Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity: keep us steadfast in this faith, that we may evermore be defended from all adversities; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Holy God, faithful and unchanging: enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth, and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love, that we may truly worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Almighty and eternal God, you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and live and reign in the perfect unity of love: hold us firm in this faith, that we may know you in all your ways and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory, who are three Persons yet one God, now and for ever.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 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!’
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders;
the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation;
the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning; the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
8 The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare;
in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’
9 The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.
10 The Lord shall give strength to his people;
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just 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.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Sermon on Trinity Sunday
The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning; the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare;
in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’
Today we hear about the voice of the Lord and its power – it can split the flash of lightning, it can shake the desolate places of the world and it can strip forests bare. Yet there are other voices we can hear as well – those voices in the temple which cry, “Glory!” and Cherubim and Seraphim add their cries of “Holy! Holy! Holy!”, then there are our own voices which cry, “Abba, Father!” amidst the din of heaven.
Imagine the power of all of those voices sounding together in the vaults of heaven, resounding in the wildernesses of earth, echoing in our homes, and finally in our hearts. What a glorious noise that is!
But I wonder: do we ever hear the sound of heaven and earth resounding together? Do we listen for the voice of the Lord? Do we listen for the angels or the saints singing their praise of the God we worship? Have we opened up our ears for the sounds of glory and power which echo in eternity?
Some time ago someone set up a number of radios in a church which were tuned into different stations to show how many sounds are all around us. Sounds we don’t hear and I don’t think we have any idea that they are there at all. But it is all there, like the booming brass and tinkling cymbals celebrated in the psalms, or the boom boxes of the streets, or the television blasting away in the corner of the room. Nowadays everyone is plugged into their private music with their ear buds. As they run along on their exercise runs or make their way to the next important thing on their list, the beat sounds in their ears taking them away from everything except their exercise, everything except themselves perhaps.
Let’s take this change from the public noise of the ghetto blaster to the annoying scratching of ear buds as a good sign, that people are more attuned to listen to the beat of a different drummer. Perhaps there is a chance that God might play a greater part in people’s lives than appears to be the case today. It may be that the voice of the Lord, or the cherubim and seraphim, or the saints, will penetrate the isolation we have had to endure over the last year and a half.
However, I think we should ask a more prosaic question – do we ever listen out for the other person as they cry out in their joy? Do we ever hear others as they whimper in despair? Do we only hear our own wishes and the baying of our own crowd, that crowd that overwhelms us as we fail to do the right thing?
That crowd is not the famous “crowd of witnesses” from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, that holy crowd which should comfort us in our desperate times and which rejoices with us in our happiness – no, the crowd we are talking about here is the one that makes up a mob, those gangs which allow people to do despicable things. We have considered this dubious crowd before, haven’t we? We have talked about the crowd which eggs on the bully in the schoolyard, the crowd which creates “peer pressure” to oppress everyone, that crowd to which we give in all to often. We might even see it as the crowd of the “politically correct”.
No one can name any one person in a crowd, can they? There is no
responsible for the acts of the crowd – we say, “they did it”. Or as the woman said about that red dress, “The devil made me do it.”
We need to stand apart from every crowd, whether the crowd is in heaven or not. We have to choose for ourselves where we stand. I want to say that we must stand on our faith, independent from all, looking to the heart of life, staring at that abyss where we God dwells. When we stand in faith we are protected from the dubious crowd. When we stand in faith, we can stand on our own. I hope when we are standing alone we can hear the crowd of heaven, those witnesses to the truth of God, that glorious crowd of witnesses gathered around God, the crowd of disciples gathered around Jesus when he ministered to mankind, and the crowd of women which stood at the foot of the cross, when stain of sin was expunged and the crowd of witnesses which finally stood in the upper room when they understood the reality of the risen Christ. I hope when we stand alone we can hear the solo voice of every other person, that whatever they are saying in their very own selves becomes a message to us, a message upon which we will act. Let us be those radios tuned into all the different stations to show our listening and hearing of all the voices.
When we stand in faith, we stand alone to listen and hear. At the same time we are crying out with our own experiences, in our joy and in our sorrow. What will people hear when they listen to us?
Do we ever cry out, “Glory”, or “Holy! Holy! Holy!” or “Abba, Father” in times of joy or do we only cry out to God in despair? Do we ever place ourselves in the place where all attention is elsewhere – on the Lord God of Sabaoth whose heaven and earth is full of his own glory, that glory which should remind us of the Creator of all joy. Are our cries the woes of Job in his desolate pain as his faith is tested? Do we curse God because our wishes are not fulfilled? Do we stand alone as Job did among his dubious comforters firm in our faith in our God despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, ending them because of our faith? Or do we see ourselves clearly like Isaiah who declares,
‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Are we about to abase ourselves at the altar in the temple, hiding our eyes like the Seraphim? Are we about to open our eyes to see our King of kings and Lord of lords? Are we listening to the chorus of creation as it shouts out its life?
In the Orthodox Church everyone present participates as the choir. We can sing with abandon the songs of the church as we worship our God, three in one and one in three, as we do today, Trinity Sunday.
We must let our voices speak in various ways. All those radios should remind us that there is a symphony ‘round about us. We must join the choir of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, earthly and heavenly. But how can we compete with the power of the cherubim and seraphim in chorus, or the sanctity of the holy fathers and saintly mothers, or those of blessed memory who have passed before? We should raise our voices, nonetheless, perhaps with a humble ‘Abba, Father’ as our contribution to the glorious noise of the heavenly spheres echoing here on earth. We need to fill out the OMG of social media with the full statement. I think we have to say “Oh My God!” and mean it just as Isaiah did.