This sermon was preached at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Roseville, Minnesota on Sunday, May 27.
Relevant lectionary readings can be found here.
Grace and peace are yours from the Triune God, the Lord of Hosts, Beloved, Lover +, and Love Herself. Amen.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa said that the Prophet Isaiah, “knew more perfectly than all others the mystery of the religion of the Gospel.” And how could he not after experiencing such a vivid vision like the one in our reading today.
In this vision, Isaiah finds himself in the presence of God, in God’s throne room. God is seated upon a high and lofty throne, wearing a robe so opulent, so ornate and luscious that it would put even the designs at this year’s Met Gala to shame. In fact, the Hebrew word translated “robe” here can also be translated as “skirt.” And so I like to picture her majesty, God, wearing a big ball gown with a massive, shimmering train. And this robe, this skirt, was so great that it filled the entire temple, the fabric spilling down over the throne and its hem flowing across the floor to reach the edges of the room.
And surrounding the throne of God in all Her splendor, there were heavenly creatures, mystical type beasts called seraphs, full of wings and pure light. And they were singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” a very similar refrain to one you might sing on communion Sundays here at St. Michaels, and when the creatures rang out with the name of the Lord, the very foundation of the temple shook and the room began to fill with swirls of smoke.
How did Isaiah react to finding himself in such royal company, the midst of such Heavenly resplendence and pageantry?
Isaiah said, “Woe is me.”
He said, “It’s all over for me now. I am a goner, for sure. I am not supposed to be here.”
Isaiah was terrified because he was in the presence of God, surrounded by all things bright and holy and sparkly and good and he was VERY certain that he was not good enough to be there. And this fear was about more than feeling underdressed for the occasion. Isaiah believed that no one could see God and live. Even the heavenly creatures, the Seraph, were covering their eyes with their wings, because God is like the sun, too powerful, too wonderful to be looked upon directly. And yet, here was Isaiah, right there, eyes locked on God.
It was too much. It was too big, too grand, and Isaiah felt too small.
I imagine many of us have been there. Not in the throne room of God. But feeling “not good enough” – many of us have been there. We have been taught or told, either implicitly or explicitly, that we aren’t worthy, that we are damaged goods, that we don’t belong and we have internalized that message and we have believed it and we have lived like it was true.
But today God gives us a different narrative. Through the holy mystery of baptism – which we will have the joy to witness today in the life of Gabriel Frances – the Triune God claims each of us as one of God’s own children. In the waters of baptism our insufficiencies, our inadequacies, our failures are all washed away and we are reborn through the life-giving womb-water of the Spirit as children of God.
Baptism transforms our relationship with God from, “Your Majesty,” to, “Mama.”
It is because of the sweet grace and closeness of God that is extended to us in baptism that we can be assured that when we cry out, “God, I am not good enough,” God answers. God comes to us in our fears of inadequacy to remind us, through scripture and the sacraments, that we are chosen and beloved by God. God calls us by name and holds us tenderly and says, “You are mine.” Regardless of how we feel about ourselves, God’s love is not dependent on our emotions. It is extended to us even in and especially in our most frail, vulnerable moments.
God knows our weaknesses and the places we feel insecure, and God loves us anyway. You’ll remember in the story of Isaiah that after Isaiah protests that he is not good enough, not pure enough to be in God’s presence, God sends an angel to touch Isaiah. Isaiah says, “I am a man of unclean lips!” and God sends an angel to the very place where Isaiah feels vulnerable and insecure. God sends an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips. God sends an angel to the hurting place.
In Water and in the Word, the Holy One, the Triune God, the Lord of Hosts, full of beauty and majesty and power, and with impeccable taste in skirt-robes comes to us in our frailty to remind us again and again that we are loved. And not only does She love us, but she trusts us with a mighty task.
Throughout the Throneroom the voice of the Holy Three in One rings out, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
And it is because God has already chosen us that we can answer, “Here I am! Send me!”
Today Gabriel’s loved ones will make promises on behalf of Gabriel in the presence of God and this assembly. God freely claims and chooses Gabriel, and because of that, we are free in Christ to respond faithfully. In our liturgy today we will promise to equip Gabriel – through community, prayer, and our tradition – for the task that God is setting before him. The task of proclaiming Christ in word and deed, the task of caring for others and the world God has made, and the task of working for justice and peace among God’s people. God is sending Gabriel, as God sends all of us, out into the world into this mission that we share.
As you witness this baptism here today, remember your own baptism. Remember the great assembly in Heaven and on Earth that rang out with rejoicing when you were washed in the waters and welcomed into the family. Remember our shared mission of Love and Liberation, and the ways that we are supported and equipped to do this work by God and our community. And then, dare to dream together with God about what your next part in our mission might be.
Our Majesty, Our Mama, The Holy Three in One who is more infinite than our wildest wonderings and more near than our next breath, comes to us, claims us, and then sends us out into the world to do God’s work.
Thanks be to God. Amen.