HOLY TRINITY AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Proverbs 8:1-4; Does not wisdom call?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
“To you, O men, I call,
and my cry is to the children of man
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man
Acts 2:14a, 22-36
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them
“Men of Israel, hear these words:Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence. ’
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified
John 8:48 The Jews answered him, Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon? 49 Jesus answered, I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. 52 The Jews said to him, Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? 54 Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, He is our God. 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. 57 So the Jews said to him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
145 years is a long time. Not, perhaps in the history of mankind, or even in the life of the Church, but for you and me, 145 years is a long time. I’ve only been around for the last twenty years of it, which is by far the longest pastorate in Trinity’s history, but that still isn’t really that long compared to some of you, who have been around for a third of or even just about half of Trinity’s life here in the pastures of Perth County.
God has faithfully had his Word proclaimed and His gifts given out here for many a year now, as He has blessed the lives of many through the hearing of that Word and the reception of those gifts. You only have to take a walk through the cemetery and look at the old fading tombstones of some of Trinity’s faithful saints, whose bodies lie sleeping in the hallowed ground around her, to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.
Yes, God has been faithful here. The 693 names of those that He has claimed as His own dear children through Holy Baptism, that are recorded in the register of this venerable old mother testify to that fact. As do 502 names of those that the Holy Spirit has confirmed in the faith, that are recorded on those same yellowing old pages. Then, there are all those men and women that He joined together as one flesh under her watchful care, as well as, all those that He has laid to rest in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life with her loving hands.
Yes, God has been faithful for a long time in this place, but truth be told, Trinity is drawing very close to the age that marks the end of most congregations in North America. Many times over throughout her history, people have predicted her end only to be proven most emphatically wrong. I remember one dear saint, who is now at rest with the Lord, who told me that many times over throughout her 90 plus years of life in the congregation, they had thought that they might have to shut her doors, but then miraculously things turned around. As she sat in the nursing home she said to me, “ The old gray mare may not be what she used to be, but she’s still going.”
Yes, by the grace of God she’s still going. Indeed. Going a lot better than most other rural congregations, who have sadly had to shut their doors and slip away into the mists of history. The thought of that happening here is not of course a happy one. Trinity’s steeple has steadfastly pointed the eyes of her children and those who pass her by, up to the heavens and the God who sits enthroned in them for so long, it’s hard to imagine a time when she would not be there to do so. The thought of her altar standing empty and her pulpit sitting silent is distressing to say the least. A sad thought for all those, who laboured so long and so hard, to hand on to those who would come after them what had been given to them.
Of course, we need to know that Trinity’s doors will not shut because God will fail her or because the gates of hell will prevail against them. No, the triune God is constant and unfailing - from everlasting to everlasting He is God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the Lord Jesus makes perfectly clear for us today with His declaration to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was I am.” A truth that the Church has confessed with the saying, “There was not, when He was not.” The Son of God became man in time, but from eternity He has been one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
No, Trinity’s doors will not shut because the Lord has failed her. No, that will only happen if her children and her children’s children fail her. If we remain faithful and teach our children and children’s children to remain true, as the saints were before us, who handed this venerable old mother into our hands, there is no reason why she should not remain in this place for another 145 years. Someone once told me that the trouble with the world was that they had taken prayer out of the schools, to which I replied, “It would not have gone out of the schools if it hadn’t gone out of the homes first.”
Yes, we all have a lot to repent of when it comes to our faithfulness, in putting the Lord and what He gives us in this place, first in our own lives and the lives of our families. If only we could see how we wound and weaken our dear old mother in the long term, every time we turn our back on her for something we decide means more to us in the short term. If only we had the wisdom to see that every step away from her, no matter how small or infrequent, can turn into a journey from which there will be no return. If only we could see what path we set our children and their children on, when we divert our feet away from her on Sunday morning.
Repent, yes we need to repent and pray that God will graciously sustain what we have so foolishly despised. On this day of all days, as we celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people in this place, His faithfulness to us in this place, we need to look to Him, praying that He would not take His Holy Spirit from us, but enrich us is our life in Him so that we may be kept faithful as He is faithful. That’s the only way that it’s going to happen after all, without the Lord’s help we will certainly bring it all to destruction, but in and with Him, all things are possible, even for poor sinners like you and me.
That we might not doubt, but believe this, the Lord in His mercy sets before us His blessed Word today, that points us to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and what exactly our good God has done to save us. As Jesus answers the Jews in our hearing this morning with His wondrous statement, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He leaves us in no doubt about the truth that the God, who is greater than the universe, was made man to save us. That Jesus claimed to be that God made flesh, is clear both from His claim of the name “I AM”, which is the one that God gave to Moses at the burning bush to identify Himself to Israel, as well as by the taking up of the stones by the Jews after Jesus laid claim to it.
And as the Lord lays that very flesh and blood that He took up for you on the altar this morning, He proclaims to you just what He did in that flesh and blood to save you. How He went to the cross and was faithful unto death for you, to pay for all the ways that you have and will fail Him. “Forgiven”, He declares to you with every body bearing morsel of bread and every blood laden sip from the cup. “Forgiven through what I have done for you. Forgiven through my life for you. Forgiven through my death for you.” "Receive today,” He says to each of you, “what sustained all those who went before you, and know and rest in the truth that it can and will sustain you too.”
145 years is a long time - a long time indeed! What lies ahead for our dear old mother in the shrouded days of the future I cannot say, no, I cannot. But I can positively assure you that your faithful and ever present I AM God will be there to tend and shepherd His people forever. Amen.