Feast of the Holy Trinity
June 4, 2023 AD
Old Testament: Isaiah 6:1-7
Epistle: Romans 11:33-36
Gospel: John 3:1-15
June 4, 2023 AD
Old Testament: Isaiah 6:1-7
Epistle: Romans 11:33-36
Gospel: John 3:1-15
March 8, 2023 AD
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Again the high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
The Holy Scriptures are that book in which the Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ. That is what Holy Scripture is! That is what Holy Scripture is for! And what that means is that everything we find in the pages of Holy Scripture truly points to Christ. Sometimes that is very evident, and sometimes that is far from obvious, FAR from clear. But we never rightly interpret or understand the Scriptures unless we see ALL that is written there in the light of Christ.
In the portion of the Passion History we heard this evening, the high priest asks the Lord Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” meaning the Son of God. Jesus replies: “I am.” “I am.” But this simple answer doesn’t ONLY mean, “Yes, that’s true.” Jesus’ answer, “I AM,” points to the mystery of who He is. For “I AM” is in fact the name of GOD revealed to Moses at the burning bush. For after God appointed Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, Moses said, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” Then God answered Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” “I AM has sent me.” “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” “I AM.
It is especially in Saint John’s Gospel that we find the “I AM” sayings of the Savior: “I am the Bread of Life, I am the True Vine, I am the Light of the world, I am the good Shepherd, I am the resurrection and the Life, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” and perhaps the greatest of all of Jesus’ I AM sayings is when He says to His enemies, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM.” Saint John tells us that when His enemies heard those words they tried to stone Him because they believed that His claim to the very name of God was blasphemous.
And so in His answer to the high priest, our Lord again claims for Himself the very name of God, the great I AM. And He identifies Himself with the Son of Man in Daniel’S prophecy, the Son of Man who “comes with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days and is given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him, [whose] dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Says the Savior, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Saint Paul wrote to Timothy, “Great indeed is the mystery of our religion: God was manifest in the flesh.” And in Jesus’ reply to the high priest Jesus Himself points to the mystery of who He is — as we say In the Nicene Creed, “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made; being of One substance with the Father, through whom all things were made” — Himself the Great I AM, truly One of the Holy Trinity.
But none of this could be seen by the high priest and his council and his guards. What they saw was an obscure Jew from the obscure town of Nazareth in Galilee whom His followers had acclaimed as the promised Messiah, but whom the high priest and his council saw as both a threat to THEIR power over the people; and so they envied Him and were jealous of Him. And they saw Him as a clear and present danger to the nation’s stability under the Roman rule, a Messianic figure under whose influence things could very easily get out of hand.
And so we see Jesus falsely accused and condemned as countless human beings have been falsely accused and condemned down through the ages world without end. But in judging HIM, His enemies were in fact judging themselves. As Saint John writes, “And this is the judgement: that the Light has come into the world and men preferred darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”
In the trial of Jesus we see the works of darkness: the bitter fruit of envy and jealousy, of lust for power, of doing what seems to be expedient rather than what is right and good; we see the power of lies and deception. And so, as we again meditate on our Lord’s trial we must ask ourselves: How is it with me? Am I envious or jealous, do I take pleasure in dominating others? Do I do what is expedient rather than what is right and good? Am I guilty of lying and deception? Am I indifferent to the plight of the weak and helpless — as Jesus was weak and helpless in the hands of His enemies who falsely accused and condemned Him and spit on Him and beat Him without mercy?
It was Saint Augustine who said, “So far had our pride cast us down that only the humility of God could raise us up.” Saint Paul writes that though Jesus “was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled Himself.” Our Lord’s whole life was one of perfect humility, but it is especially in His passion that we see that perfect humility, silent before His accusers, accepting the miscarriage of justice, the spitting, and the beating without complaint as the meek Lamb of God.
In the trial before the high priest we see the One who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead unjustly judged, accepting the condemnation which would bring Him to the cross where He would suffer In our place the condemnation we by our sin have deserved so that we might be acquitted, forgiven, fully and freely pardoned — in the hour of our death and in the day of judgment. And on that day we shall see the perfect and complete fulfillment of His answer to the high priest’s question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” “I AM.” And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
3301 The Alameda
Baltimore, MD 21218
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It was the great nineteenth-century Abolitionist, Frederick Douglass—by the way, he had been born as a slave here in Maryland—who said of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, “That was a sacred effort.” I believe that Douglass spoke the truth. The occasion for Douglass’s words was a reception at the White House later in the day of the inauguration. Seeing Frederick Douglass, Lincoln said, “I saw you in the crowd today, listening to my inaugural address. How did you like it?” It was then that Douglass replied, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” I suspect that most of us remember the words toward the end of the address, “With malice toward none, with charity toward all…” but the entire address is a truly remarkable effort. Speaking in the waning days of the Civil War and not many days before his tragic death, Lincoln’s speech breathes the spirit of repentance and humility. It represents Lincoln’s profound reflections on the causes and meaning of the war. “The scourge of war” he explained was best understood as divine punishment for the sin of slavery in which all Americans were complicit. He described a national moral debt that had been created by the “bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil.” He cites the words of Holy Scripture, indeed words of our Savior, and concludes the speech with the memorable call for compassion and reconciliation. You may remember that I have alluded to this luminous speech before, both in sermons and in these newsletters. The text of this speech can easily be found online and as your pastor I recommend that everyone read and carefully ponder Lincoln’s words. I firmly believe that these words of Lincoln shed light upon our often-difficult path. There is much discussion and indeed uncertainty about Lincoln’s faith, but this address surely makes plain that Lincoln was a man who had struggled with his Maker.
As this month of June begins, we have two new faces at Our Saviour Church.
After careful consideration, the position of organist has been offered to Matthew Bunn, who played for Divine Service this past Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost. He is clearly a very talented young man and will very competently lead us in worship. During the past weeks Marie Herrington has again been with us since the church at which she is now organist has not been having services on Sunday morning. Marie remains very much a part of our church family, and we are always so happy to see—and hear!—her.
We are also fortunate to have a summer vicar with us for the next six weeks, Samuel Abliganz, who is preparing for the Holy Ministry in our sister church in Germany, the Independent Evangelical–Lutheran Church. He has studied at that Church’s Seminary in Oberursel and also at the ancient University of Tuebingen, and has just completed a year studying at our Synod’s Seminary in Fort Wayne. He will also be assisting our good friend Pastor Coats in the work at Redeemer Church in Irvington and at Saint Thomas Church in southwest Baltimore. Pastor Coats is now fully recovered from the COVID-19 illness and for that we are very thankful indeed! I know that we all prayed fervently for him while he was ill; let us both continue to ask God’s continued blessing and protection for his ministry and join in giving thanks for his recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about so many changes—both in our general lives and as a Christian congregation. I am very grateful to Richard Brown for making it possible for us to live-stream the Sunday Divine Service as well as the Divine Service on Ascension Day, and people who are unable to come to church have said how much this means to them. You may also call this phone number to hear the sermons: 410.587.0979. Videos of the services are saved on the church’s Facebook page (facebook.com/oursaviourbaltimore) and audio of the sermon can also be found at the church website (oursaviourbaltimore.org). I am hoping that it will soon be possible for more people to attend church, but this depends both on the decisions of the civil authority and on people’s conscientious decisions about their health and safety. A Christian will under normal circumstances be in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day, but it has always been recognized that conditions of health—our own and that of others—enter into responsible decisions about coming to Divine Service. Although it is far from ideal, I think that we can be truly grateful that modern technology makes it possible for us to at least see and hear Divine Service when we are unable to attend in person.
According to our congregation’s Constitution and Bylaws, we are supposed to have a Voters Meeting on the third Sunday in May. For obvious reasons that was simply not possible. It is now hoped that we may have the meeting on the third Sunday in this month, June 21. This of course all depends on what is possible in view of the pandemic.
Enclosed with this newsletter is a form called Joyful Response: Electronic Offering Program. It is now possible to make one’s offering automatically from one’s bank account. Some of our members have been doing this for some time now. The enclosed form tells you exactly how to do this. Some people regard this as a real convenience and it certainly is just that when many people are unable to bring their offering in person because of the pandemic. My impression is that our members have continued to give for the support of the Church’s work of worship, witness, and service. I encourage all of you to continue to do so. If this option isn’t congenial, you can always send a check through the mail to our church address: 3301 The Alameda 21218. If you would like to participate in Joyful Response, please complete the form and return it to the Church to the attention of Bernie Knox. And in discussing the church’s finances, I would certainly be remiss if I did not thank Bernie Knox for her untiring work as our treasurer.
And speaking of service, there is following this letter an article by Judy Volkman about our Free Flea Market. Although we are not going to have it during the summer months, there will be one in September and possibly October. Be sure to read what Judy has to say. I am sure we are all grateful for her continued leadership in this service to our neighbors. Given all the circumstances, the need is now no doubt greater than ever.
Do remember that the first Sunday in June is the Feast of the Holy Trinity or as we usually call it, Trinity Sunday. From last Advent until last Sunday’s Feast of Pentecost we have recalled all that God has done for our salvation; on Trinity Sunday we rejoice in who God is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God! God has revealed that He is one, but not solitary. His life is love that flows among the persons of the godhead. Human beings are made in the image of the triune God: and because that is so, we are never truly human as isolated individuals, but only as persons in relationship with one another. And because we have been baptized into Christ and His mystical Body the Church, even when we are most alone, we still always have our being in communion with the Holy Trinity and all saints in heaven and on earth.
It was in 1933 that the Rev. Eric Milner-White (1884–1963), who had served during the First World War as a military chaplain on the Western front and in Italy, published the prayer which follows. It came to mind as I reflected on the circumstances in which this June newsletter is being written. I commend this prayer to you both for prayer and quiet contemplation:
O God, who wouldest fold both heaven and earth in a single peace:
Let the design of thy great love
lighten upon the waste of our wraths and sorrows;
and give peace to thy Church,
peace among nations,
peace in our dwellings,
and peace in our hearts;
through thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s of course one of those old cliches, but that doesn’t make it any less true: “I’m only a phone call away.” And my phone number is 410.554.9994. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not always be able to answer immediately, but if you leave your number, I will make every effort to return your call just as soon as I can. Let us continue to pray for one another and use whatever means we have to encourage one another.
WORKS OF MERCY
Free Flea Market: it will continue! Yes, the Governor has lifted the Stay at Home restriction, but both the City and County are not sure if they will lift their restrictions. At the present time, we are planning to have a Flea Market in September (and possibly October!). Now I need your support. We have gotten a substantial donation of household items, so we need clothing. We need both men’s and women’s clothing (no children’s please), preferably for fall. What we don’t get in your donations, we will obtain through Orphan Grain Train. Please let Judy Volkman know what you can contribute. The Lord has given us much, and we need to share our bounty, particularly in these trying times.
On another note, a delivery of canned food was delivered to CARES in May. Now we need to stock up again! Please bring your canned goods, spaghetti ingredients, and meat products since there is NOTHING in the cartons for donations. As you know, many families are in need of food on a weekly basis. Every little bit helps!