God turns our “woe” into “wow”
Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 "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." 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Today is Trinity Sunday. It’s a day to take a big, deep breath and confess the incomprehensible – God as one divine Being in three Divine Persons, a Unity in Trinity and a Trinity in Unity. Or as we say, Triune. It sure is confusing, isn’t it? We were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We begin our worship in the name of the Triune God and we end our worship with the Benediction of a threefold blessing of our Trinity. We confess our faith in the Trinity in our Creeds and sing of His majesty in the songs “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Glory Be to the Father,” yet we never come any closer to wrapping our minds around this concept. Something you can’t rationalize or harmonize, you can only believe and confess.
You may try to picture the Trinity, but be careful; analogies break down quickly. Some compare the Triune God to the three phases of water – solid, liquid and gas. It sounds good, but it doesn’t hold water for long. Liquid, ice, steam - three forms but its all H2O. Years ago, one of my confirmands thought she had it figured out saying it was like her dad being a soldier, a husband, and a father. Not even close. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit aren’t modes or roles. They are persons with whom one has a personal relationship.
Triangles, circles and three leaves of the shamrock have been used throughout Christian history to describe (not explain) the mystery of the Trinity. Our God isn’t a Deity we can turn into a concept, an illustration, a theory or a picture in our minds. Holy Trinity Sunday is a reminder that we can’t put God in a box or fit Him neatly inside our heads.
A Bible story that reflects the awesomeness and majesty of our Triune God took place 2755 years ago. The prophet Isaiah was given a grand vision of angels around the throne of God. “In the year that King Uzziah died (740 B.C.), I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”
“Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” Seraphs are angels. Rather unusual looking angels since they each had six wings. What did they do with these wings? “With two they covered their faces.” Covering the face was a sign of humility. “I’m unworthy to be in your presence, God.” Even holy angels recognize that they are not on God’s level. He’s too awesome, too amazing, too majestic, too mighty for them to dare to assume they can be His equals.
Isaiah was given this vision of angels around the throne of God, and his reaction of “Woe! I’m unworthy” is even more justified than that of the angels because Isaiah was a mere mortal. Isaiah cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined.” Isaiah was granted a glimpse of what’s its like to be in the presence of God – not some distant, dangerous, gurgling volcano; not a massive, pot-bellied, cross-legged statue sitting silently at the end of an incense-filled hall; not some holographic Wizard of Oz-like character; but the unchanging and unchangeable Lord who rules all angelic armies and who made and controls the universe and beyond. No wonder, in the presence of such grandeur, such glory, such greatness that Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! I’m insignificant. I’m just a worm compared to God. I’m unworthy.”
I hope you that way. Whether we are standing on the edge of the
Grand Canyon or watching an incredible sunset or holding a newborn
baby, we realize that measured against the vastness of the universe and the
even greater greatness of God, we’re like one tiny grain of sand on an expanse
of ocean beach.
But amazingly, God wants to connect with mere mortals. So, He turns the “Woe” of “I’m unworthy” into the “Wow!” of awe. Hear the awe of the angels 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.” There is awe in Isaiah’s reaction: “My eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
God the Father doesn’t swat us away like pesky mosquitoes. He doesn’t squish us like worms. He doesn’t see us as insignificant beings. Instead He turns our “Woe! I’m unworthy” into “Wow!” of awe through His Fatherly care. Jesus described the Father’s care: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear … Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).
Though we are unworthy of being shown any grace or kindness, yet God pours grace and kindness into our daily lives. He grants us the ability to see the beauty of a bright blue sky, to hear the laughter of our child, to taste a Culver’s butter burger, to hold our grandchild on our lap, to feel the love for our spouse grow and mature. Though we deserve to be destitute and derelicts, we are awed that God has given us loving parents, an education, a career, job satisfaction, a home, plus so much more. We bow in awe like angels covering faces, like Isaiah in God’s temple, like Moses at the burning bush, like the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration because God turns our “Woe” of “I’m unworthy” into the “Wow!” of awe.
God also turns the “Woe” of “I’m dirty” into the “Wow!” of pardon. “With two [wings] they covered their feet.” Why would they do that? Were they embarrassed because their shoes were worn out and scuffed? Did they have gnarly, ugly toes sticking out from their sandals? No. Back in the day when everyone walked everywhere in open toed-sandals, their feet would become filthy. That’s the meaning of this angelic wing action. Angels don’t have sin. They don’t even have dirty feet. But covering feet was symbolic of the dirt of sin that needs covering because God won’t stand for sin in His presence.
That was Isaiah’s biggest problem. “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips.” Isaiah had a keen sense of the filth of his own sin. Do you?
God didn’t force Isaiah to try to remove the dirt on his own or to try to cover his own sin. Amazingly, God did it for him. “One of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’”
Jesus the Son of God touches our lips and hearts with the love that comes from the altar of His cross. He atoned for our sin and took away our guilt. That means nothing for you and is as boring as watching paint dry unless you have taken a good look at your own feet … that leads you astray down wrong paths, and your hands … that writes nasty notes and unloving anonymous entries with your computer, and your eyes … that lusts and covets what doesn’t belong to you, and your ears … that accepts gossip, and your head … that harbors hatred, entertains envy and invites insecurity. All this makes you dirty.
If we don’t have a keen sense of how dirty our sin makes us in God’s sight, we’ll never appreciate what God did about our sin. We’ll get bored with church stuff. We’ll stop reading our Bible. We’ll stop setting aside Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings for worship. But Jesus has turned our guilt away and covered our sins with the wings of His love.
It is truly amazing that God the Son would sacrifice Himself so that we are declared clean. We lift our hearts in praise because our sins are covered like angels covering their feet, like Isaiah whose tongue was purified by a live coal, like King David whose guilt was turned away, like Peter who denied the Lord but saw His forgiving glance. Though we are undeserving, God the Son grants us free forgiveness, great grace, a redemption reprieve, our soul’s salvation, a permanent paradise, a home in heaven. God the Son turns our “Woe” of “I’m dirty” into the “Wow!” of pardon.
God also turns the “Woe” of “I’m scared” into the “Wow!” of “I’ll serve.” After having his mouth cleansed and his sins burned away, Isaiah was now eager to be a messenger. Previously, he had been a flawed messenger. We, too, are flawed messengers with plenty of excuses and some legitimate fears about serving God – like Isaiah, “I’m not good enough to be your messenger, Lord;” like Moses, “I won’t know what to say;” like Jeremiah, “I’m too young;” like Jonah, “I don’t like my intended audience.”
God didn’t reject those scaredy-cats. Instead, He pardoned their sin, and that pardon inspired them to serve. Isaiah heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And he said, “Here am I. Send me.”
We cower from speaking. We shirk our responsibility of serving. We are too busy for God’s missions. We are too occupied to contribute to God’s ministries. God the Holy Spirit ignites within us the flames of desire to serve. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to empower and equip us for service through God’s holy words. He motivates us to move. He empowers us to proclaim. He loves us into loving others. He cleanses our lips so we open our mouths to preach. The Holy Spirit uses the message of Holy Scripture to turn our “Woe! I’m scared” into the “Wow!” of “I’ll serve!”
The Holy Trinity is about a living relationship, communion within God and with God. Together as One the undivided holy Trinity creates, redeems, and sanctifies. Each divine Person doing His personal thing, yet always as One. When you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you entered into the triune love and life of God. The Father is your Father. Jesus is your Brother and Friend. The Spirit is your Counselor, Comforter and Guide. You are a member of God’s family; you live in triune communion with God – with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
You don’t have to understand someone to be in a relationship. Most of us are in relationships with people we can’t begin to understand. How much more so with God? You don’t have to understand the mystery of the undivided Holy Trinity; only confess and praise Him for turning out “Woe” into “Wow!” Amen.