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  • Writer's pictureChurch of the Incarnation

Trinity Sunday: The Already and Not Yet of God's Grace

This morning, all of us who, like Isaiah, have said, “here I am Lord, send me,” whether in confirmation of our baptisms, or a return to the faith, or perhaps, as a new seeker not yet baptized, but curious enough to come and see who this Jesus is,” face the same circumstances: it is not enough for us to have simply been born. What is born is merely of the flesh. And frankly to live only in accordance with our limited understandings, desires, perspectives - “to live in accordance with the flesh” as Paul and Jesus here calls it - is to live as if there is no God. 

And to live as if there is no God is to believe, and to show in what you say and do, a life that means something only for the time you’re alive and maybe just a generation after you that remembers you. In contrast, to step into the Kingdom of God by faith, which is nothing other than following Jesus, is to allow the Holy Spirit to transform you. And in the midst of that transformation to come to see and understand and trust that the God the Holy Spirit conforms you to God the Son’s likeness as God, the Father, has knit you into the whole of created reality. To see this already existent reality revealed seems to occur to us over time. 

And yet the greatest gift of all is that over time we aren’t seeing an unfolding reality as if it’s still in process. No, what we see is that God already has us. God so loved us that he sent his Son into the world not to condemn us for our repeated sins, mistakes, and brokenness, but so that all who believe in him might have eternal life. This is exactly what we hear in our reading from Isaiah: Jesus, the one whose ascension we celebrated two weeks ago, sits on the throne of heaven as judge. Jesus, the one who came into the world which we celebrated at Christmas. Jesus, the one who bore our rejection and our continued sin on the Cross that we recognized on Good Friday. Jesus, the one who rose from the dead, having defeated death that we celebrated on Easter. Jesus, the one from who proceeds the Holy Spirit to draw us back to him as we stand in him before the Father.  

This Jesus is the one before whom and in whom Isaiah cries out in repentance: I am a man of unclean lips and I live with people who are sinners too. How can I escape? This Jesus sends the seraphim to touch a burning coal to cleanse Isaiah’s lips, like the Holy Spirit descending on every one of us in baptism, calling us to repent of our sins so we can begin to let go of the things that lead us to death and blindness to how we fit into reality. them through a life of cleansing, of sanctifying, so that they might stand in pure white wedding robes, joined with Christ, before the Father. So too is Jesus the lamb that Abraham sees in the thicket, the only Son whose free and willing sacrifice frees Abraham and Isaac and all of Israel and all the Gentiles, to step into the reality already accomplished by God before all time - not by any flesh, or by any human lineage - but by the one eternal, never changing God the Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ, by his Holy Spirit.

But my friends, this reality that already exists - that existed already for Adam and Eve, for Sarah and Rebecca, for Cain and Abel, for Ruth and Naomi, for Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Deborah, and Job - this reality that is not unfolding progressively, is a reality that we glimpse only in bits, which is what makes it seem like it’s still unfolding for us. Like those who see God face-to-face and think they’ll die, we simply cannot grapple with what it means to be fully embraced by perfect love, not yet, and so God has given us the gift of time to see him and the reality in which we live in him in little bits over this time. 

That’s why faith is required: to persist in pursuing this already given reality over time. See if we persist in faith, those bits and pieces we see can help us through our struggles of not seeing reality and not experiencing reality in its fullness. Those bits and pieces of God coming to us in and through other people and things can help us see God coming to us, opening his perfect love to us to allow us to rest our weary souls. That momentary rest, like a bird set down on an olive branch, allows us to shed our emotional and spiritual immaturities that prevent us from letting go of the claims we make to already know as God knows (the cardinal sin or original sin of Adam and Eve). It is by faith, by persistence not in what we want, but in what we are given by God to work with, that we are made able to see the perfect love of God for which we long and for which we strive. 

To remain in the flesh - born from below - is to insist on getting our own way; it is to be stubborn, entitled, and blind to the way our own insecurities cause us to think, react, and respond to people and so ultimately, because God orders the lives of every person, to be blind to what God is doing with us, through other people. To be born from above - drawn over and over into Christ by his Spirit to see the Father and his perfect love for us, perfect rest from our flailing and suffering and loss - is to take the risk of letting go of our insecurities and step into a reality we cannot control because God has already made it without our frail and faulty input! It is to risk knowing the world that God has made. AMEN

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