Ever run across a word in a hymn or a pre-written prayer and wonder what it was you were saying? Often this happens because people translating the original texts of the Scriptures thought something might be lost in translation if they tried to render names or important words in a more easy-to-understand vernacular. This means we have to do a little work to know what we are saying, at times. Not long ago I had to go digging to discover what it meant to "raise my Ebenezer" (from "Come, Thou Font of Ev'ry Blessing"). The phrase means to "give thanks to God for God's faithfulness" much the way Israel raised a memorial stone (literally, "ebhen ha-'ezer" or a "stone of help") to do the same. Ever wonder what "cherubim and seraphim" (from "Holy, Holy, Holy") are? They are two particular orders of angels that stand near the throne of God in heaven. If they "fall down and worship" God, then God is most worthy of our praise, too! Today we recall that Isaiah heard yet another name that often goes untranslated in our hymns and prayers: God's name, "Yahweh (Lord God of) Sabaoth." Isaiah heard it in that glorious vision of God he was privileged to see in the Jerusalem temple. The name sometimes makes its way into our hymns (cf. the classic version of "A Mighty Fortress"), but more often we sing it in our Communion liturgy, during the "Sanctus": "Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth adored." What is a "Lord God of Sabaoth," anyway? And more importantly: why should it matter?
It's a good question to ask on Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday is a day we give thanks for what God does as one God in three Persons. God makes me the unique person I am. God forgives my sins and takes my guilt away. God stirs me to action and sends me to accomplish things in the Kingdom that I could never accomplish on my own. But God is one God, Lord God of Sabaoth, or Lord of hosts. The hosts in question refer to the hosts of heaven. The armies of angels that praise God fight to accomplish GOD's ends. They are not there to carry out my own personal agenda. They are not there to fight my own personal battles. They ARE depicted as supporting and upholding the people of God in their times of need. Isaiah's call was to what would appear to all as a kind of defeat (read on, in 6:9-13). The heavenly hosts revealed to Isaiah were a way of reminding Isaiah whose battle was being fought and, in the end, who would be victorious.
One of the benefits of being a Circuit Visitor is being able to sit in on the sacred work of congregations who seek God's will as they issue divine calls to pastoral candidates. At one such meeting, after every individual shared his/her opinion about who would be the best fit for their church, a wise elder member said this: "We have each shared our own personal desires about whom to call. Let's now pray for wisdom in seeking God's desire for us." In various and sundry ways you will seek the same this week: not your own, but God's desire for you. As you do, remember that our God creates, forgives sins, empowers us for good works...and is the Lord God Sabaoth: the Lord of hosts. Our God has already won the victory. Our God, the Lord of HOSTS, is with us!