God, and act like children of God, and be God’s transforming presence is this world; God is waiting for us to answer, “Hear am I: send me.”
And yet I find this passage from Isaiah offers an even deeper understanding and challenge. See, I don’t hear God simply asking a question in this text. I hear God begging us to act. “Help me. Help me transform this world. Help me transform the hatreds – all the ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ that plague us - by speaking up when something is unjust or unfair, when someone utters a racial slur. Help me transform poverty and disease by providing food and medical care for those in need. Help me clothe the naked and homeless by providing them with shelter. Help me transform this world so that there will be more compassion, more gentleness, more caring, more goodness, more laughter, more sharing, more love. Help me. Help me!”
God, the Holy Trinity- the God whom we worship and adore as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer has asked over and again throughout history and still asks us this morning, “Who will help me transform this community? Valle Crucis? Boone? Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain, Newland, Linville, the whole High Country? Who will help me transform this state, this nation, and the world?” so that one day all people will know they belong in one family – a family created, redeemed, and sustained by God forever. This is the life-giving and life-changing experience faith in the Holy Trinity that should inspire us so deeply that it transforms our hearts and minds. But in order for this faith to have any meaning in this 21st century; for this faith to unfold in this day - in our own midst; we must first hear God’s plea “Whom shall I send? Who will help me?” And then, with every ounce of our being, stand up and proclaim not “send someone else,” but, “Here am I: send me.” For then, in that moment friends, the God whom for so many is thought of as a distant disengaged being, becomes a Holy creating, redeeming, and sustaining Trinity; becomes an intimate part of who we are and can be from this day forward. “Here am I: send me.”
May God grant us the grace and the strength so to say and to do. Amen.