Holy, Holy, Holy

Today is a peculiar day in the calendar of the Church. It is a special day to be sure, but it is quite different from all other feasts and festivals we observe throughout the Church Year. It is not Christmas or Easter or the Baptism of our Lord or even His Ascension to the right hand of the Father. Most big moments on the calendar focuses us on some grand event, the Birth of the Son of God or his death and resurrection are the examples of our usual observances. But today is Holy Trinity Sunday. It is a day set aside not to focus on an event in the history of the salvation of mankind, but it is a day to focus on a teaching, a confession concerning our God. As the Athanasian Creed puts it, “We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity.” This teaching, that there is one God in three persons, is foundational to the Christian Church. So, we set aside some time to focus specifically on this, to recall what it means to worship the Holy Trinity, and to look again at some of the most basic and central beliefs of our faith and from them find assurance and confidence in our salvation.

Now, when we say we worship the Holy Trinity, it is not like we can peak into the hidden abode of God and measure Him out and fully understand the contours of our Creator. No, to be God, is to not be us. I like to make fun of those window stickers that say, “He is greater than I,” because of course He is. If He were not greater than you are He would not be much of a God. He is beyond our comprehension and outside of our complete understanding. But God has disclosed some of Himself to us. He has spoken to us through the prophets and apostles and of course he has revealed himself most vividly in the life and work of His only begotten Son. So, from the Word of God we learn what we can about our God, we are given to understand some of His nature, some of His character if you will. And as God reveals Himself in His Word, He shows himself to work in this beautiful threefold way. The one God who will tolerate no other gods before Him works in our lives as a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the creator of all things, the redeemer of His fallen creation and the sanctifier of His chosen ones. To confess the Holy Trinity is to confess that our God is a God at work. He did not just create and then leave everything to work itself out over time. He did not just set it all in motion and then abandon His world to its own devices. He is a God that continues to work, continues to call, continues to give life and salvation.

So, when we confess our faith in the Holy Trinity, we confess the marvelous wonder that is our gracious God. From the pages of Scripture, we find that our God never ceases to bring hope to his people. A triune God is a busy God, a God that will not leave you mired in your sin, will not abandon you to your own works, will not forget his dear children. The Holy Trinity is the source and completion of your salvation. So, we ought to teach this marvel to our children, we ought to sing His praises, and learn from His revelation the comfort that is found in Him alone.

An excellent example of the comfort and assurance found in the work of our triune God is found in the famous throne room scene from Isaiah 6. It begins by the prophet saying, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” Though the temporal king had died the true King had never left his seat of power and authority. That one remained, as his six-winged seraphim flew around Him crying out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” Holy, holy, holy: A threefold acclimation for a God at work, a divine King who will not forget His people.

Now the scene is a bit terrifying, at least if you were in Isaiah’s shoes it would have been terrifying. For as the chants of “Holy, holy, holy” thunders in his ears and shake the foundations and thresholds where he stands, he realizes where he is. He begins to understand who it is on the throne and what it means for him. He is looking at the Lord of Hosts, the eternal King. And what does he do? He does the only thing he can do, be begins to confess his sins. He begins to repent for he is sure that his life has now come to an end. “Woe is me!” he says, “For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” For a sinner to be in the presence of our pure and holy God is to be lost, to be undone. He is unclean and nothing will hide that reality from the true King.

See, for all of you your sins would be your undoing. It does not matter how much good stuff you have done, how much better than you are than anyone else. In the presence of God, it is all exposed. Every secrete desire, every thought or aspiration of selfish indulgence, every moment of deviation from the perfect will of the Father is revealed in sharp and blinding contrast by the presence of the King. You are sinners and therefor you are undone, you are lost, you are justly condemned. Now, if God were to leave you here that would simply be the end of the story, no hope no confidence of anything more.

But notice what happens to the prophet Isaiah. He knows he is finished. He cannot pretend his sins are no big deal, he cannot just assume everything will be fine. No, he is a man of unclean lips he has met his maker and so he meets his end. But then one of those Seraphim takes a coal from the altar with a pair of tongs. He flies toward the prophet and he presses it to the lips of Isaiah, to the very thing he confessed was unclean and he says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). God cleanses what was unclean. God takes away his guilt and atones for his sin.  At the very moment Isaiah was sure his sin would finish him off, God delivers him with this strange act of forgiveness.

So, our God continues to bring life where there ought to be death. As your sins are magnified in the presence of your God, as they become clear through the revelation of His Word, we find He has also given a gift of hope and the promise of forgiveness. It may not be a seraph with a burning coal in his hand, but forgiveness continues to come to you. It most likely looks like a pastor or a brother or sister in Christ speaking to you the words of forgiveness, declaring to you that the God who created you and breathed life into you has not abandoned you. In fact, He so loves you that He sends His Son to take your sins as His own. The only begotten Son of God repents of your sins, binds them to Himself, is subject to the wrath of God and dies in your place. He then rises from the grave and promise victory for you. Victory over sin, death, and the devil. All you must do is believe. All you need to do is trust in this great work. But how?

Why, He sends His Spirit to open your hearts and minds, to give faith and trust in the works of Christ. In the waters of your baptism, the Spirit of God binds you to the works of the Son and so you are welcome into the presence of the Father. The holy, holy, holy God saves you from sin and eternal death. The Spirit works within you to cling to the work of the Son as the fulfilment of the promises of the Father. This is the blessing of the Holy Trinity. This is our hope and assurance. Therefore, I can declare to you today that salvation is yours. Eternal life is yours. Not by your works, not by your reason or strength but because of the work of God alone. The Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity is the God of your salvation, and He calls you His own dear children, His beloved. All glory be to the Holy Trinity.