Isaiah 6:1-8 Canticle 13 Romans 8:12-17 John 3:1-17
“Here I am. Send me!”
It was first used on Pentecost, June 9, 1549, under the reign of Edward VI, successor to Henry VIII. This anniversary is now honored on “the first convenient day after Pentecost,” so I am choosing today. It was put forth in English, not Latin. What is it? Lean forward in your pews and pick up a red or black book in front of you. Yes, this is the anniversary or birthday of the Book of Common Prayer.
What is so special about it?
For us, maybe, its antiquity. 1549 seems like a very long time ago.
For the time, its simplicity: those conducting worship no longer had to juggle as many as twelve books to complete a single service.
It was written in English, and that is one of its biggest attributes. Worship had returned to the language of the people and was not being conducted in Latin. “Even” the laity could follow along and take an active part in the service, if they could read, of course.
We (Episcopalians) are people of books: the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible. Over the three year cycle of readings, we read or hear a majority of the bible every three years. If you are accustomed to reading daily morning prayer, you are reading most of the bible every two years. We are people of the bible.
We are people of the Book of Common Prayer, and it is a tremendous resource for our faith. this book informs us of our catechism, answering some of the questions about: “what is it that Episcopalians believe?” and giving us a look at some of the history of our church through the printing of some historical documents. I want to look at one of those documents today, so …
Pick up that book (if you didn’t already), and turn to page ____. The 1979 Prayer book is the first of the Episcopal prayer books to include this creed, although it is an accurate creed.
The Athanasian Creed:
• lines 1–28 addressing the doctrine of the Trinity
• Enumerating the three persons of the Trinity (i.e., Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit),
• Divine attributes for each person of the Trinity:
o uncreated (increatus),
o limitless (Immensus), eternal (æternus),
o omnipotent (omnipotens).
Beyond that definition, I submit to you that the Trinity is a mystery. I have found it helpful to my faith to sit in the mystery of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and not tear it apart much further than that as far as belief goes.
Here is what I keep coming back to in thinking about the Trinity today, today being recently and over the time in the life of St. Peter’s as I experience it.
The doctrine of the Trinity is, at some level, about relationship: the relationship of God the Father to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, with all the nuances and directions of those relationships. We are called, beginning with all of creation, to be in relationship with God. Relationship is our connection to the Trinity. We get a glimpse of “relationship” in our reading from Isaiah:
“Isaiah is outside, near the altar in front of the temple. The doors are supposed to open, and the veil hiding the Holy of Holies to be withdrawn, unfolding to his view a vision of God.” The Holy of Holies, you can imagine from the name, is the holiest place in the Temple. No one enters this area except for the priest, and he only once a year. There is a curtain the separates this area from the rest of the Temple. It is a place of mystery and of God.
Imagine now this vision of God, the rich imagery of royalty and splendor. Isaiah has come face to face with God. From this encounter and the purging of sin by a burning coal, Isaiah says, “Here I am, send me!” Send me to the people with your word.
We get a glimpse of “relationship” in the words from Romans:
All who are led by the spirit are children of God. We are led by the Spirit; we are children of God. We bear witness with God, with Jesus the Christ, through the Holy Spirit. We cry “Abba, Father!”
We get a glimpse of “relationship” in hearing about Nicodemus:
“You are a teacher who has come from God,” Nicodemus affirms. Jesus replies that we must be born from above, from the Spirit that does what she will. We are born in physical birth and in water and in the Spirit, and all of it from God.
We have arrive at my favorite sermon question – you know what it is? “so what?” What does any of this have to do with me? How does the Trinity, a creed, a doctrine of relationship relate to my life, here and now.
“We are sent to join God in mission because we have encountered God, because we have been brought face to face with God’s holiness and our brokenness, and because we have been made whole by God’s grace.” Patrick Johnson, “Words that Send,” 2015.
We have encountered God through Isaiah, through history, through the writings of Paul, through the words that we have retained as Holy Scripture. We have encountered God at God’s Temple, and in the crucifixion of Jesus that “Holy of Holies” curtain was torn in two. No longer is there separation between God and humanity: we have access to God through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have been face to face with God’s holiness and our brokenness.
We have been made whole by God’s grace.
I saw God face to face this past week or so, in the brokenness of a family as their husband, son, father, and brother died and was committed to God. In the life of the family, this is a painful, broken time.
The holiness of God and God’s grace was made real in the congregation of St. Peter’s. Your priest reached out for help: we’re having a funeral. Help. And help you did; help, God provided through hands and feet that probably were not thinking about a curtain of separation being torn in two, but who saw God face to face in their actions of “Send me!”
You ushered. You greeted. You rearranged spaces to accommodate everyone who needed to be here on Wednesday. You moved tables and chairs. You delivered tables and tablecloths. Helpers. Flowers. Furniture. Candles. Chairs. A banquet. Hospitality. Directions. Signs. Ushers. Greeters. A crucifer. Chalice bearer. Urn bearer. Refreshment. Help, in person, in heart, in bodies, and I know, in prayer.
You helped your priest live into her pastoral and sacramental role; in fact, you lived it with me, each with his/her own gifts. I am deeply grateful. We came face to face with God, mystery and Love itself.
Dear friends, that is how we live into the Trinity. Please, let’s take that holiness, that strong response to our vision of God, into the world. Pray with me, today, tomorrow, every day that we have in God’s kingdom. Gracious God, help us make you known in everything that we do; bring your love, mercy and face to the world, wherever you are needed. “Here we are, send us.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, blessed Trinity.