Encounter “I AM”

Trinity Sunday, Year B
Isaiah 6:1-8

Throughout our Judeo-Christian Scriptures, we are given a plethora of names for understanding the mystery that is the One God, the Divine.  Over the past couple of months—since our glorious Easter celebration—, we have encountered the Risen God—Jesus Christ.  We have encountered the Good Shepherd and the Vine grower.  We have encountered Abba, our Father, as in our reading from Romans.  And we have encountered the Holy Spirit—that life force of holy discomfort living and working on us, and in us, and through us.  And today, as we celebrate the Trinity—our God who is three in one, and one in three—we encounter something ancient and eternal and mystical.  For today we begin our Scripture readings from the book of the prophet Isaiah, with one of the oldest names for our God: “YHWH.”

At first glance you may be like, “What is Sarah talking about?  I do not see the word, YHWH in any of our readings.”  Yet every time you read “LORD,” all capitalized in our Bible, this is a substitution for the name YHWH.  Because in ancient Israel, in the time of the prophet Isaiah, the name YHWH was so mysterious, so powerful, so holy, that it could not be uttered from anyone’s lips.  So in Hebrew instead of articulating this name for God aloud, they would substitute by saying “Adonai,” or in English we would translate it, “Lord.”

So this Lord with a capital “L-O-R-D,” this YHWH is one of the most ancient and mystical names we have for our God.  It is the same God Moses encountered at the burning bush in the book of Exodus, when our God revealed the Divine name, the meaning of Yahweh for the first time. Exodus 3:13-14:

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

YHWH means: “I am who I am.”  And this God, this YHWH, this “I am who I am,” is the God Moses encountered in the burning bush, and it is the same God Isaiah encounters in today’s celestial vision.  This YHWH, this “I am who I am” is the ancient, eternal, heavenly deity Isaiah encounters in today’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament.  Isaiah experiences a God beyond our understanding, but whom we all have encountered—whether in the silence of the snowfall, or the majesty of a mountain sunset; whether in the conception of our own artistic creativity, or the moment of sheer contentment in our beloved’s arms.  A God full of mystery and wonderment.  A God who was, and is, and is to come.  A God who is both the beginning and the end.  A God who is the “I am.”

This is the God Isaiah witnesses, experiences, encounters.  And the only way to respond to such a confrontation with the Divine—with the “I am who I am”—,is like Isaiah shouts, with our own, “Here I am!”  We respond to the unveiling of the Divine with the unveiling of our very selves: with an uninhibited, unrestricted, unrestrained, “Here I am!  Send me!”  In such moments we come to know our God and we cannot help but desire God to know our truest selves—every hair on our head, every freckle, every beautiful smile and every broken heart, every ounce of strength and every limitation.  When we rendezvous with the Divine, we respond with our most open and authentic selves.  When we encounter God—when we meet face to face mystery, and eternity, the very essence of all existence, the deep magic that threads together all of creation—we cannot help but be moved, be transformed, be empowered to take our most beautiful, broken, and authentic selves—body and soul—out into the world.

This is all God requires of us: to greet the great “I am” with our own simple “Here I am.”  Yes, we may experience God in various Divine dimensions,  We may come to God our Creator, our Father, our Mother, and be stirred into saying, “Here, I am!”  We may come to God as our Redeemer, as Jesus the Christ who offers us grace abounding, who is before us, behind us, above us, below us, and we respond to the Risen Lord, “Here, I am!”  We may come to God as our Sustainer, as the Holy Spirit—the life force that connects every living creature of God; that is poured out upon us, nurtures us, and sustains us; that is the love flowing between all of us—and we exclaim to the Holy Ghost, “Here, I am!”

Like Moses, like Isaiah, like all the holy men and women who have come before us, when we encounter the Divine, the One God known by many names but always the same, we cannot help but respond, “Here I am!  Send me!”  No matter how we have encountered God in our lives, as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit; as Creator, Redeemer, or Sustainer; as Lover, Beloved, or Love, this is the very ancient, eternal, and mystical, “I am who I am.”  A God who just wants to know who you are, and you are, and you are, and I am.  A God that is bigger than anything we could imagine and yet just wants to be in relationship with little old me and you. 

When we encounter this God—this Divine One with a multiplicity of dimensions, so as to reach out toward a multitude of people—, when we encounter the Holy One, we feel known, understood, recognized for who we have been, who we are, and who we will become.  Our whole being rejoices in being fully accepted and loved by the “I am.”  And because we ourselves now have been unveiled, because the mask has been pulled off, because the stone in front of our souls has been rolled away, we cannot contain ourselves and we exclaim at the top of our lungs: not only, “Here I am!” but also “Send me!”

We are sent to the new high school graduate who has pushed herself so hard these past years that she never realized what it meant to fail.  We are sent to the new divorcee who has centered his whole identity around his partner, and now needs to rediscover his very self as a beloved child of God.  We are sent to the individual struggling with addiction, who has been hiding behind such a substance as a vehicle to avoid all the pain and suffering in her life.  We are sent to the incarcerated who’s humanity and dignity has been stripped away by a corrupt system.  We are sent, each and every one of us, because we are in the presence of the I am.

We are sent because we want others to encounter God: to feel known, and understood, and really recognized for who they are perhaps for the first time in their lives.  We are sent because we want others to encounter God: to bring their beautiful brokenness before the Lord, and never have to pretend again that they have it all together, all figured out.  We are sent because we want others to encounter God: to experience the multi-dimensional Divine, a God who is three in one and one in three, and encompasses all of our own many facets, our whole diverse selves.

We are sent, simply because we are in the presence of the great I am.

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