Summary: Isaiah says, "Hinneni," or, "HERE I AM," when God calls. The only way he can have this confidence is through knowing the forgiveness of Christ. When God call us we respond like Isaiah because of the cross alone.
Language is a funny thing. It’s amazing that we can share so much by just talking. Ideas, feelings, problems, joys, knowledge – all passed on through language. We don’t often stop to think about how amazing it is that we can talk. But we also don’t often stop to think of the limits of human thought and language either, do we.
Anne told me of an experiment that was part of her studies where two little boys were separated by a wall. They could hear one another, but not see one another. Both boys had blocks in front of them and the one was to instruct the other how to build the object he decided to build. Anne said that it was really cute because one of the boys would say, take this block, and from across the wall, the other boy who had no idea which one, would say, “this one?” And the first kid would say, “yeah.” Needless to say, the boys ended up making totally different objects with their blocks.
There are limits to what language can do and what the human mind can conceive. I say this because this Sunday, above any other in the Church year, drives this point home. It is Holy Trinity Sunday. And I tell you that for the 20 centuries since Jesus did his ministry. The fact that we have a God who is Triune (Three in one and one in Three) has been an essential part of our faith. We can also say that in these 2,000 years it has been an article of faith, because any attempt to explain it in human language and according to human wisdom has been found lacking.
But that’s OK! And in fact it is something that we find in our lessons today. In our Gospel lesson we have Nicodemus, a REALLY smart guy. He’s a Pharisee, a member of the ruling class of Pharisees, the Sanhedrin. He is smart enough to recognize that Jesus is teaching something special and comes to him in humility to learn from him. And Jesus shares a spiritual truth with him about the need to be born again, and Nicodemus really struggles to understand.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God…
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?
THEN, in our Old Testament reading, we have Isaiah, a man who is a great writer, who has a extensive grasp of written language and an SAT quality vocabulary, who gets to see God in all of his glory (usually something that would kill someone). And with this opportunity to report what he sees He gets this far: I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Really? The train of his robe? Nothing else you can share with us? It’s kind of like going to Red, White, and Boom and talking about a street light you saw. Why isn’t there more? It’s because God’s presence is indescribable.
See it earlier in the Old Testament when God allows Moses and 70 elders to have a meal in the presence of God and his glory, and they can’t even get past describing the floor he was standing on: Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. That’s it. I laugh, but it only goes to show that some things about God are beyond description.
But on Holy Trinity Sunday it’s good for us to remember this, and it’s good for us to thank God for this. If God is God and we are not, doesn’t it make sense that there might be a few things that are hard for us to fully understand. So we can say with confidence and joy, God is One and he is at the same time Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And while I might not be able to know exactly how that works, or fully comprehend it, God does reveal to me what I need to know of Him.
That gets into the next thing for us to remember on Holy Trinity Sunday. For all that we don’t know about God, there is a lot that we do know. God reveals himself to us in the Father the Creator. We see God’s handiwork all around us. We see the gifts he has given us in both body and soul. God revealed himself in the Son by being born into this world to live among us. He revealed God’s love for us in his sacrifice on the cross. He revealed God’s plan for us in the resurrection. God reveals himself in the Holy Spirit, who continually calls us to be connected to God, to learn about him, to grow in relationship to him. God reveals himself to us, but he always does it for our good.