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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Rightly Confessing God


Thrice Holy

The Holy Trinity – 5/26/2024

Isaiah 6:1-7

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Isaiah in the sixth chapter with special emphasis on verses one through five which read as follows:

 

                “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of your glory!” These words should seem familiar to you. They are, after all, part of the Sanctus, the canticle, that is regularly sung text, of the divine service immediately after the Kyrie and before the Collect, that is prayer, of the day.

                At first glance this might seem like an odd thing to have as the Old Testament lesson for Trinity Sunday. There are those who might consider it odd to have an Old Testament reading at all, given that there is a sadly common idea that the Trinity is a New Testament only reality. This, however, is not the case. God is God and is God from eternity. If God is Trinity, which He is, then He is so even in the Old Testament.

                There are others who would argue for other, clearer passages that show the nature of God in the Old Testament. For example Genesis chapter one says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”[2] It may be subtle, but here in the very first words of Holy Scripture we see the Father, the Spirit, the Word, that is the Son, which is spoken by the Father in the very first act of creation.

                But this text is given to us for a very important reason: the thrice, that is three times, holy God, is One and yet exists eternally as three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this is no mere dry academic distinction, but a holy revelation of God’s own self and character. As such, to confess the Trinity is not merely to ascent to some doctrine but is to be able to rightly know and worship the true and living God. To be confused on this point is to lose the truth and to give oneself over to the possibility of idolatry and heresy, that is, false doctrine.

You see, it is simple enough of a thing that we confess here today: knowing God, receiving from Him knowledge about His being and His person is not a dry set of propositions or fodder for trivia, it is a sublime truth designed to bring us greater awareness of God as He is. Such knowledge is so wonderful that it naturally leads us to praise of God.

This is something that might strike us as a bit odd. We often are told of the things of God in terms of their benefits for us. This is certainly the center of the Christian religion, that is, that God wants us to be saved from sin, death, and the devil in addition to all the other gifts He grants us each day. However, this emphasis can lead us to forget that God and knowledge of Him is not a means to an end but is an end in Himself. That is to say, the purpose of salvation is not so that we would get an eternal life defined by our desires or preferences, but so that we would be in perfect communion with God Almighty forever in His Kingdom. Indeed, the visions of heaven that we get in the Scriptures have an emphasis on the centrality of God in the divine realm. That is to say, heaven and the resurrection center on God Himself. Knowledge of Him does show us our place in His Kingdom, this is true, but it is also simply a good thing to know things about God.

Let us put this another way: if I want to know someone, if I really value his or her friendship and interacting with that person, I do not stop my collection of knowledge about him or her when I exhaust those topics that benefit me. Part of really knowing someone is finding their life and disposition interesting enough to pay attention to, even and especially when it does not have an obvious or plain benefit for me. This is why you are interested in hearing about your buddy’s fishing trip or your friend’s latest purchase. You are interested in them as a person and that care then manifests as interest in the person and his or her life. In other words, we do not approach friendships with fellow mortal men in terms only of these people’s benefits to us. Instead, we enjoy them for their own sake, which is really the essence of being a good friend.

It is the same with God. There is a tendency to want to ignore the person and truth of God. You have likely heard this; namely, in those who say that we do not need to know doctrine, that is Christian teaching, we just need to be in a relationship with Jesus. This does not work for God or anyone else to whom we relate! Treating human beings this way would be the very height of self-centeredness and would reveal us to be very bad friends. On the other hand, there is that tendency amongst us Christians to only see God in terms of His benefits for us, forgetting that He is worth knowing for His own sake!

And this knowledge of God is no mere intellectual exercise, it is an encounter with the most primary of all truths in creation, specifically, knowing God is to know the truth who is God.[3] And this knowledge naturally brings out praise in us. Hence why the truth of God and who He is is completely, inseparably bound up with worship of God. This is why there is no such thing as Lutheran substance in a service of another denominational style; to change style is to worship differently and thereby to confess another manner of relating to God.

Isaiah shows us this: his vision of God leads to him realizing his inadequacy. The worship of the seraphim in heaven is directly a reflection of their knowledge of Him. The two things go together. And such is the case that the very holiness of God is related to these things as well. Consequently, Isaiah is overcome with awareness of His own inadequacy, confesses as such, and is cleansed by a seraph and thereby is made fit to speak the Word of God.

So why is the doctrine of the Trinity so important? Because that is who God is. And apart from the real God, this God, there is no salvation or hope for us sinners. To confess the Trinity is to stand up for the truth, to confess God as He has revealed Himself to us mortals, and to claim that same God as our own Lord and Savior. God is God, and it is purely by His mercy that He extends to us knowledge of Himself. As such, it is our great privilege to confess and worship the Trinity in Unity and the Unity and Trinity. This is God, our God, who not only made heaven and earth and all therein, but who has also redeemed us.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

 The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] Isaiah 6:1-5 English Standard Version. All subsequent citations are from this translation unless otherwise specified.

[2] Genesis 1:1-3

[3] John 14:6

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