Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost.
The day the Holy Spirit gave birth to the church through tongues of fire: people were able to speak in different languages, and everyone heard the proclamation of God’s love in their own tongue. The day when 3,000 people repented, turned around, and became followers of the Risen Christ.
At the end of the Pentecost story, the book of Acts says, “Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.”
Awe came upon everyone and it is out of that sense of awe that they devote themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to breaking bread and prayer.
It is with this same sense of awe that David composes so many of the Psalms.
In Psalm 8 David writes:
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
How majestic is the name of the Lord! The name of the Lord that brings freedom to the addicted, recovery of sight to the blind, food to the hungry, hope to those who are down, that sets the captives free.
How majestic is the name of the Lord that unites us and it is from that place of awe that we come and worship here today.
Throughout the gospels, when crowds saw the works of Jesus awe came upon everyone and they glorified God.
When Jesus calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Awe came upon them and out of that sense of awe they followed him.
Of all the awe-inspiring stories in the Bible, today’s scripture is one of the most dramatic and powerful.
The prophet Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on a throne and just the hem of his robe fills the temple.
In this vision, God is so great, so vast, so wonderful, so powerful, that his hem alone fills the holy temple. God is greater and more awe-inspiring than even the angels can take in. The scripture tells us that even the seraphs, the highest order of all angels, had to cover their faces in the presence of God.
And awe came upon them all.
And then they sang, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’
They sang the same words that we started our worship service with and as we sing our voices join the chorus of angels and awe comes upon us all.
To be in the presence of God, to join the chorus of the communion of saints, is an awe inspiring thing.
If we pause from the hectic nature and noise of our lives to truly consider the depth of God’s love, the vastness of creation, and the way God loves us individually and unconditionally, awe comes upon us all.
And our first reaction to this sense of awe might be to say, I’m not worthy.
If we begin to imagine what God is like and look at ourselves in a mirror, we know that the brightness of God’s glory and the darkness of our human nature do not naturally fit together.
It is like walking outside from a dark movie theater in to the bright sunlight of a July day. It is blinding and too much to taken in.
This is the objection of Isaiah.
Isaiah says: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Can anyone here identify with this? Does anyone have unclean lips or come from a people with unclean lips? I must confess before you that I am one.
As many of you know, last week I ran a 50 kilometer race, over 31 miles. There was a part of the race where we ran across the dam at Delaware Lake. The path we ran went from grass to a metal grate that covered the dam. As I stepped up to the metal grate I tripped. I fell face first, sprawled across the dam. My water bottle broke open and the Gatorade in it poured in to the lake. And most worrying, I fell hard on my left knee. And when I fell on my knee and felt the surge of pain and worried what that pain could mean, I might’ve said a word that I will not repeat in church.
Like Isaiah, I too am a man of unclean lips… and from hanging around on Parsons Avenue, I would say that I am not alone and I come from a people with unclean lips.
But the good news, is that even in this vision of Isaiah, even in this holiest of holy places, where God is mighty and powerful, grace abounds.
One of the same seraphs touches Isaiah’s lips with a coal from the altar and says “your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
Stop and think about this for a second.
This scene takes place in the presence of the almighty God. In the holiest of all holy places, so sacred that the angels themselves have to hide their faces.
The seraphs are the angels of all angels, the highest order. And a seraph takes a piece of coal from God’s altar, to cleanse a person with unclean lips like me. And God’s love for us is so great, that it is in this most generous gift of God’s love and mercy and grace, that guilt is departed and sin is blotted out.
This is a picture of how much you and I are loved by God.
And awe comes upon us all.
One of the ways that Christians have sought to understand who God is, is through the concept of the trinity.
Trinity is a word that never appears in the Bible, but since the very early days of the early church it has sought to explain the nature and relationship of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We can see the work of the trinity on the first page of the Bible.
In the beginning, who creates?
We might refer to God the Father as creator, but the opening of the gospel of John also says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
In the beginning, the eternal Christ was there at creation, and everything that is came in to existence through him.
Not only were God and Jesus part of creation, but so was the Holy Spirit. In Genesis 1, verse 2, it says that God’s wind, God’s breath, God’s Spirit, in the Hebrew God’s ruah swept over the waters of the deep and brought order out of chaos.
In the beginning, was the relationship!
But there is more here than three different expressions of God doing their own things, but all three living in relationship with each other. We can hear this expression of mutuality still in the first chapter of Genesis when God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”
This interplay of the trinity appears at Jesus baptism. As Jesus comes up out of the water, the heavens are opened, the Spirit descends like a dove, and a voice proclaims, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
The trinity moves and breathes and flows in relationship and awe comes upon us all.
One of the words that has been used to describe the movement of the trinity is the Greek word perichoresis, from which we get the word choreography.
In this perichoresis, you can imagine the three persons of the trinity moving together like in a dance, bringing life, restoration, and healing to all of creation.
Today, I not only want you to consider the relationship of the three persons of the trinity, but to place yourself among it.
If we get too far in the weeds of trying to logically understand the trinity we can lose our way in wondering how three can be one and one can be three. But if we understand God as movement and mutuality and relationship and dance, we can see how we are invited in.
It is found in the question God asks back in Isaiah. The Lord asks, who will go for us. Notice, it is not who will go for me, but who will go for us, again God in dynamic relationship.
As a person who has been awed, Isaiah says, here I am, send me.
The trinity is not only a description of the divine dance of God, but an invitation for us to join.
This is one of my all-time favorite works of art. An illustration of the trinity by a 14th century Russian artists named Rublev.
On the left, Gold: “the Father” is clothed in Gold as a sign of—perfection, fullness, wholeness.
In the middle, Christ is clothed in the blue of creation and the red of suffering.
On the right, the Spirit is clothed in green, the source of life for all things.
If you look at the picture as a whole, the three look to each other, point to each other with a sense of wholeness and mutuality.
But even amongst the completeness of the three, there is a space at the table for a fourth. The Holy Spirit is pointing, inviting, offering a place at the table.
If you look closely, you can see that there is a rectangular hole at the front of the table. Some art historians believe that this hole once held the place of a mirror. That as you looked at the icon, you would see yourself placed at the table.
You are invited to sit at the divine table of the trinity, you are invited to the perichoresis, the movement, the dance, the relationship, of the trinity.
This week I want you to do two things.
First, take some time to renew that sense of awe. We can lose awe among distractions and hecticness and believing in our own selves. Every day provides us with moments to be awed by God. From the beauty of a sunrise to the unconditional faith of children to the diversity of this community, when we look around we are awed in the presence of God. Take time to be awed by God.
From that sense of awe, respond to God’s invitation of discipleship and mission like Isaiah, who when he heard God’s call said “Here am i, send me”.
From this sense of awe, may we join in the dance of the trinity, that is ever moving to bring life and resurrection and love to all people.