We begin the Service of Holy Communion by hearing the pastor give the Invocation “Blessed be the holy Trinity, one God, the Word made Flesh, our life and our salvation”, to which the congregation responds “Amen”. Unlike some pagan religions, who may recite a specific incantation or prayer to invoke their deity to appear, we do not need to entice God to be present with us in our worship. In fact, there is nothing that we humans can do to bring God to us – He comes freely, in our midst, because He loves us.
The Invocation reminds us that it is the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who brings us together and unites us, His children, in one body. We are now in the presence of His holiness.
Now that we are in His presence, let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say when Isaiah has a vision about being in the presence of God:
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Imagine seeing what Isaiah saw in his vision – the Lord seated on his throne, the splendor of his robe, and heavenly creatures praising him, shaking the doorposts, the smoke . . . and then Isaiah recognizes his sinfulness in the company of heaven. He cannot help but cry out his confession, not only for himself, but for his people as well.
In our Invocation, heaven and earth are joined together, we are in God’s throne room and we too are unholy in the presence of God, individually and corporately.
We confess that our sins encompass all aspects of our daily lives; not just outward actions, or the words we speak. We sin by doing things we shouldn’t have, or neglect things we should do (like loving our neighbor at every opportunity), or by the thoughts we have that do not glorify God in many and various ways. And without the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our sins would condemn us to eternal death. And we repent of our sins. Think of repentance as turning 180 degrees away from our sin. It is not merely regret, or remorse, or feeling bad because of our sin. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts so that we no longer want to sin, our hearts are renewed and turned towards God.
In the words of Paul in Romans 8:1-2: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death, as believers we are forgiven for all our sin, in the past, present and future! Christ’s sacrifice was a once-and-for-all-forever sacrifice. God’s response to our sins is not to punish us, but to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” in the words of the absolution, or forgiveness.
When the pastor forgives our sins, she does so not because of her indelible character within herself. The power to forgive sins is given to the entire church. The pastor does not speak on his own authority, but through Christ and through the authority of the church.
What a precious gift to be forgiven, to have our hearts turned towards the Lord! May grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love! Amen.