Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday tends to be a day for an opaque sermon.
I acknowledge and claim that. 
However, I have no plans on trying and failing to explain the Trinity to you today.
God is one in three and I believe that.
And many of you have sat through many confusing sermons on the subject.
So today I am going to speak about a different confusing topic
just to mix it up a little.

I'm going to talk about the passage from Isaiah today
and our struggle as sinners AND beloved children of God
to speak out against evil in this world.

This passage from Isaiah 
is usually known as Isaiah's call story,
though it is not the first passage from the book of Isaiah.
However, what is actually happening in this passage
is Isaiah getting spiritually ready
to get involved in
and fight the spiritual forces of wickedness 
going on in the world around him.

See, at the time Isaiah had this experience of God,
the Northern Kingdom of Israel 
and the Southern Kingdom of Judah had already split up.
King Uzziah was king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah
and was a fairly faithful king under the influence of the prophet Zechariah.
Unfortunately, towards the end of his reign 
he tried to do something in the temple that only the priests were allowed to do,
got caught, and apparently got leprosy,
and handed the power over to his son.
Sadly, his son and his grandson were not faithful to God.
Have you ever heard of Ahaz?
Well, anyway, the Syrians and the Northern Kingdom of Israel
went to war against the Southern Kingdom of Judah,
and to save himself and the Kingdom,
King Ahaz of Judah went to the Assyrians to get help,
but the price was becoming a vassal of the Assyrians. 
This vision we hear today from Isaiah,
is his introduction as to why 
he tries to intervene in the war and what Ahaz is doing.

If we kept on reading in Isaiah,
we would read in the next couple of chapters 
what he does to get involved in the war
and what he says to try to talk Ahaz out of the war.

What we see in this passage from Isaiah is his struggle and his calling.
Isaiah sees the coming and beginning war as part of the work of evil in the world.
Understandably so,
A war would mean destruction of people and land and food
none of which could really be spared at that point.
He struggles with the idea of getting involved though,
even more understandably,
because  he is one man against powers far greater than himself.

Many of us have felt this struggle,
how can we get involved in some of the larger issues in our world,
coming up against institutions and people with far greater power,
will any difference be made?

Isaiah feels his position in the world, both as a sinner, a man of unclean lips,
and as a beloved of God, for he has seen the Lord of hosts.
He is caught between knowing himself as a sinner and a beloved child of God.
As a sinner, how can he go up against the spiritual forces of wickedness
when he is not perfect?
Yet, as a man of God, a prophet,
how can he not speak out against the evil going on in the world?
Caught in between,
Isaiah struggles.
Thankfully, he has this vision.
Isaiah is forgiven and cleansed of his sin.
And then Isaiah is called,
to go back into the world and to speak up.
That's part of the foreshadowing done with the live coal touching his lips,
Isaiah will be given something to say,
he will be called upon to speak to the world.
Once he knows that his sins are forgiven,
he readily answers God's call.
The Lord speaks, saying,
"Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
Isaiah immediately answers,
"Here I am; send me!"

We struggle with our place in the world too.
We know ourselves to be sinners,
and yet, we also know ourselves to be beloved children of God.
We get caught in the middle too.
We can see and know the strength of the spiritual forces of wickedness in the world.
Evil happens all around us,
in small and large ways everyday.
Yet how can we stand up against it?
How can we speak out against greater power than us?

When we are baptized, at least in the Episcopal Church,
and we have had two baptisms this month, so this will sound familiar to you,
we, or our parents and godparents, renounce
"Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God."
We renounce
"the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God."
From our beginnings in the body of Christ,
we are called,
like Isaiah,
to speak out against, to act out against,
the evil going on in our world,
which is not an easy thing to do.
Certainly not everyone thinks of themselves in a spiritual fight or battle 
always, or even ever.
However, we all know the feeling 
when the institutional or spiritual or psychological forces 
roll over us like big steam rollers. 
Flattening us like cartoon characters.
We all know what it is like to feel
like it is no use for us to get involved. 

Thankfully, we are not alone.
We are called, along with Isaiah,
to speak out against the forces of evil in this world
and thankfully, we do not do so alone.
We go together, as the body of Christ,
with brothers and sisters throughout the world.
We know that since God calls us 
God will be with us.
Jesus will be with us.
The Holy Spirit will be with us.

Isaiah was not alone,
he went out into the world
to speak against King Ahaz,
who royally messed things up for Judah,
and God went with him.
Every time Isaiah confronted King Ahaz,
God was there with him,
the Lord provided Isaiah with what to say
and the power to back up his words.
Isaiah spoke against others too,
not just King Ahaz, 
who were not following the ways of God,
and always God went with him. 

We have been cleansed of our sins and forgiven,
not quite exactly the way Isaiah was,
at least, not that I have heard,
but we have been cleansed of our sins and forgiven 
in the waters of baptism,
in the weekly confession and absolution,
and we stand before God,
who calls to us to speak out against evil in our lives,
both big and small.
Knowing that no matter where we go
with God's message of love and redemption,
God goes with us.
Supporting us and giving us the grace and strength
to speak out against the powers 
because it is through God's power and strength,
that we speak
and God will always go with us.