Skip to main content

The vision of God. Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah 6:1-8

Trinity 2024

The Trinity is not a problem to be solved, but a relationship to be encountered.

There is a great clip from the film, Nuns on the Run where the two characters Brian and Charlie are hiding from gangsters dressed as nuns.

Brian has to teach a class about the Trinity

Brian: Explain the Trinity.
Charlie: Hmm, well it’s a bit of a mystery. You’ve got the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. But the three are one---like a shamrock, my old priest used to say. Three leaves but one leaf. Now the Father sent down the Son, who was love, and then when he went away he sent down the Holy Spirit, who came down in the form of a….
Brian: You already told me—a ghost.
Charlie: No, a dove.
Brian: The dove was a ghost?
Charlie: No, the ghost was a dove.
Brian: Let me try and summarise this. God is his son. And his son is God. But his son moonlights as a holy ghost, a holy spirit and a dove. And they all send each other, even though they’re all one and the same thing.
Charlie: You’ve got it. You really could be a nun!

We can knot ourselves up in the Trinity.
You will have heard other illustrations: water, steam and ice; or one person who has three roles: both of those are pretty wrong.
Or a venn diagram with overlapping circles.
Or a chord formed from three notes
Or those lovely celtic crosses with three interweaving chains.

But the problem with all of those is that they miss what is at the heart of the Trinity – which is relationship.

At the heart of the Bible revelation about God is the language of Father and Son.

It is about a relationship of love, trust and praise – not just of the Son loving, trusting and praising the Father, but of the Father loving Son. At the baptism and transfiguration, the voice comes from heaven: ‘This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I delight’.

So the Son is sent by the Father and speaks the Father’s words, and the Father has given the Son all things.
The Son glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son.

We say in the creed that the Son is ‘eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being (existence) with the Father’

It is a brilliant and relatively simple way of saying that the Son is a separate person to the Father, but of the very essence of God; that he is not created and has always been there in relationship with the Father.
It is a way of saying that they have one heart, one loves, they delight and desire in what the other delights and desires, and that they have this relationship of mutual love, trust and shared glory.

But this is not a closed circle of love: so that creation is left like an awkward gooseberry looking in at it from the outside.

It is an open love. The Father gives that which is most precious to him - the Son; the Son gives himself for us; and the Son then sends us the Spirit from the Father

If I was going to image it, then we can do no better than to look at Rublev’s icon of the Trinity with three angels representing the three persons of the Trinity in communion around a table.

Or another 
illustration that can be helpful is of three people sharing a hug. We look at them from a distance and we can’t quite work out whether it is three or one.

But this divine hug is so glorious, so radiant that looking at it is like looking at the sun. We can’t, but lightening is sparking out of it, reaching out to us and – and this is the amazing thing - drawing us into the hug.

Isaiah has a vision of the glory of God

​“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty”

I’ve recently read Edwyn Bevan on Symbolism and Belief. He speaks of how in every culture, height is used to show power. The high King, the high throne. If you are higher than another person you have a physical advantage over them, and you can see more clearly than them.

And the ancients often spoke of God or gods as being on top of a high mountain or up in the sky. Bevan argues that the top of the high mountain, or the sky, was beyond their reach, inaccessible.
To speak of God as high and lofty is to speak of the otherness of God, the transcendence of God.

But notice here that even though God is high, the hem of his robe touches the temple.

I love that: the very bottom, the fringe of his robe brushes the temple; but it fills the temple, just as his glory fills the earth.

There is a story told about a little girl who asked her dad, ‘Is God everywhere?’ Yes, said dad. ‘Is God in this room?’ Yes, said dad. Is God in this jar? Dad realised there was a problem, but he had started and he had to finish, so he said, Yes. The girl put her hand over the top of the jar and said, ‘I’ve got him’.

We can’t ‘get’ God. God is in the jar, because those atoms in the jar are filled with the glory of God. But God is far far bigger than the jar

God is totally other and beyond, but his glory, his love, his fire, his Spirit fill the earth.

In Orthodox theology they speak of that glory as the uncreated light which penetrates through this creation, a light which was visible on the face of Moses when he came out of the tabernacle having met with God; the light that Peter, James and John saw coming from Jesus when he was transfigured. There are saints who have been able to see that light and reflect that light. It is the light of the glory of God filling this creation.

And the Seraphim, the ‘burning ones’, worship this God.
They sing ‘holy, holy, holy’ which Christians have understood as referring to the three persons of the Trinity. We will echo that in our communion prayer.
And maybe we have read too much into that, but it is interesting that when God speaks to Isaiah, he says, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’

But, and this is important, the God who they worship is not just out there, beyond us, untouchable, but the God reaches out to us.

Isaiah is given this vision and he is broken. 
‘Woe is me’.

He is broken because God – the otherness, the power, the beauty, the purity, the holiness – is both so far from him, so beyond him, but has also come so very close to him.

We think of Peter fishing in his boat, who suddenly sees who Jesus is. He says to him, ‘Go away from me for I am a sinful man’.

And Isaiah hears the praise of the angels, and he compares them to the words that come out of his mouth: ‘I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips’.

He hears the praise of the angels, as they declare the holiness and presence of the God of truth and beauty, of the ultimate reality in this universe; and he thinks of his own words and the words of his community: words that are grumbling, moaning, complaining, cursing; words that pull down and destroy, that criticise and slander others, that speak half-truths or untruths.
And he is filled with shame – a shame that in the presence of God makes him want to shrivel up and die.

But God in his mercy reaches out to him. The burning one brings a burning coal from the altar and touches his lips with it.

Isaiah is forgiven, ‘Your sin is blotted out’; and he becomes part of the hug, of the fire.
And God calls to him, ‘Whom will I send?’. And now he can reply. ‘Send me’.

We may not have had the vision of Isaiah or Peter or of Jesus transfigured.
But that does not make the reality of what they saw any the less.

In a few moments we will say the creed.

They are familiar words – perhaps too familiar and we do not realise what we are saying.

We say, ‘We believe’, and for us belief is what goes on up here in the head.
But the Greek word ‘pisteuo’ could also, probably better, be translated as ‘I trust’.

When we say the creed we are declaring not only our intellectual assent but our trust in our God revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

You see, it is about relationship.

We are using words that the people of God, the Spirit-people, have used for 1700 plus years to declare their faith and trust in the mystery that is at the heart of God:

We declare our trust in God who is Almighty, uncreated creator, eternal, Light, who is holy, holy, holy
We declare our trust in God who has self-revealed as Father, Son and Spirit, as relationship
We declare our trust in God who has reached out to us

- Who has sent his only Son (John 3:16) – who came to touch our lips
- Who has given us his Spirit
- Who draws us into the worship of heaven, that heavenly hug
And who sends us out into the world to proclaim the otherness and presence of God, his glory and praise and goodness and love and mercy

And when we proclaim the holiness, the glory of God, the foundations of this world are shaken.


Most popular posts

On infant baptism

Children are a gift from God. And as always with God’s gifts to us, they are completely and totally undeserved. You have been given the astonishing gift of Benjamin, and the immense privilege and joy of loving him for God, and of bringing him up for God. Our greatest desire for our children is to see them grow, be happy, secure, to flourish and be fulfilled, to bring blessing to others, to be part of the family of God and to love God. And in baptism you are placing Benjamin full square in the family of God. I know that those of us here differ in our views about infant baptism. The belief and the practice of the Church of England is in line with that of the historic church, but also – at the time of the Reformation – of Calvin and the other so-called ‘magisterial reformers’ (which is also the stance taken in the Westminster confession).  They affirmed, on the basis of their covenantal theology, which sees baptism as a new covenant version of circumcision, of Mark 10:13-16 , and part

Isaiah 49:1-7 What does it mean to be a servant of God?

Isaiah 49:1-7 This passage speaks of two servants. The first servant is Israel, the people of God. The second servant will bring Israel back to God. But then it seems that the second servant is also Israel.  It is complicated! But Christians have understood that this passage is speaking of Jesus. He is both the servant, who called Israel back to God, but he is also Israel itself: he is the embodiment, the fulfilment of Israel In the British constitution the Queen is the head of the State. But she is also, to a degree, the personal embodiment of the state. What the Queen does, at an official level, the UK does. If the Queen greets another head of State, then the UK is greeting that other nation. And if you are a UK citizen then you are, by definition, a subject of Her Majesty. She is the constitutional glue, if this helps, who holds us all together. So she is both the servant of the State, but she is also the embodiment of the State. And Jesus, to a far greater

The separation of good from evil: Matthew 13.24-30,36-43

Matthew 13.24-30,36-43 We look this morning at a parable Jesus told about the Kingdom on God (Matthew talks of Kingdom of heaven but others speak of it as the Kingdom of God) 1. In this world, good and evil grow together. ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil’ (v37) The Son of Man (Jesus) sows the good seed. In the first story that Jesus tells in Matthew, the seed is the Word of God, and different kinds of people are like the different soils which receive the seed. Here the illustration changes a bit, and we become the seed. There is good seed and there is weed, evil, seed. This story is not explaining why there is evil. It is simply telling us that there is evil and that it was sown by the enemy of God. And it tells us that there is good and there is bad. There are people who have their face turned towards