AFTER this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven.
Today is called Trinity Sunday in the Church calendar – we celebrate that God has been revealed to us as three persons in one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity. This Sunday follows the revelations through the first half of the Church year of God as the Father, from whom come all things, the Son, who came into the world to live and die and rise in our midst and of the Holy Spirit, the Love from the Father and the Son, that is poured out in those who come to God in humility and faith.
Our readings this morning speak to us of the God whom we are seeking out. Isaiah was given a vision to help us understand something of this God about 2700 years ago – high and lifted up – the thrice holy God [Isaiah 6:1-8]. St John the Evangelist was given a similar vision on the Lord’s Day, when, in the Spirit, he was lifted up into heaven to be shown things that are to come [Revelation 4:1-11]. Like Isaiah, he saw a vision of one seated on the throne, and also heard the voice of a myriad of angels crying,
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come!
What do these visions have to do with us? It is the longing of every human heart to know peace, to know love, to see a vision of things which are beyond our imaginings at present. Not many of us have had the sort of sustained vision of heaven that Isaiah and John saw. Not many have had that sort of vision, but all of us catch glimpses of that life of heaven in moments of our lives on earth: in moments of utter joy in earthly love, or in parental love, or in seeing something beautiful in creation or in the arts, or when grasping the truth of something for the first time – an expansion of our imagination, or in a new found freedom inwardly or in our relations with others – when we experience real spiritual growth, new possibilities, the excitement of adventure.
Nicodemus knew that he had caught a vision of that glory, a glimpse of heaven, when he met Jesus Christ [St John 3:1-15].
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus’ response to Nicodemus is to go right to the heart of what he knew that Nicodemus and every human being longs for: Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And a little further, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
To see and to enter the kingdom of God is what Nicodemus sought and what all people, wherever they are born, and in whatever age they live, long for. To catch a glimpse, to walk in that kind of love, is something we all know, but only for moments in our lives. Would that we could see and walk in that way more often – and would that we could see and do these things forever and with all those whom we love!
It is not a cruel joke that we have these longings – they have been placed our hearts by our loving Creator to seek him out and to enjoy him forever. And that Creator has come to us in the flesh, to show us the Way.
Jesus says that the entrance is by water and the Spirit. And the Church, through the ages, has understood the beginning our journey to that wider vision, to being taken up by Love, the beginning is through faith and the grace Holy Baptism.
Last Friday, something very beautiful happened here – two women, a mother and daughter from Iran, came seeking the grace to be born again. They humbled themselves before God, and sought forgiveness and the grace of new life in the Spirit through the waters of Baptism.
Baptism is the beginning of a restoration of our blinded sight (to see) and our crippled wills (to enter). Through Baptism our souls are joined by the Spirit with Christ mystically. There is an assurance of our salvation in Jesus Christ, so that we no longer worry about whether that end, the kingdom of heaven, is ours. We can rest, with our hearts at peace with God, as we allow him to do His work in our souls – preparing us to be able to sustain that vision of glory, preparing our souls to walk always in His ways. The full restoration comes to us over time as we lift up our hearts up through faith and keep them focused on Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Baptism is the beginning of our journey, and Jesus has given us all the means in our midst to bring about the full freedom, the perfect peace, the true joy, the wisdom from above, and the love that is undeniably from God.
Sanctification is a big word that simply means being made by God to be more like Him, to be made holy.
All of us here today who have been baptised and who believe can be full of expectation. Jesus fills us with the hope of glory. He is unfolding his purposes for us and all creation.
Christians make use of all the means for our maturing – if we have deep hurts, seek out the insights of human psychology – remembering also the centrality of forgiveness; seek out the ministry of prayer for healing of inner wounds. As we come to know ourselves and our neighbours, we can use secular insights about how we can work together for good. And we couple this with a testing of all knowledge by the insights of the sure and certain foundation of God’s Word in the Bible as it has been interpreted through the 2000 years of tradition.
The opening of our eyes to see and the restoring of our wills to love, this is what we will be learning about in our readings in the coming months of Trinity season. We will learn about the healing of our souls through the purging of vices and forming new habits, new ways of acting and of thinking like Jesus. Later in Trinity season we will focus more on the inpouring of the Spirit of God, who fills us with spiritual gifts to help one another in our journey heavenward. And finally, we will reflect on Christian maturity, the union of our souls with God, the enjoying of Him forever.
The beginning of our Christian walk in baptism is full of hope and expectation. But some of you this morning might be wondering, I have stepped out of the Way, out of the Truth, out of the Life, I’ve been baptised and I thought I believed, but I have failed to love my neighbour and my God with all my heart, my hope is dim, my faith is weak. Jesus assures us this is not unusual in the Christian walk and He has given us a remedy on the journey.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. [St John 3:15]
The people of Israel were given a means to heal themselves when bitten by sin on the journey to their Promised Land, to look upon a bronze serpent on a stick and be healed. Even so has Jesus told us, in our wilderness journey to the Kingdom of God, to present himself lifted up high on the cross, crucified for us, he said do this in remembrance of me.
So we follow His loving command today to present our Lord’s death until he comes again. And Jesus will come to us in the bread and the wine, transformed by His Spirit into His Body and Blood. Here he continues the work of assuring us of forgiveness, of healing our hurts, of strengthening our faith, restoring our hope and opening our hearts to love.
Let us prepare ourselves now through repentance and faith to receive Him afresh and continue our upward ascent, to that vision all glorious of
the four living creatures, each of them with six wings… full of eyes all round and within, [who] day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”