Feast of the Holy Trinity
3 June 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You have lost all sense of holiness, if you are like most 21st century Americans; and you are. Over the years, the honor, respect, and awe regarding things and places set aside for the Lord’s purposes, have diminished.
The seraphim -- these angels placed by the Lord God to guard the heavenly throne -- even these sinless, perfect beings keep their faces bowed, and dare not gaze into the face of God. While you don't often think twice about carrying in your coffee, or not silencing your cell phone, of worrying more about the fellowship that will follow the service in the Lord's house. You begin feeling pretty casual and comfortable in your sin. Yet it takes the formal, deliberate action of your Savior to deliver you.
Isaiah recognized this. As God gave him the vision to see into heaven's throne room, Isaiah almost falls to pieces. He recognizes that he is a sinner. He understands that the Lord is holy and perfect. He knows that being present there should destroy his mortal flesh, and he grieves.
My friends, you too are men and women of unclean lips, who live in the midst of a people of unclean lips. Nothing in you is worth saving. Nothing, that is, until the Lord has come to you and made you worth saving.
The imagery surrounds you. Books, films, and art immerse you in Baptism, even whether the artist realizes it, or not. In the novel and musical, Les Misérables, as Eponine lays, dying in the arms of the young hero Marius, it begins to rain. They speak of it as cleansing and washing – and with this reassuring water, she falls asleep in Jesus. The water is the reminder of Baptism, giving one hope for this tragic character.
At the conclusion of Disney’s The Lion King, the parched, devastated land is dismal and seems to promise only death. Yet at the conclusion, after a great battle of good and evil, heavy rains ensue. The water washes away all traces of death and destruction – even to the point of dry bones being swept away in the currents. Although the film is not teaching Christianity by any means, there are definite baptismal undertones here.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast did the same thing. The dead Beast lies on the pavement surrounding the castle. While the movie would say it was the magic of love, rain is falling as Beast is suddenly raised up from death, and made a new creature. This certainly can make one mindful of when God raised you from death and made you a new creature in water, with His Word.
These moments of entertainment call to mind the greater reality of what God has done. The Holy Trinity has delivered you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, plunging you into the waters of the font, forgiving, rescuing, and giving salvation, as He raises your new creature out of those waters. He took those baptismal currents, and swept you out of death, into life.
First, you are born of the flesh. Born of a flesh that does not want to attend the Divine Service every single Sunday, and receive the Lord’s Body and Blood. Born of a flesh that does not care to gather with the Church for Bible Study week after week. Born of a flesh that does not really care about being a wise and faithful steward. Born of a flesh that would rather gossip, and tear down reputations, rather than defend and speak well of others, explaining everything in the kindest way. When it comes down to it, you are a mess, sitting in this fleshly filth.
But your Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts does not leave you to your own devices, left in the death and destruction of your first birth. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit grant you new birth – you are born from above, into new life in Him! And that is an amazing miracle!
At His holy font, miracles are always taking place! Christ sends the Holy Spirit to make you children of the Heavenly Father. He calls you by name and places His holy Name upon you: “In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” When He does this, He joins the Word of God to that water, and literally bathes you in salvation. He cleanses your flesh, rescues, and washes you in forgiveness. He begins transforming your life, giving you the new birth – born again of water and the Spirit!
What a joyous gift! You are not stuck simply having been born of the flesh. Dear friends in Christ, you have been born again of water and the spirit! So rejoice! You have the same joy as the apostles, as all the faithful bishops of the Council in Nicea, and of St. Athanasius: our Blessed and Holy Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has called you out of darkness and caused you to be born again of water and the spirit! And in this baptism, the Holy Spirit has given you the faith of the church catholic, that you may be saved.
Having been given that faith by the Holy Spirit, He renews in you a sense of the holy. So even when in the forest preserve in shorts and t-shirts, you are aware that the Lord God of the universe is more than your softball buddy, or master of bar-b-queuing on the grill. You are filled with wonder and awe that He would come to you and give you new birth and life in Him!