TEXT: ISAIAH 6:1-8/ACTS 2:14a, 22-36; JOHN 3:1-17
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD OF HOSTS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Grace and peace to you, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. King Uzziah was a powerful king over Judah
– the southern half of the divided kingdom. Human rulers come and go – and so did Uzziah. The Church fathers said that the prophet Isaiah was not given this glorious vision until after Uzziah’s death because of the king’s sinful pride. Scripture records his contempt for God’s holiness – forcing himself into priestly functions in the holy place. God’s response was to strike Uzziah with leprosy and isolation until his death (2 Chronicles 26).

In this year of real history – said to be 740BC – In the year that king Uzziah died - the seraphim that Isaiah saw offered a responsive doxology. This one called out to that one and that one called out to this one – “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory!”  Their ongoing responsive praise could be stated, “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of angel armies, the whole earth is full of his glory!”  How pointed is their praise!  Oh that your voice and mine were so strong and unwearied to honor the holiness of God!  Oh that our hearts naturally moved our voices to hallow the name by which Yahweh of angel armies has now revealed Himself – the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

TEXT: ISAIAH 6:1-8/ACTS 2:14a, 22-36; JOHN 3:1-17
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD OF HOSTS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Grace and peace to you, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. King Uzziah was a powerful king over Judah
– the southern half of the divided kingdom. Human rulers come and go – and so did Uzziah. The Church fathers said that the prophet Isaiah was not given this glorious vision until after Uzziah’s death because of the king’s sinful pride. Scripture records his contempt for God’s holiness – forcing himself into priestly functions in the holy place. God’s response was to strike Uzziah with leprosy and isolation until his death (2 Chronicles 26).

In this year of real history – said to be 740BC – In the year that king Uzziah died - the seraphim that Isaiah saw offered a responsive doxology. This one called out to that one and that one called out to this one – “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory!”  Their ongoing responsive praise could be stated, “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of angel armies, the whole earth is full of his glory!”  How pointed is their praise!  Oh that your voice and mine were so strong and unwearied to honor the holiness of God!  Oh that our hearts naturally moved our voices to hallow the name by which Yahweh of angel armies has now revealed Himself – the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The readings today evoke the mystery and the holiness of the Holy Trinity. They radiate the very first matter you pray for everyday – at least the very first petition Jesus teaches you to voice day by day to your heavenly Father. Hallowed be Thy Name…on earth as it is heaven. What God allowed Isaiah to see gives us a glimpse of how intensely, how purely, God’s Name – God’s being - is hallowed in heaven. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The other two readings reveal how God’s glory fills the earth. They identify what Isaiah elsewhere prophesied concerning God’s glory - glory revealed in a virgin-born Immanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7) – glory revealed in a child who was Mighty God – Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9) – glory revealed in the servant wounded for our transgressions – cut off from the land of the living – crushed according to the Lord’s will as a guilt offering (Isaiah 53).

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts the whole earth is full of his glory!”  He is the Holy One!  He is the King of the universe!  His holiness is His godliness, His nature, His authority as God!  In Scripture there are no abstract definitions of God’s holiness – no analogies comparing it with something else. Holiness is derived only from the Holy Trinity - for ever since the fall into sin nothing has been inherently or intrinsically holy in itself.

What we need on our death day we do not possess and we cannot earn. The elections this Tuesday and in November cannot give it to you. An economy that would be turned around will not provide this, your greatest need and mine. The end of threats against the Christian confession – in Muslim lands – in Hindu India – from zealous secularists – even from governmental and educational spheres would not meet this need.

What you need most is exactly the same treasure that I and every sinner needs most – holiness. Not imagined – not comparative – not I’m-doing-my-best and saying my prayers - holiness!  Any type of human holiness – human goodness – human respectability – human morality – good intentions - offered as a substitute for real holiness will receive Isaiah’s self-judgment – “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…”  

Do you recognize how unclean your lips are?  Are they active in hallowing God’s name first each morning and last each night. Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of angel armies. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name…on earth as it is in heaven. Are your lips interceding for others in daily prayer – your pastor – your fellow members – persecuted Christians – your self – those outside the Church?  Are your lips honoring your parents and continually expressing love to them?  Are your lips clean in political conversations?  Unclean lips constantly utter flattering words - idle words - complaining words - judgmental words and words of half-truth. “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…”

Consider the words of Nicodemus – an honest, well-intentioned, Pharisee who admired Jesus as a teacher. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”  But Jesus slammed the door on the words of Nicodemus’ lips about God and about Jesus. Ignoring Nicodemus’ positive regard for Him as a religious teacher Jesus swept away what Nicodemus and the Pharisees stood for. Make no mistake - they stood for the best of what people see in one another; respectability, leadership, a desire to see good in this new teacher (even to recognize Him as being from God in some sense).

However, Jesus isn’t from God in some sense!  Jesus is God!  He responded to Nicodemus by setting forth a requirement that was not open for debate. You must be born again!  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”  Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” 
Indeed he was!   Confused and deficient Nicodemus taught and led the people with unclean lips. God’s requirement for a new mind and a new heart appeared foolish to his considerable intellect and sincere religiosity. Jesus’ assertion that He must be born from above was foreign to his understanding and therefore omitted from his teaching.

And so it is in our day. Except as a gift of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for lips to speak and to mean God’s beautiful Name –the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Only Christ can reveal it as He did to Nicodemus. He spoke to him of heavenly things!  He spoke of that which He had seen. He is the Son of Man who came down from heaven. The heart of what He revealed to Nicodemus is this – The Father gave His Son to give us life by water and the Spirit.

This is the wondrous truth of the Holy Trinity!  God the Father does not want us dying sinners to perish eternally. God the Son does not want to condemn us. God the Holy Spirit does not want us to remain dead in our sins. Why?  The holy love of the Holy Trinity – for you!  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

The Holy Trinity does not want to take anything away from you. He rather wants to show you and me our total poverty and give everything He has to us. The Father bestows Himself and His gifts through His Son. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”  The Son is brought to us only by the loving action of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Christians, this is why we confess from the Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…

Do you see the peculiar, mysterious, holy nature of the faith God has given you. So drastic is baptism that Jesus calls it being born again – born from above. A person doesn’t become a Christian. Rather, God makes that person a Christian by His grace as a gift. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of rebirth and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-5). The Holy Trinity may be above our thoughts as high as the heavens are above the earth, but the means He has chosen to come to us sinners are as earthy as water and word and bread and wine. Jesus makes His church holy – cleansing her by washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:26) – it is the very holiness of the Holy Trinity.

Risen from the house of death Jesus commanded all nations to be baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. As the angel took the burning coal from the altar and said to Isaiah, “Behold this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for,” so you have been touched by water from the altar of His sacrifice, that is the altar of the cross. You are baptized into His death (Romans 6). As Christ touched you there and continues to come under the roof of your mouth with His Holy Body and Holy Blood – your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.

In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah was given to see the seraphim responsively proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory!”  Beloved, you are part of His glory that fills the earth – a redeemed child of God in whom Christ dwells. And what of Nicodemus?  He saw firsthand the bloody sacrifice God made in order to give him new birth. With his own hands he handled and anointed the corpse of the crucified one and bound it with spices in linen cloths (John 19:39-40).

But, God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it…Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. … The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Hear again Isaiah’s response as he stood before God free from all sin. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Then I said, “Here am I!  Send me.”  God also has a call on your life. By His will, by His gracious doing, by His absolving Word and means, you also stand before Him free from all sin. He does not forgive you piecemeal!  The Holy Trinity does make and keep you His saint – His holy one - with an incomplete, unholy forgiveness. Good heavens, that is why we call His gifts, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution.

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  To be a confessional Lutheran pastor in the coming decades in a decaying culture in which income seems uncertain and growing opposition seems certain. And vicar after vicar says “I will.” – “Here am I send me.”  Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  To receive God’s gift of marriage and vow faithfulness until death – even in a society that boldly assaults that gift. Today Timothy and Samantha will say “I will” as many of you have before. Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  To confess the Christian faith even when it costs - to give generously and cheerfully seeing God’s glory at work in the proclamation of Christ crucified. You answer “I will” – even as you gather to receive His gifts today and bring your gifts for Him. Whom shall I send and who will go for us?  To press on in the vocation to which I have called you - to struggle against sin as my holy people – to be in the world but not of the world - to forgive others fully. Then I said, “Here am I!  Send me.”

In the year that you die – Isaiah’s vision will not be strange to you. God has not stricken you with leprosy as He did Uzziah. He has taken away the leprosy of your sin. Woe is me, I am a person of unclean lips is constantly being replaced with Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. On this Holy Day, Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; AMEN.

 

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