1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “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; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We can invent all sorts of excuses for sin. The dog ate my homework. He hit me first. I didn’t see the speed limit change back there. I just thought you should know. I didn’t think you’d find out. Everyone else is doing it. The devil made me do it. I didn’t do it. When all the evidence points to us being guilty, we try to find a way around it. We try to hide the evidence. We try to discredit the accusations. We try to hide the sin. We try to hide ourselves because we know we are guilty. We know we are unclean.
But you cannot hide from God. The God who is holy, holy, holy is inescapable. You cannot block His calls or flee His jurisdiction. The whole earth is full of His awesome and terrifying glory. You cannot dodge God the Father. He created the universe. He knows every step you take, every molecule you breathe, every thought you think. You cannot hide from God the Son. He is coming on the clouds and every eye will see Him. Jesus’ blood has stained your hands and my hands, and it cannot be washed off. You cannot elude God the Holy Spirit. He has come to convict the world concerning sin and judgment. And the Spirit will knock down any barrier you set up to avoid Him.
Isaiah experienced this when he stood in the presence of God. As Isaiah saw the Lord sitting high upon the throne, as he gazed at the train of God’s royal robe filling the temple, as he watched the flaming seraphim with their six wings, as he heard the chorus, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” as he felt the foundations of the thresholds shake, as his nostrils were filled with smoke, his excuses became invalid. All evidence pointed to Isaiah being a guilty man. Isaiah knew his guilt. He knew that all his alibis and excuses would not clear him of his damned lips. The presence of God was not a comfort – it was a terror he could not escape. All that was left for Isaiah to do was to cry out, “Woe is me! For I am lost. I am undone. I am unmade.”
Today, you have come into this sanctuary and into presence of the holy, holy, holy Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, no, you didn’t see a vision of God high and lifted up. You can’t see flaming seraphim. You don’t feel the foundations of the thresholds shake. But God is here. Today’s Psalm (29) spoke about it. The glory, majesty, strength, and splendor of God’s holiness fills this place. God sits enthroned forever. His voice flashes forth flames of fire. The Word of God strips the forests bare. And we here in this sanctuary have cried, “Glory!” And the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a terrifying thing for you and I who are sinners.
The glory and holiness of God sheds light upon our sin. All alibis and excuses are revealed to be utter nonsense. We stand before God with unclean lips. We stand before God with defiled hands. We stand before God with depraved hearts and minds. We stand before the holy, holy, holy God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And our sin has made Him our enemy.
So what is left for us to do? All our avenues of escape are cut off. All our excuses are gone, and all our alibis have failed. Where can we flee? Like Isaiah, we flee from God by running to God. Why would we do that?
Flee from God to God because of what He has said. In our Gospel lesson (Jn. 3:1-17), Jesus said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Flee to God because God the Father who created you, doesn’t throw you away because you are a sinner. God formed you to be His own child. He created you to love you and to share with you all of His good things. So the Father sent God the Son. Jesus was sent to live a holy life free of sin. He lived this perfect life for you. And Jesus died for you. He was pierced for you. His body was broken for you. His blood was shed to cover you. On the cross, Jesus bled out your forgiveness and pardon and life, and He proclaimed that you are innocent. And God the Son handed this innocent verdict to the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit comforts you with the Word of God which declares that because of Jesus you are innocent, righteous, sanctified, and holy.
How can you know this is true for you? Isaiah had a seraph come to him with a burning coal to touch his lips. But God hasn’t purified you with fire. Instead, He has made you pure with water. In your baptism, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has washed away your sins. In the waters of your baptism, the holy blood of Jesus covered you and made you holy. In the waters of your baptism, all evidence of your sin was washed away in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In your baptism, you were given the right to no longer fear the holiness of God.
And God continues to remind you of your baptism. God has sent this minister to declare to you that your sin is atoned for. Like the seraphim who had to cover themselves, this minister doesn’t have the right to be in the presence of God either. But God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has sent me – a forgiven sinner – to forgive your sins in the stead and by the command of Christ. And God continues to feed you and your faith. He gives you the very body of Christ to enter your body. He gives you the blood of Christ poured over your lips and coursing through your veins.
You do not have to run anymore. When the glory, majesty, and holiness of God is present, you can stand there and know that you belong there because God has made you worthy. When God comes you can know that there is your Father, your Brother, and your Comforter. You don’t have to make up excuses. You have the right to forget that your fear of God ever existed. Now, in the glory and majesty and holiness of God, all evidence of your sin is gone. You stand holy and righteous in the presence of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.