We just read about Isaiah’s vision, about his call story. He went to the Temple for worship, much as each of you have come to Church this morning. He was probably standing, most likely among other people. Perhaps he was with some friends or members of his family. The people standing with him probably were not aware of what Isaiah was experiencing.
What Isaiah experienced was a call from God. He describes what he saw. He saw the LORD, sitting on a throne, high and lofty. The hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were attending to God, but veiled their faces so as not to see God. One called to another saying “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The hinges that held the doors on the building shook and the room filled with smoke.
Isaiah’s response was perhaps what our responses are when God calls us. Woe is me, I am lost. I am a person of unclean lips from a people with unclean lips; yet, here I am in the presence of God. He felt lost, unworthy, he could not believe that he, lowly Isaiah, could be in the presence of God. But he was, and God was calling him.
His uncleanliness prevented him from hearing God’s call, until one of the Seraphs flew to him and touched his lips with a live coal, which cleansed him. Then he heard God say ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And Isaiah answered, ‘Here am I; send me!’
I believe very strongly that God calls each and every one of us. I believe God calls us to our vocation, as in Isaiah’s story, but more importantly, I believe God calls us into a relationship with God. This call is a gift offered to all people. It is not something we earn by being good or by obeying the rules. It is not something we can purchase or convince God we should have. It is a gift offered to us by God’s love and grace. All we have to do is accept it. When God asked: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”, Isaiah answered, “Here I am, send me”
But I suspect for most people, our call from God may not be as clear as it was for Isaiah. It might be more difficult to hear and more difficult to discern. It may confuse us and leave us wondering if we are hearing God correctly. It may be more like Nicodemus’s interaction with Jesus that we read about this morning.
Jesus and Nicodemus were having a discussion. This was kind of a secret discussion, for Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a leader in the Jewish community, and he couldn’t be seen talking to Jesus. After all, he had his position to protect and his reputation to uphold, and talking to Jesus would damage that reputation and threaten his position, his status.
But Nicodemus knew there was something special about Jesus and he wanted to know more. He started his discussion with Jesus by saying they knew he was a teacher who had come from God because of the signs Jesus had performed. But Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’
This confused Nicodemus. The conversation continued, confusing Nicodemus more with every sentence Jesus said. The problem for Nicodemus was that he was taking what Jesus said literally. He couldn’t see past the words Jesus spoke to the ideas or meaning behind them, he was stuck on the literal meaning of those words. Then Jesus really confused him more by saying “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The word used for wind is the Greek word pneuma, which also means breath or spirit. So if we substitute “Spirit” for “wind”, we get “The Spirit blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
We as Christians are Baptized “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and we believe that we receive the Holy Spirit at our Baptism, where we are born of Water and Spirit. As we celebrate Trinity Sunday today, it may be beneficial to explore a little bit about the Holy Trinity.
The Holy Trinity is a mystery that cannot be fully understood. We as western Christians believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three persons of the same essence as God. But the three persons language is from ancient times and was not meant the way we interpret it. In today’s world, we interpret three persons as three individuals, but we confess there is only one God. In ancient times, three persons meant three personas or one God functioning in three ways simultaneously.
Like I said earlier, the Trinity is a mystery that we cannot fully understand, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind when we talk about God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The first thing to keep in mind is that the works of the three persons of the Trinity are indivisible. It is common to distinguish between God’s work as the Creator and Ruler of the world; as Reconciler, Liberator, and Savior; and as Renewer and Transformer of the life of human beings. But the will and work of God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit cannot be separated. They can only be understood in light of each other and in their agreement with each other, for God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God.
The second thing to keep in mind is that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one as a divine community who live in and for and with one another. This divine community is the model for all human communities.
But let’s get back to Nicodemus. As well as being a Pharisee, Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin. Today’s text could well be considered the call story of Nicodemus. The Gospel of John is the only Gospel that talks about Nicodemus, who later defended Jesus to the Sanhedrin, protesting their judgment of him without a proper hearing. He also, together with Joseph of Arimathea, administered the last rites to Jesus’ body before burial. So, while Nicodemus did not play as large a roll in the world as Isaiah did, he did answer the call from God.
Each of us receives a call from God. Have we answered God’s call for our lives? Do we allow the Spirit to lead us where it wills, or do we put constraints on it? Are we like Nicodemus and take things literally, or do we look for the deeper meaning in God’s Word? I recently saw a post on Facebook that I feel relates to this. The post said: “It’s impossible,” said pride.
“It’s risky,” said experience.
“It’s pointless,” said reason.
“Give it a try,” whispered the heart.
Often, the Holy Spirit, God, speaks to us in a whisper through our hearts. I fear too often people feel the tug of the Holy Spirit, but then listen to reason, to their past experiences, to pride, to their security, and do not follow the Holy Spirit, and miss the wonders God has in store for them.
While I was in seminary, I must admit I was a bit envious of my younger classmates. I was envious that they had followed God’s call into ministry at a much earlier age than I did. I was envious that they did not have ties holding them in any certain place. Since we graduated, some of them have gone on fascinating journeys. One of my classmates went to Thailand to earn her Doctorate in Peace studies. Another went to Kenya for a year as a missionary. Another spent time traveling the world with a mission group and has settled down in Maryland starting a community farm. Others have accepted calls all over the United States, in Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, and West Virginia. Others are more like I am and have ties to the local community and have stayed in our communities. I believe we have all followed the calling of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Spirit calls some to travel, to go to different places, and calls others to stay put and serve where they already are.
But, I wonder, how many of them thought their journey was impossible, or risky, or pointless, before they listened to their heart, to the Holy Spirit calling them and gave it a try. I wonder how often we feel God tugging at our hearts and think it is impossible, or risky, or pointless, and do not give it a try. I wonder what we may be missing, what wonders God has in store for us, if we will just follow the pneuma wherever it may lead us. Even when we try to look forward, to research an idea, to measure its benefits to its cost, and to study its feasibility, we are only able to look at it from our own limited human perspective. Fortunately, God does not have the restrictions we do, and I believe when God calls us to something, even though we may think it is impossible, even though we may think it is risky, and even though we may think it is pointless, God can make it happen and although the journey may be difficult, it will be even more rewarding.
Let us pray:
Gracious God we praise you;
through your Word and Holy Spirit you created all things.
You reveal your salvation in all the world
by sending to us Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
Through your Holy Spirit
you give us a share in your life and love.
Fill us with the vision of your glory,
that we may answer your call to follow your Spirit,
No matter where you lead us,
even when it is serve where we already are.
We pray this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
 Guthrie, Shirley C. Christian Doctrine. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994. Print.
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