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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Living in the Mystery of God

Trinity Sunday: Old Testament Lesson - Isaiah 6:1-8

Those of us who are "baby boomers" will remember these familiar words from the television in 1963:

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits.”

I'm not trying to take control of anything, but I’d like to challenge us to yield control of our hearts and souls to God.
* Do not attempt to adjust the picture: God has set us in life where we belong
* He controls the volume, He controls the horizontal, He controls the vertical
* He can change the focus from a soft blur to crystal clarity
* Sit quietly: With God, You are about to participate in a great adventure

Reflecting on the Trinity is where the Mystery of God begins to take shape. But before we can reflect, we must yield control. Our every day lives are shaped by what we can control:
- Our to do lists
- Our relationships
- Our living arrangements
- Our decision making
- Our use of time
* And so forth

Because we want control, we have a way of explaining everything that we have some kind of control over:
- The "To Do List" is an example: We tell ourselves, "I have so many things to accomplish, I need to keep track," "I need to prioritize," "I need to remember"
- Relationships are another example: "I determine the people in my life who are important, who’s not," "I check Caller ID to see if I want to take your call," "My associations, clubs, and places I go, tell you who's important to me"

The mystery of God begins to appear in the things of life that are beyond what we can control.

Look at Isaiah. He was from the nobility of Judah at that time. He was a married man (Isaiah 8:3) with at least one son (Isaiah 8:18). Isaiah had his own control of his own life: Other than the “nobility” part, his life was probably not much different than our own. In his daily life, he conducted business, family affairs, decision making, etc. His religious life was controlled: going to Temple, participating in the rituals, making sure his son was in Sabbath school and bar mitzvah, etc.

The mystery of life for Isaiah wasn’t in his circumstances, but in God.

We often encounter mystery in our own lives and expect God to provide an explanation. Rather, we need to come to the point of seeing our lives as a gift from God and find meaning for life in His Divine Mystery.

Isaiah encountered the Divine Mystery of God in the Temple in Isaiah 6. He stood awestruck at the Presence of God:
the sights - Cherubim and Seraphim, the Divine train filling the Temple, the glory of God;
the smells - the smoke of incense, the sweetness of Heaven;
the sounds - the Thrice Holy Hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy!" the brush of angels' wings, the trembling threshold and Temple walls;
the Angel and the coal - the trumpet voice of God, the heat of the coals, the intimate closeness of the Bodiless Host of Heaven

So it is for us when we encounter God in the Trinity. We know the “letter” of the doctrine. The mystery comes not in knowing the doctrine, but living in it.
God the Father – our Creator, the Giver of the Law, the “King of the Universe.” He is “ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same” as our Communion Liturgy describes.
God the Son – our Creator (the Co-Creator, in John 1), the Fulfiller of the Law, Incarnation of God
God the Holy Spirit – our Creator (hovering over the waters of Gen. 1), Guide in the Law of Love (Gal. 5), the manifestation of God in our day

Is the mystery of God relevant in our time?
* For those who want Christianity to be a matter of “tell me how to live” and “spell it out for me” and “if it’s not practical it’s not relevant”, then No
* For those who want to control their own lives, keep their own schedules, live by their own rules, be their own boss, then No
* For those who want to live by faith, who want to see God at work in things great and small, who see life beyond the limits of the cradle and grave, then YES: the mystery of God is infinitely practical

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1)
Faith hopes in God’s steadfast love, waits for the Lord, is glad in the Lord (Psalm 33:18-21)
Faith is the Gospel sent to us by the Holy Spirit from Heaven (I Peter 1:12)

When we understand that understanding has little to do with life and faith in the Mystery of God has everything to do with life, the our life becomes infinitely practical.

Look again at the rest of Isaiah 6 and his life from the time of that encounter in the Temple. He prophesied for 60 years. He stood up to kings, corruption, injustice, poverty, and heresy. He didn’t have a popular message; no book sales, no radio or TV show, no Dove Awards, no concert contracts. Died a martyr’s death at the hands of pagan king Manasseh: He was sawn in two for standing up to the idolatry and falsehood of his era.

Look at your life: Do you live by the list? Do you live by the explain-able? Do you live by what you can see?
* Do you live by faith in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
* Do you revel in the mystery of God?
* You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from "the inner mind to... God's Outer Limits”?

This post is my sermon for Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2010. The Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. (In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it’s All Saints Day. They celebrate the Trinity on Pentecost.) The Church Year is about half way through: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany-Theophany, Epiphany Season (Christ’s teaching and ministry), Great Lent, Holy Week, Pascha, Ascension, Pentecost, and now Trinity Sunday. Trinity Season depicts the life of the Church as the living testimony of Jesus Christ. It seems appropriate that most of the year is spent on the Living Testimony of Jesus Christ – how the Holy Spirit works in your life and my life, the life of the Church today.