Thus said the Lord through Isaiah almost three thousand years ago—“Woe is me! For I am lost! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5)—and the same is true for us.
Ours lips have uttered falsehoods and slandered friends, neighbors, and family.
Our lips have kissed the idols of social justice, power, popularity, and pride.
Our lips have whispered adulteries into unwed ears, and that’s not to mention our eyes or our hearts.
Our lips have pursed in wrathful hate.
And with lips, hands, and feet, body, soul, and mind, we have so often embraced sin.
All are unclean. Repent.
If these are the words and thoughts of the Prophet Isaiah, what hope is there for you to stand in the presence of the Holy Trinity?
And St. Paul reminds us: “Who has given a gift to [God] that he might be repaid?” (Romans 11:34).
God owes us nothing.
The Creator can’t be in debt to His creation, and there’s no one righteous, no not one.
If we dare to pull back the veil, all must stand as Isaiah did: unclean, trembling, and fearful.
But the love of our Holy, Holy, Holy God is this: He sends His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but in order that the world would be saved through Him (cf. John 3:17).
A messenger of God, one of the seraphim, brings the burning coal to Isaiah, touches it to his lips, and says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7).
Brought to you, today, by a different messenger of God, the burning coal is none other than the Light of the world, the pure and Holy Second Person of the Trinity, who took up flesh like Isaiah’s that he might cleanse him and the world and you.
The love of the Holy Trinity isn’t a dull thing but overflows into Creation.
“God is love” doesn’t mean that God waits, watching His creation fester into a weeping sore, unconcerned about sin and excusing it. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:6).
And this is the Father’s love: He sends out His only-begotten Son, God of God, Light of Light, to take on human flesh, to cleanse humanity from head and lips to toe.
The Father sends His Son to join us in our weakness, to raise us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
The Father lays upon His Son the sins of the world, that He bear them in His body on the tree of the cross.
So must the Son of Man be lifted up, that we, poisoned by that ancient serpent the devil, would look to the bloody, dead, and hanging body of Jesus and see the love that God has for the world.
No one enters the kingdom of God with unclean lips.
No one enters the kingdom of God with any uncleanness at all.
You must be remade from head to toe.
Born from above. Made new. Baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a new creation.
It’s not enough to merely gaze with earthly eyes at the Father’s Son upon the cross. Pharisees and demons have that factual knowledge, and they shudder.
Jesus must be brought to you and touch you and cleanse you, just like Isaiah.
But I don’t mean touch you like some heart-felt atrocity, I mean touch you by means of Word and Sacrament—the way God promises to come to us.
There, in the inscrutable, upside-down mercy of God, Christ is judged as the sin of the world, receiving our condemnation, and you’re baptized into His righteousness, receiving His innocence.
Yes, you struggle in this decaying world of sin and frailty. The Holy Spirit has begun His work, not completed it.
You sojourn here on earth. And trudge.
But the Holy Trinity has won the victory.
The Father loves you and sent His Son to die for you, and now gives His Holy Spirit to seal your hope: the resurrection of the dead, eternal life with Christ.
If that’s your destiny in Christ, then nothing in this world can harm you—not sickness, not even death.
There’s never a day without risk, that’s true, but for the Christian, your hope is never at risk.
God lives! And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too will walk in newness life (cf. Romans 6:4).
So come—all you with unclean lips—and have them cleansed.
Here, the Light of the World, the Word of God burns new words onto them, God’s Words, the Words the Seraphim sing in ceaseless praise: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, God of Sabaoth.
Sabaoth is very different from Sabbath. Sabbath is the day of rest. Sabaoth means “heavenly hosts,” the “victorious heavenly armies.” Rank upon rank of the angels singing praise to God, and you join the song!
Come—have the Word made flesh touch your lips and singe you clean.
For the Body of our Lord is a purer, more substantial heat and a more refining fire than any shadowed coal of temple incense.
He places it on your lips and you’re forgiven, sin is removed, and you’re made clean.
This is the Love of God.
And this is the catholic faith: we worship One God in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God by receiving the gift of the forgiveness of our sins brought to us in the salvation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
The Feast of the Holy Trinity
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt